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Quality & safety in equal measure

Released at: 10:11, 13/05/2017

Quality & safety in equal measure

Photos: Viet Tuan

Mr. Anup Kumar Dave, General Director of Kirby Southeast Asia, discusses the company’s performance and the local and regional steel markets with VET.

Mr. Anup Kumar Dave, General Director of Kirby Southeast Asia How do you view the development of Vietnam’s steel industry over the last three years? What do you see as the significant developments? 

The steel industry in Vietnam has progressed significantly and more than doubled its production capacity over the last ten years. Crude steel production is around 5.5 million tons now and its current annual growth of 16.6 per cent is expected to increase. 

We have seen huge downstream facilities installed for producing hot dip galvanized cold rolled coils of 1.5mm to 3.5mm thickness; plain galvanized and color coated cold rolled coils for roof and wall cladding; hot rolled plates and sheets for construction with 280 N/M2 yield strength; hollow sections for various applications; and hot rolled sections like and angle and channels.

The significant development stems from the ability of local producers to produce world class quality. Major efforts have been made to improve the standard of steel produced in Vietnam. As a result, $2.4 billion worth of steel was exported in 2016.

What do you think about the development of pre-engineered steel products for industrial as well as civil architecture projects in Vietnam over recent years compared to the company’s other Southeast Asian markets? What potential does the product hold in the future?

Vietnam is a mature market for pre-engineered steel buildings. Estimated demand in 2016 was around 190,000 metric tons; significantly higher than in other countries in the region. Total demand in the rest of Southeast Asia has been estimated as 180,000 metric tons.

Markets in Southeast Asia are growing but growth in Vietnam has been static for the last few years. Demand is expected to be stable in the years to come. The quality of products will certainly grow substantially as producers in Vietnam are quick to adopt new manufacturing technologies. We have two distinct advantages in Vietnam: pegged labor costs and the availability of skilled workers.

What are the necessary criteria for quality pre-engineered steel products? And how are pre-engineered steel structures better than other construction materials?

There are three important criteria for a pre-engineered steel building: design and detailing; precision and quality of manufacturing; and systematic installation of structures.
There are several options available for construction besides pre-engineered steel buildings, like reinforced cement concrete (RCC), conventional steel truss structures, and a hybrid of RCC and steel truss. However, pre-engineered steel buildings are preferred due to the short delivery periods and installation time, economical solutions, and flexibility in terms of the architectural design of the building.

How was Kirby’s business performance in 2016? What counts among its significant achievements over the last few years?

We are consistently growing at around 16 per cent year-on-year and 2016 was no exception. We designed, manufactured, and installed a host of complex steel structures last year, including a multi-story building in Singapore, for which we received an award. We are known for our value engineering, with broad experience gained from 60,000 plus buildings, and we understand our esteemed customers better than our competitors and work with them to offer the most economical solutions for their building needs. Besides Southeast Asia we also cater to some parts of Africa.

We have completed many prestigious projects in the region and in Africa. We received an award for our specially-designed vertical factory in Singapore at a Construction Week magazine-sponsored event. Kirby has also been honored with a Golden Dragon Award from Vietnam Economic Times for the last three years in succession for its outstanding achievements and contributions to Vietnam over the past decade.

Kirby has also secured OHSAS:18001 and ISO:14001 certification. As a part of our corporate social responsibility efforts, we regularly train technicians in trades such as specialized welding and fitting. These technicians then have better opportunities with us and in other places with our on-the-job skills development plans.

We have been in Vietnam for a decade and catered to the entire Southeast Asian region and were instrumental in many first-timers in terms of products, from complex high-rise buildings to the span and height of buildings. We also hold a record of zero site accidents. We emphasize quality and safety equally. We employ around 500 people directly and plan to add more. Since our inception, we have followed a policy of customer centricity.

What products has Kirby provided in Vietnam? What are its key products?

We supply complete super structure building solutions. This includes the main frame, sheeting, required hardware, and accessories. All of these products are of world class quality and meet all relevant international standards. We ensure that products supplied follow all safety norms and serviceability criteria.

What figures show that Kirby’s products and solutions are preferred by local companies and consumers?

Our consistent growth and the visibility of our brand across all regions in Southeast Asia is proof that our esteemed customers prefer our products. We have a consistent record of repeat orders from customers. We are privileged to supply products to a wide range of customers. We accept the challenge of designing the most complex and difficult-to-manufacture structures under stringent quality norms. We have many times met extremely short delivery requirements, imposed by urgency at the customer’s end. The trust that customers accord us by always considering us to be their preferred supplier is remarkable.

What are the main differences in terms of products and performance for Kirby compared to other steel building solutions providers in the domestic market?

Our record of project completion within timelines agreed to with customers and our optimal engineering solutions and products in line with international standards differentiates us from our competitors. We have an engineering excellence center in Hyderabad, India, which helps with value engineering and offering economical solutions to customers. We work hand-in-hand with customers to translate their needs into customized solutions.

What are Kirby’s business plans for Vietnam in 2017 and 2018? What are your specific strategies for further growth?

We will continue to grow in the times to come. We have added facilities over the last two years to scale up production. In 2017 and 2018 we will add more equipments and factory space to produce structures requiring higher accuracy, especially for multi-story buildings and complex structures. We believe in investment in growing regions. Vietnam in particular and Southeast Asia in general will continue to grow and so will our investment every year.

What are the challenges for foreign investors in Vietnam’s steel production sector? What particular challenges does Kirby face given increasing steel prices?

The challenges, besides steel price volatility, are increasing labor costs and workforce attrition, productivity, and waste reduction. We are working on employee engagement programs to reduce attrition and training staff to overcome challenges. We are also working on implementing “Industry 4.0” systems to automate some of our key labor-intensive operations.

During this fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), how has Kirby prepared for global technology transformation?

Kirby has been working on Industry 4.0 for the last year to keep pace with developments. We have prepared a road map to implement the concepts for our key equipments by 2018. We will, however, ensure that there are negligible job losses. We will still have many manual operations that cannot be automated economically. We will use available human resources to do these jobs. As part of our preparations, we are adding real time process control mechanisms to improve output.

What opportunities and challenges from Industry 4.0 does Kirby in particular and other steel enterprises in general face in the local market?

We have a lot of opportunities in various types of rolling and fabrication operations. We will implement concepts step-by-step. However, these concepts are not cheap and require investment. We are working on the model to determine what is the best option we have and will make an informed decision after full consideration. These will be phased out and each phase will run for four to six months before the next phase is taken up.

What are the positive and negative impacts of Industry 4.0 on Vietnam’s industrial and manufacturing sector?

In our opinion there will hardly be any negative impact. Generally, there is a fear of job losses. But we do not see that Industry 4.0 will lead to any job losses. We are working on upgrading skill sets and training our workforce to carry out different jobs. It is not wise to automate all jobs. We will only focus on automation driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), which gives us desired returns. Our focus will be more on bringing consistency in quality and shorter delivery times for our products through Industry 4.0. 

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