GOING UP A GEAR

Malaysia 2017 | INDUSTRY & HIGH TECHNOLOGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tan Sri Dato' Seri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor, Executive Deputy Chairman & Managing Director of Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC), on leveraging experience and partnerships to branch out into global markets and how recent developments are shaping the ambitions of the company going forward.

 Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor
BIOGRAPHY
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor was appointed to the board in August 2005, and is a member of the executive committee. He is a graduate from the Brittania Royal Naval College Dartmouth in the UK, as well as the Indonesian Naval Staff College, the US Naval War College, and the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, California. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. He served the Royal Malaysian Navy for 34 years, and retired in 1999 as the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy. He sits on the board of Affin Islamic Bank Berhad, Favelle Favco Berhad, and several other private limited companies.

How would you break down your operations today between public and private contracting?

Our intention is to have a 50-50 division, but in reality in the last 10 years the commercial sector of the shipping industry has been on a continuous downward trend with little recovery. With that situation in mind, we have to adjust accordingly, and our long-term intention remains having balanced exposure. Our main focus at the moment is to enhance our productivity, improve our skills, and upgrade our infrastructure. The fact that the commercial and defense sectors are currently soft gives us the opportunity to implement our transformation agenda to be leaner. Our idea is to enter the global market.

Are you actively tapping into new markets?

We are in the midst of restructuring and up-skilling our people accordingly; however, we also have a fair amount of domestic work. We have a contract to build six frigates, which is one of our main activities at the moment. For the mid to long-term, we actively look to add to our order books, especially in the Middle East and Northern Africa. We believe we are competitive; looking at the prices of our frigates, we compete well with our global competitors, and are around 20-35% cheaper. We have invested a great deal in engineering and design and have our own designs that we can develop as they are our intellectual property. Previously, we used to partner with foreign parties for design; however, we are increasingly capable of doing this ourselves. We have had several successes, both in commercial and defense and have a good supply of engineering talent from our universities.

Can you tell us more about your activities in the aerospace division, BHIC Aeroservices?

BHIC Aeroservices is a joint venture between BHIC Defense, Prestige Pillar, and Airbus, and is primarily targeted at servicing helicopters in the defense industry. At the moment, our focus is more on the rotary wing; however, we are also moving to the fixed wing. We are currently the main service provider of the Malaysian defense industry, maintaining new helicopters for the Air Force, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and the Navy. We are expanding our MRO activities into commercial components as well. In addition, we are also in the midst of forming a new company that is 100% owned by BHIC to look into the MRO of the fixed wing. We seek to extend these activities regionally; such MRO services are universal and can be applied to helicopters abroad, for example in the commercial market. We want to cement ourselves first in the local market, and if that works, there will be nothing preventing us from going overseas.

How has the ecosystem in aerospace changed in the last few years?

The ecosystem in aerospace is evolving. We intend to make Malaysia the regional hub for aerospace and the industry has several targets to meet there. Having a complete ecosystem, an all-round service for MRO, for example, means you can build and expand the industry from there. Singapore is competitive in aerospace and most other services because it offers complete service packages, unlike other nations that only have parts of the supply chain. You need a developed and comprehensive supply chain to develop volumes.

What are your key objectives for the year ahead?

Overall, 2015 was not easy, and our key objectives are to balance our operations in the next year and be profitable. We are keen to reinvest our returns in R&D to grow through innovation. In order to reinvest, we need to be profitable, which is why we pursue our transformation agenda, re-energizing our workforce. By the end of 2017, we will be where we want to be in terms of staff and have lean operations. In the meantime, our perspective will be focused more outwardly, and we will invest in our manpower to increase our global footprint.