Off-road driving/trailing is fast gaining popularity in the country. Enthusiasts from the different sectors of society such as businessmen, doctors, engineers and members of the motoring media are rolling up their sleeves and exploring the roads less traveled almost every weekend or holiday.
As you drive along that muddy path, have you taken into consideration the amount of work behind every off-road equipment or gear? Surely, most of us have noticed that off-road rigs look far more different from the garden variety pick-up or SUV. Those massive steel bumpers, step boards, and lift suspension systems surely serves a purpose. The journalist in me started to ponder, how are these things made?
That question was answered recently by way of a factory tour in one of Thailand’s biggest off-road companies, Overland. Established more than a decade ago, Overland is a company dedicated to fulfilling the desires and requirements of the blue blooded off-road enthusiasts. From steel bumpers, roof mounted luggage racks and down to step boards and suspension systems, this Thai company has been carving out its own niche in the Southeast Asian market. “Aside from Thailand, we have a strong presence in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. At the moment, the Philippine market is the second biggest next to Thailand in terms of volume and sales,” explains Bryan Kestle, Overland’s Executive Foreign Manager.
The Philippine contingent to the Overland factory familiarization tour was composed of local regional dealers from Bacolod, Davao, Cagayan, Cebu, Cabanatuan, Dagupan and Metro Manila. The group was headed by Rod Chiong, Overland’s exclusive distributor for Ph operations. “This is an incentive tour for our dealers which have been with the company since day one of operations. Through their efforts, Overland is now gradually gaining a domineering slice of the domestic market,” says Chiong.
Kestle took us around the massive PIAK facility in Rayong, Thailand, where Overland products are being conceptualized and manufactured. After a brief introduction about the company, Kestle and Chiong acted as our guides as we toured the manufacturing facility from step one, which is cutting and forming of the metal sheets, and up to the actual product assembly line. “We have a team of designers and engineers. From being a product concept, the whole process takes 30 days, from product presentation, manufacturing and actual delivery to the dealers here and around ASEAN,” says Kestle. “We design products using powerful computers and from there, a jig has to be created to line up all the welds and shapes,” he adds. The work involved to make a single Overland front bumper is divided into different sections of the assembly line and spread across three massive buildings inside the plant. Once a product is finished, it goes through a quality inspection, wrapped in plastic and put in a crate for delivery.
Overland has ust penetrated the U.S. market and is currently working on having an active presence in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Plans are under way to secure a foothold in the European market.