The great diversity of Asia

If Ching Pong Quek were to describe the Asia-Pacific region (KION APAC) in one word, ‘diverse’ would spring to mind. “The economic situation, the market, the requirements of customers, the culture and the languages are incredibly varied in this region,” says Quek, who is President of the KION APAC Operating Unit and a member of the KION Executive Board. The same goes for the intralogistics industry in which KION operates. In the APAC region, there is a demand for every level of quality from premium technology down to low-cost solutions in the economy segment. “The market potential varies enormously,” he says, referring to the disparity in the market penetration of forklift trucks. “In Singapore there are one thousand trucks for every million people. In Australia there are 700, in China 200 – and in India ten.” These figures reflect not least the very different development levels in these countries. This, in turn, results in highly diverse customer requirements because warehouses in the emerging markets adopt different levels of technology.

That said, we are seeing rapid advancements in digitalisation everywhere: with big data and cloud computing, and e-commerce, which is rapidly growing in China. Throughout the region, it is quite clear that there is a growing demand for electric forklift trucks and warehouse technology, and companies – particularly in countries where wages are higher – are increasingly automating their operations. Although the latter may not yet be a priority in some markets such as India and parts of South East Asia, a broader offering is becoming more and more important for meeting the needs of customers in these countries as well. As Quek says, the once more specialised applications of individual warehouse trucks are much broader today.

"If you cannot change, you end up lagging behind."

Quek Ching Pong

President of KION APAC and KION Board member

KION is well equipped for this diverse global marketplace. “Another characteristic of the APAC region is that we have so many brands here,” says Quek. KION operates with multiple brands in the larger markets – with Linde, Baoli and STILL in China. Similarly, KION India is now offering three brands, with trucks from Baoli and Linde alongside the local brand Voltas.

Each of these brands has to respond in their own way to the changes that are brought about by the market trends in different countries. But the Malaysian-born Ching Pong Quek is not fazed by change. Far from it. “I like change,” he says emphatically. For him, change is synonymous with opportunity, and he believes change to be inevitable. “If you cannot change, you end up lagging behind. But when you accept change, you will make progress.”

In his view, it is important to use these changes in order to offer customers new business propositions. Examples of this include the electric forklift trucks in the cost-effective Smart Line range, soon to be produced at Linde in Xiamen, or driverless transport systems, which, according to Quek, are currently in demand in Hong Kong and Singapore. “The AGVs are still being imported, but we are working on localising them here.”

The production landscape is also undergoing change, says Quek. “Everyone used to build everything themselves, whereas today we should prioritize our resources and outsource certain things. Your competitor can suddenly become your business partner. You can design the product yourself, oversee production at a licensee and carry out quality control at the end by yourself.” Linde China is currently having some of the entry-level electric warehouse trucks manufactured by a licensee. “We would never have done that in the past.” But today this is an accepted practice and proven to be effective.

"Today we should prioritize our resources and outsource certain things. Your competitor can suddenly become your business partner."

Quek Ching Pong

President of KION APAC and KION Board member

Quek believes it is his role to guide his employees and inspire them about the changes that are taking place. “I enjoy seeing how they are developing in their jobs,” he says. The 49-year-old regularly walks through every corner in the company to meet employees face-to-face and talk about specific topics – focusing on different areas every time. “I don’t accept the argument that there is no time for such things. The people in the frontline are the first to identify any potential problems and most probably solutions as well.”

Quek is always on the move. In his free time, he enjoys running and goes for a long run up to four times a week. “In Xiamen I always run between eight to fifteen kilometres, depending on time available. I set off from home and run by the sea as far as the university. Running clears my head – and I am then able to find solutions to many kinds of problems.” This works wherever I am traveling around the world, he says. Needless to say, Quek has also discovered the best running routes in Wiesbaden, where the KION Group is headquartered.


KION APAC - President CP Quek

“We need a flexible mindset”

KION Americas: An ever-changing region