Forklift trucks face exceptional challenges in tropical Malaysia. Together with local dealer Tarching Nippon, Baoli has been adapting its trucks to cope with even the most testing conditions.
Dato Sri Lau Koo San bows three times in each direction, then he puts the joss sticks into the shrine of the protective Taoist deity. His employees have already placed bananas, apples, pineapples and small pots of tea there. To complete the ceremony, Lau and his son burn bits of gold paper in a red tub until thick smoke emerges. “We do this on 1st and 15th day of every lunar month,” explains Lau. After all, you have to show your gratitude for successful business deals. A row of Baoli trucks are lined up opposite the shrine like silent spectators. “I’ve arranged them like that deliberately, so that everyone who comes to my office will see them,” says Lau with a laugh.
As the exclusive dealer for Malaysia, this industrious businessman has only been selling trucks of the KION brand Baoli with internal combustion engines and electric motor and load capacities of between one to ten tonnes – since 2012, but they already make up about a third of his revenue.
Shoes off at the door, please
Apart from Baoli, Lau sells various brands of used trucks imported from Japan and Europe. The headquarter of his company, Tarching Nippon, is in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, while the warehouse is located in Port Klang, on the west coast – 40 kilometers away from Kuala Lumpur. Although constant tropical downpours make this a very muddy region, Lau’s office is tidy and spotlessly clean because everyone takes their shoes off at the door.
Tarching Nippon has had its exclusive dealership for Baoli in Malaysia since the economy brand was integrated into the KION Group. “We emphasise that Baoli is German technology ‘Made in China’,” says Lau – great quality with competitive prices. But for Lau, the decisive success factor is Baoli’s willingness to improve their trucks to cope with Malaysia’s hot and humid climate. “For example, they have fitted larger cooling fans for the engines to deal with our higher temperatures,” explains Lau. Baoli also uses different grade of lubricants and coolants for Malaysia, as well as a special type of rubber for the hoses. “The rubber they use in China would barely last two months here and easily hardens.” Because of the heat, Malaysian customers don’t want full cabins either. Lau finds communication with Baoli to be very simple and straightforward. It is also helpful that Lau and all key employees, including his son and other family members, speak fluent Mandarin. His grandparents originally came from southern China.
Tarching has many customers who need to handle heavy loads, such as timber logs, raw materials and shipping containers, explains Lau. “Those customers have additional requirements.” Take Syn Hee Container Services, Malaysia’s leading manufacturer of transport containers, and modular office and residential units. Syn Hee operates a depot in Port Klang, which contains a total of 5,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units, a standard measure), sorted into blocks for over 20 different customers. Huge empty-container handlers that can usually stack up to eight 40-foot containers plough their way between these blocks, dodging ten-tonne Baoli trucks which seem small by comparison.
All of them have been arranged with certain routes to avoid bumping into each other, as they constantly shift containers around without any sort of electronic system as a guide. “The customers always come up with new requests – they want us to extract their empty containers for collection, prepare them for repair or for cleaning, take them to different locations,” says depot manager Tan Han Leng. His customers are shipping companies whose ships carry containers filled with food, machinery or furniture out of Malaysia. “Most of them return empty, and they are deposited here temporarily,” explains Tan. That’s the reason for all the movement.
“Baoli fully understood customer needs”
“Containers are very heavy, and the ground is not ideal,” says Lau, indicating the uneven earth dotted with puddles. “That is why we recommended that Baoli strengthened the masts using three ball bearings on each side instead of only one.” Syn Hee, on the other hand, required masts with extra height so that the trucks would be able to stack containers three storeys high rather than two. “Baoli trucks are more manoeuvrable and cheaper to operate than the bulky container handlers,” explains Tan. The more that can be done with the trucks, the better. So Baoli built trucks with six-metre masts for Syn Hee. “Baoli fully understood customer needs. We didn’t really have to negotiate much for our customized orders,” remembers Lau. Syn Hee also wanted to be able to move the trucks’ forks horizontally. That makes it easier and more efficient to insert them into the appropriate holes at the bottom of the containers, as Tan explains. “Otherwise the trucks need to keep moving about until they fit.” Tan’s experience with Baoli has been good. “The trucks are easy to manoeuvre, require little maintenance and are very robust.”
Syn Hee has three Baoli trucks in Port Klang. Two more are deployed in a depot in Johor Bahru near the border with Singapore, according to Lau. “And they are planning to buy more, including for a new branch nearby.” More special requests? No problem.