New training center for autoworkers, Honda opens new plant


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Thailand’s auto industry workforce is getting more advanced training thanks to a new automotive engineering and research center opened last week by Thammasat University in partnership with Siam Motors Groups in Pattaya, as Honda Motors officially opened its new plant in the Kingdom capable of turning out 420,000 vehicles a year.

Thammasat University president Somkit Lertpaithoon said his institution founded the center with the objective of developing the Thai workforce according to market demands and the labor situation. The government has vowed to maintain the country’s reputation as the region’s leading automobile manufacturing location, and one of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturing centers.

Thailand is now the world’s 10th largest automotive manufacturer based on its production capacity of around 1.9 million units in 2015, which was 1.7 percent higher than in 2014, according to the Federation of Thai Industries. Production capacity is expected to reach 3.5 million vehicle units by 2020.

To maintain its position and further advance, Somkit said, Thailandwill need to develop its human resources in information technology and engineering. The automotive industry is expected to shift towards manufactureof electric vehicles as well as designs and prototypes with the use of precision and high-efficiency manufacturing technology, he said.

The Thai workforce needs to be prepared. But at the moment there is a shortage of skilled laborers in the Thai automotive industry, and especially of highly trained technical workers such as engineers. The new center hopes to help remedy that shortage.

“If Thailand wants to keep being called the ‘Detroit of Asia’, it has to improve production technology and develop the labor skills to prepare for the influx of high-technology industries and it also needs to produce more Thais who can work in managerial positions,” Pornthep said.

Within the region, Thailand is facing challenges to its automotive industry by Indonesia, which with a larger population has a larger market and so has also been drawing investment from automakers.

But with its long experience, strategic location, developed logistics and friendly policies, Thailand is still favored by many automakers as the best place to manufacture in the region.

That was in evidence last week as Honda Motor Company officially opened its new plant at the Rojana Industrial Park in Prachinburi province northeast of Bangkok. The new plant will be able to turn out 420,000 vehicles every year and provide jobs for 1,400 people.

Honda imported advanced technology from its assembly plant in Yorii, Saitama Prefecture, and incorporated it into the new Thai facility, helping to shorten production and lessen the environmental impact.

Honda began construction of the plant in 2013, with the company investing $485 million. Honda operates an even larger plant in Ayutthaya province north of Bangkok.

Photo Credit: ARC:Assembly Revolution Cell