KYB Malaysia: Gunning for continuous improvement

AS the leading supplier of automotive shock absorbers to local automotive manufacturers and assemblers, KYB Malaysia has carved a name synonymous with quality, innovation and timely delivery.

In an interview with StarCarSifu, KYB Malaysia managing director Yuji Ito and UMW M&E group director (M&E Division) Anas Nasrun Mohd Osman said the brand had implemented production upgrades and automation to forge ahead.

KYB Malaysia is a member of the UMW Group.

KYB Malaysia’s current facility in Teluk Panglima Garang, Selangor produces around five million units of shock absorbers annually and the company also aims to increase the number of its current 39 export markets.

KYB recently celebrated their 40th anniversary and it’s truly a landmark achievement. How do you feel about this achievement?
Ito: Yes, we at KYB is very proud of this achievement and 40 years is a very long time. It’s historic for both countries Japan and Malaysia as at that time Malaysia has the Look East Policy. I was here in Malaysia in 1996 as a production engineer to set up the power steering machine and I didn’t know I would one day be the managing director of this company.

What are the types of shock absorbers produced at the Teluk Panglima Garang factory? Are they for motorcycles, cars and trucks?
Ito: Here we produced shock absorbers for passenger cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks from Isuzu and Hino, as well as motorcycle front forks and rear absorbers.
Anas: KYB Malaysia’s market share at the moment is more than 60% of total shock absorbers for OEM four-wheelers.

How many shock absorbers do you produce annually and are your shock absorbers mainly for the local or export market?
Ito: We produce more than five million shock absorbers annually. Out of this, 30% is for the export market. These exports to Japan will be distributed to the subsidiaries of KYB around the world for re-distribution. KYB Japan also has production facilities in certain countries to cater to the specific requirements of consumers.

Aside from shock absorbers, what are your automotive related products?
Ito: We also distribute springs, top mountings and dust cover protection kits to provide consumer convenience as a package when they decide to change the shock absorbers.
As for motorbikes we designed the shock absorbers with attractive colors and chrome. You see, OEM shock absorbers usually come in black and this colour does not appeal to end-consumers who prefer bold and bright colours.

What are the key drivers in KYB’s exceptional growth?
Ito: KYB’s core strengths are its products high-quality products, cost competitiveness and continuous research and development (R&D). About 60% of the total local four-wheeler OEM’s shock absorbers demand is supplied by us. Our products are used in Perodua, Proton, Honda and Toyota vehicles among others.
Anas : Automotive companies are focused on product quality, cost and delivery times (CD) which we are committed to providing. Aside from the Malaysian automotive market which is reaching its peak point, we are looking at the export markets for future growth.

How does R&D work in Malaysia?
Ito: Japan KYB will design the shock absorbers while KYB Malaysia will build them according to Japan’s specifications and tune them to meet the specifications of OEM customers. KYB Malaysia is also capable of developing special specification absorbers for the local replacement market according to our road conditions and customers’ preferences. So far, our R&D has developed KYB RS Ultra series which was well received in the market.
Anas: We can adjust the shock absorbers to provide sporty or comfort settings as required by customers.

What are some of the biggest challenges KYB had to overcome?
Anas: We have to be cost competitive.
Ito: To achieve this we have to increase the usage of automation like robotics. We also have to increase the local content of our products as another method to reduce cost. However, we will source imported components around Asean countries if our local vendors are unable to supply them.

Ito (left) and Anas.
Ito (left) and Anas.
How does KYB view the business climate in Malaysia?
Anas: The growth of Malaysia’s automotive total industry volume (TIV) is quite stable and we continue to strive for export.
We want to increase our penetration from more than the current 39 countries. We have modernised our plant to include more automation to increase production volume and speed.

The future seems to be about AI and digitalisation. How will the business look like in the future?
Anas: In terms of digitalisation we are already into that. At KYB Japan HQ, certain processes are all done by robots. There are also some processes where there is minimum human involvement only one or two.
Also, to further add value to our customers, especially on QCD, we have planned to set up new facilities near a customer’s manufacturing centre.
Ito: In all KYB subsidiaries around the world, we will benchmark with the best production bases and share the best practices achieved.

What is KYB Malaysia’s key focus?
Ito: KYB Malaysia’s product strength is its quality and cost. We have collected many awards for quality over the years. On March 1, KYB Malaysia received another award for quality excellence from Boon Siew Honda.
Anas: Also, the good working relationship between KYB Malaysia and KYB Japan has demonstrated positive growth over the years. We have recorded the best-ever revenue and profit. A positive point to note here is that KYB Malaysia achieved better results in terms of cost for our struts and motorcycle front forks.

What do you enjoy most about your current position and working in the aftermarket industry?
Ito: I have worked as a production engineer in KYB and most of the time I travelled all over world to set up production lines. In these postings which is about two months I found that each country is distinctive in culture or food. But now it’s different as I am heading a company and there is a lot to learn. - By EDDIE GOH
Autos KYB