Panels & Furniture Asia Sep/Oct 2018

PANELS & FURNITURE ASIA • Issue 5 • September / October 2018 PANELS MANUFACTURING 23 developing UC Gravure as a separate independent business. UC Gravure has become a quality supplier of printed foils for the lamination of wooden panels. For the past 12 months, SPB has invested heavily in research & development to offer "3D prints", new print designs and harder more resistant coatings. DIFFERENTIATING ITSELF Malaysia is currently the biggest market for SPB — taking up about 40 per cent of themarket sales, but this was not the case a few years ago. “If you were to ask us three or four years ago, the Malaysian market was probably less than 20 per cent. So it has more than doubled, and that’s because of the added value products that we're trying to sell into the market,” said Fitch. Although the domestic market is the biggest, the portfolio of SPB is a diverse one — with about 10 per cent to Japan, eight per cent to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and many more countries across the globe including Australia, India, USA, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE, Taiwan and Vietnam. The company also focuses on a unique business model where it does not sell to everybody. “We try to limit ourselves to one customer that we trust and develop a relationship with them so they have exclusivity for our products. We are looking at long term partnerships,” said Fitch. “All of this is related to the people and the culture, and how we try to differentiate ourselves from everybody else.” In fact, the longest relationship started since day one, 16 years ago. “I personally know some of the customers much longer — more than 20 years. We are basically old friends,” explained Fitch. “You may say it's an old fashion way of doing business when you look at big companies like Amazon and Alibaba, but there's still that niche for personal touch and personal relationship. It’s a little bit old fashion, but still important in some businesses.” He also believes that people are the company’s greatest asset, which is in line with the company’s mission statement, “To manage, arrange, organise and empower staff to achieve the Company’s Vision. This must be done collectively, as a team to optimise the effectiveness of the resources available to the management.” With a committed and enthusiastic team, SPB customers’ needs are always met as the team is always alert to the needs of the industry while delivering quality services. OF SOUTHEAST ASIA Malaysia was the fourth largest producer of MDF in the world about five years ago. And recently, the Southeast Asian region has been facing a dwindling supply of sustainable raw material. “In terms of the supply, there's only one way we can try to overcome this—and this is to work with the rubberwood suppliers to ensure consistent supply. At theendof theday, thepeople that supply the material are really only interested in one thing, and that's the price. Our volume is not big. We only need about 400 tonnes of materials a day. So as long as we can get that 400 tonnes of materials, we will ensure a competitive price,” said Fitch. But despite the limited supply and pricing, the panels industry in Southeast Asia region is “doing fantastically well,” said Fitch. Growth within the industry since the early 90s has been phenomenal. “I think we're reaching on par with Europe in terms of quality. That's why I don't know the reasons why Southeast Asian MDF is so cheap. Perhaps we are becoming a victim of our own success,” said Fitch. “The European and Australasian manufacturers will say, "Oh you're using rubber wood." But there's nothing wrong with rubber wood. Okay, you have the issue with latex spot, but technology now takes out the latex spot and rubber wood is actually a very good substrate to use for panel products. Furthermore, it is a sustainable plantation species. An aerial view of Segamat Panel Boards