Thai Style – Panus Oceania is moving slowly but strongly into the Australian Market

Today we live in a totally global world, so different from that of a century ago when the aim of each country was to be economically self-sufficient. The national pride that formed the glue of developing manufacturing industries has been replaced by an operating strategy focussed only on economies of scale.


In recent years, Thailand has advanced its position as being a favoured location for auto manufacturing to the point where the nation is often now described as the “Detroit of Asia”. Unlike the Detroit of today that bears no resemblance to the major manufacturing hub it was during the 50s and 60s, Thailand continues to grow its manufacturing base and is today the largest single source of utes and pick-ups from a plethora of different makes.


With manufacturers such as ISUZU also establishing production facilities to supply local markets in Indonesia and Malaysia, it is not surprising to find associated industries such as trailer manufacturing and bodybuilding are also experiencing rapid growth.


Panus is a new name to the Australian trailer market, but in the Thailand market, this privately owned company ranks as the country’s largest trailer builder. It boasts a diverse range of products in the trailer market including general freight and skeletal trailers, car carriers, rail wagons and semi-tippers to complement their involvement in producing vehicle for other sectors including mining, aviation and the military.


Panus Assembly CEO Panus Wattanachai is the son of the founder of the Company and he found time recently to discuss with TrailerTorque the development of the Panus brand and how the company views its recent decision to enter the Australian market.


“The company was started 45 years ago by my father. At that time the trailer market in Thailand didn’t really exist. Although a truck chassis at that time was built from steel, the bodies were built locally from wood. Initially my father started cutting timber and building boats and also furniture. But he was a pioneer and he saw the opportunity for transportation would move from wooden boats to truck bodies,’ said Mr Panus.


Today the Panus company is the largest manufacturer of trailers in the Thai market. From the factory south east of Bangkok at Chonburi, Panus Assembly is currently building 200 trailers per month with a workforce of 900 employees. When operating at peak capacity with 1,100 employees, the 52-acre factory site is able to produce up to 350 trailers per month.


“Our main market is of course Thailand, but in the future we have the ASEAN Economic Community to consider and to that potential we have added Australia and New Zealand as well as India, South Korea and Japan,” said Mr. Panus.


“There is a very diverse range of technology requirements amongst the different countries, with the lower technology markets being Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar.


“What interests us most is the ability to participate in markets that have already moved to adopt levels of higher technology such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan.


“For our home market we specialise in skeletal container carriers and flat top or curtain sider trailers. We also currently supply 90 percent of the market for car carriers in Thailand.


“In the past we have built aluminium tankers but demand for the use of aluminium in the Thai market dropped off around 10-15 years ago. Today we still build tankers, but in steel. We are the number one supplier of container skeletal trailers and hold around 40 percent of the market segment. In terms of flat top trailers we hold around 30 percent of market share.


“Because of our experience in skeletal container trailers and flat tops we are concentrating initially on these products as the first stage of our product range availability in the Australian market.


“I see Australia as being closer to Thailand and with established links because of Australian companies such as Linfox and Toll already operating here. Working with Rod Cunningham in conjunction with experienced Australian engineers and local Australian component suppliers, we have established a strong platform for our trailer solutions and entry into the Australian transport market.”


Backed by a product line that is already certified to ISO9001: 2008 plus OHSAS 1800:2007, TIS 1800:2011 standards, Panus has established its Australian base in Melbourne, under the brand name of Panus Oceania.


Heading the Panus Oceania division is CEO Rod Cunningham, supported in the sales and marketing team by Joe Horvat, both of whom are well known and highly experienced through working in the local industry.


“We have introduced our first two products into the Australian market and both are what we term our base level units,” said Rod Cunningham.


“We have started our product range with a flat top semi-trailer and a skeletal semi-trailer. Components such as axles, suspension systems, king pins and lighting are all sourced in Australia and exported to Thailand for manufacturing and assembly. This ensures the components are not only commonly available in the Australian market and are supported by their suppliers, but ensures our trailers are completely ADR compliant.”


“This form of supply does add a little extra cost but it also enables us to establish the brand while offering a variety of specifications and components. Our base level units at this stage include Watson and Chalin tri-axle road friendly air suspension, Wabco brake kits, and LED multivolt lighting and as we move into the fleet space, we will add products from other locally well-known and trusted suppliers.”

“That’s our starting point. We had originally included side loader pads and other items for the rental spec’ market. The Australian product at that stage was slightly heavier than that of the future product. Our second design on the skel features further refinements to the product design and it is now within 100 kg of the expected benchmark. All 2015 product and beyond will feature EBS as standard. By moving to EBS universally we reduce the complexity overall,” said Rod.


Panus commented on how the evaluation of the European trailer market illustrated further opportunities for the future development of his company’s products


“I think the main thing would be disc brakes and super singles. The Thai market is very much based on drum brakes and dual tyres. In some of the European manufacturing their technology for building trailers is to use a modular system with nuts and bolts. If you use that many nuts and bolts it’s a high level of labour. In terms of the spec’ it would be heavier than welding. We have to compare all these varieties,’ said Panus.


“We are picking particular markets that have the opportunity to suit our manufacturing and product design strengths. We will start as a boutique supplier and then move from there.”


“Our vision is to be a leading provider of specialist carrying equipment and logistical solutions, with innovation, efficiency and good governance,” said Panus.”


This article has been kindly reproduced thanks to PowerTorque Magazine