After graduating from university with a degree in engineering, CS Tan was determined to put his extensive knowledge of modular belted conveyor systems to the test in a market where there was plenty of demand – Australia. In 2017 Modu System Australia was established as the sixth global office of MODU Group.
Modu System conveyors can now be found in factories that produce premium brands such as Nestle, Dole, Bosch, Dyson, Lipton, Specsavers and Campbells to name a few.
You can hear the passion in Tan’s voice as he talks about a conveyor system that he says can be fitted into any factory, no matter the size. The word “impossible” is not part of his vocabulary when it comes to system customisation. He believes a key ingredient in the company’s success is working with the customer from the get-go.
“By being involved early, the customer and ourselves can come up with a solution that both parties agree to,” he said. “We then give them a quotation and drawings to review. We give them a solution with a price, and in most cases, they are very happy with what we can offer.
“All our conveyors are custom made. We have a team of designers, while my sales engineer and myself – we are both engineers by profession – talk to the customer. We listen to them, see what they desire and come up with a concept. The customer has knowledge, too. They are usually the first person to tell you if there is a problem with an idea because they know how a belt system should work.”
Tan says that the main differentiator between Modu System and some of its competitors is the fact the company builds its own conveyors. There is no third party involved.
“The thing about Modu, for the modular belt systems, most competitors would buy the belts and chains from overseas suppliers,” he said. “And they would then make the conveyor up. We manufacture everything ourselves. We make the chain, the belts and the structures on our own. It is basically our own design.”
Tan believes that there is no point in a short-term gain, when it is long-term partnerships that Modu is after. Integrity is a big part of the way that the company does business and he points out that the end result is only as good as how happy the customer is at the end of the transaction.
“If I give a solution and they have doubts about it, I explain to them why I have configured the conveyor a certain way,” he said. “I will explain to them the wisdom of the reason why I have done it a particular way. They might want the system set up a certain way, but I can see it might be only a short-term plan. However, if their end goal is to expand long term they might want to adopt this certain strategy and we will help them reach their goal. We are very open. If a design or build is not correct we will not sell it. We treat customers as long-term business partners. We have repeat business because of the way we do things.”
Tan is aware that one of the biggest outlays, and concerns for customers, is the capital expenditure, especially for SMEs, a sector of the market Modu targets deliberately – for two main reasons. The first is that he wants SMEs to realise that the capital outlay is probably not as expensive as they think it going to be. The second reason, which makes a lot of business sense according to Tan, is that a lot of SMEs grow and he believes if his company helps lead the way at the beginning, Modu will be the first port of call when the company decides to expand.
“Every time we talk to people, capital expenditure is one of the first things that they talk about,” he said. “They think that they do not have the financial ability to build a conveyor system but that is where we come in. We want to help them grow. We have seen them grow. It excites them, but it excites me even more. I want people to know that with Modu System, automation is possible. SMEs love to automate, but they are concerned about investment. However, when we approach them and give them a solution that is cost-effective, in almost all cases, they never realised it was possible, and come on board.”
One of the reasons Tan set up MODU System in Australia, is that he knows it is a good base of operations. This is because of Australia’s reputation in the wider world – and includes the products that populate the conveyor belts the company installs.
“Australian products are highly regarded overseas as well. Australian beer and fruits are highly favoured, too. Australian meat is considered top quality,” he said. This is another reason why he knows that a lot of these companies will grow. Their products are in demand in Asia.
Quality is something that Tan takes seriously with his own gear, too, especially with the third-party suppliers to Modu System conveyors.
“Any of the parts that we don’t manufacture – the parts we get from other suppliers and distributors – are very good quality,” he said. “We use top brands, such as Schneider, SMC, Omron and SEW Eurodrive. Anything we incorporate into our complete automation system – barcode readers and any other equipment for food automation – we use only quality items.”
And Tan is bullish about the long-term prospects of the food and beverage itself in Australia.
“The food industry is doing well,” he said. “We are getting a lot of orders from companies that are processing raw fruits, and vegetables like mushrooms. We are seeing a lot of interest from people making desserts, noodles, dumplings and things like that.
“We do provide food-grade belts, that is what we would call a PU (polyurethane) belt. However, the most common belts of ours that are used in the food sector are those that are designed for use after the food has been packaged and placed in the punnet or box – the distribution side. We can supply belts for the initial part of food production, but that is not our specialty.”
Finally, there is the back-up service that is an integral part of any supplier. Tan reemphasises that this is where the words integrity and partnership kick in.
“If a customer has any problem with our product, if they give us a call, they can be assured we will respond almost immediately,” he said. “We will tell them when we are going to be there. We will go and have a look and try and sort out the solution for them. We never try and leave any problem unsolved. We have local electricians and technicians and they are on standby to go and help clients fix problems as soon as possible.”