An Interview with Mr. Kang Han Fei,
Managing Director of Manitou Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.
Managing Director’s Profile
Mr. Kang Han Fei is the Managing Director for Manitou Malaysia. He joined Manitou in December 2019. Mr. Kang has a Master in Business Administration from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh U.K. He has more than 25 years of professional experience in the Material Handling and Industrial Equipment Industry, having served in senior management positions in various international companies.
1. Manitou was established in 1958 and has expanded internationally over the years. As the world leader in roughterrain handling, could you share on the background of the establishment of Manitou in Malaysia?
Manitou Group has established its presence in Asia since 1993 with the stand up of its subsidiary in Singapore; known as Manitou Asia Pte Ltd. Manitou Asia is the regional office for Asia Pacific aims to serve the emerging and the developing markets around Asia Pacific. Manitou Malaysia was set up in 2016 and becomes the Center that provides a better field and services directly to the end-users.
Manitou Telehandler MT-X 625 with grapple attachment being used for clearing at the plantation.
2. What are the advantages and specialization of the equipment that Manitou offers to the palm oil industry?
We have various range of equipment. Manitou is serving three industries; agriculture, construction, and industry. Some of our equipment is specific machines tailor to the palm oil industry with the use of the appropriate attachment. For example, we are working together with TCIM Sdn. Bhd., the leader for the backhoe loaders (BHL) in Malaysia which has been selling and promoting the BHLs to the palm oil industry. Manitou is known for its rough-terrain handling and is currently working with a company to design the attachment that helps to increase the productivity of the palm oil industry especially in the harvesting.
Manpower is the main crux that we have in the palm oil industry due to the reliance on foreign workers to do the harvesting. It is a labor-intensive job because you have to hold a 5 meters stick to pick all the fruits. This method is no longer efficient and coeffective as it requires a longer time which makes the industry not competitive. Thus this allows us in looking forward to work with a company that works with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to have the right attachment specifically for harvesting. This project is currently ongoing, we would not elaborate.
3. Manitou also provides other services such as financing, warranty extension, maintenance contracts, and spare parts. Could you elaborate more on this?
In Manitou Malaysia, we provide flexible financing as most of the small plantations require our support. We hope that the customer could have the peace of mind and know that the whole process is in our hands for the warranty extension and maintenance contract. The warranty extension of using our machines would be up to 3 years. Warranty extension covers all the maintenance and we would provide a special rate to take care of the customer’s machine for 12 months.
Gehl Backhoe BL818 digs trench in oil palm estate.
4. There are many palm oil plantations in Malaysia from established companies to smallholders. How does Manitou tailor their services according to the needs of SMEs?
Manitou Malaysia has a range of machines. For the more established company or bigger plantation company, they would require a bigger capacity machine while for the SMEs, they would require a smaller machine. We could offer a second-hand machine for the new setup or much smaller company. For the established companies, we could offer them a new and much bigger machine as their operation needs a much longer time.
5. How does Manitou prepare to overcome the uncertainty of today’s palm oil market?
I do not see any case with the supply and demand issue. Palm oil is involved in our everyday life and we need palm oil in almost everything. Even though with the ban from the European Union (EU), the competition with Indonesia and the political issue with India, would not affect the industry greatly as we still need palm oil. This further push the growth in palm oil industry.
6. Based on your point of view, how does rough terrain handling contribute to the development of palm oil plantation in Malaysia?
If we look at the Malaysia palm oil industry specifically, our roles are to help the industry to bring down the operation cost. We also feel that we should be a part of the eco-system in the palm oil industry. We need to be one of the stakeholders in the industry to be able to involve and see how our machines could be a form of help in terms of cost-saving, efficiency, and productivity. We have lost billions of dollars because of the harvesting as we are not able to collect the fruits. This is because there is a shortage of manpower and thus the machine would come in a great source of help.
Manitou machines are userfriendly and provide many advantages; air conditioner, radio and handphone holders. With this machine, we believe that we could change the stereotypical mindset. We believe that this is the opportunity to show that anyone could be a part of the harvesting be it the fresh graduates or even for the ladies. It is an order to help the industry to be cost-saving and productivity efficiency. This also helps in bringing down the operating cost which would greatly benefit the Malaysian palm oil industry to stay competitive.
7. Do you expect the COVID-19 to have an effect on the palm oil industry and in turn affecting Manitou’s performance this year?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the government are taking a very swift action of the virus. This epidemic would cause some economic effects to most industries, though to some industries such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer manufacturers, would be at their advantage in this situation; more demand which means more businesses. There would always be something to balance it out. Manitou is prepared for 2020 to brace with uncertainty in the economy. Malaysia is an emerging market especially in the machines which, the concept of telehandlers is not well known yet. In some ways, Malaysia is still using the conventional way of harvesting. Thus Manitou Malaysia is looking into Asia Pacific as it is the growing market for the telehandler.
Gehl Backhoe BL818 Maintenance works on construction site.