“We want people to love us.”
Buntoro Setiomulyo sees huge potential in the Indonesian industry. Having created such solid foundations for his own company and its 800 employees, he now hopes that his approach can provide a useful model for other companies.
Mr. Buntoro, you’re in charge of a globally active company and you’ve also written several management books. What can other businesspeople learn from you?
Well, I think they can benefit from seeing how we succeeded in getting to where we are today. Thirty-odd years ago we were just a small sheet metalworking company with three machines, and financially we weren’t in the best of places. We needed a game-changing idea to help us make some headway and build up a solid customer base. So I began searching for a product with real growth potential, reminding myself that it was pointless producing anything today that would be redundant in the future. That’s when I hit on the idea of hospital beds. The global population was rocketing even back then, so I was confident this was a product that would see increasing demand. Of course we didn’t have any of the expertise we needed. And first we had to learn what features our products would need to make inroads into the market.
It sounds like you really had to pay your dues! How did you keep the company afloat during that period?
To keep the money coming in, we focused on simpler products like school lockers. That didn’t yield much of a profit, so we had to be patient. And I actually think patience is what most people lack — a lot of businesspeople throw in the towel far too quickly. I think it’s important to accept that one year, you might only take one small step toward your goals. But the year after, it could easily be two steps. That’s how I tackled it — and after a few years we had really picked up speed!
How did you open things up once you had laid stable foundations?
Once we had built up the knowledge we needed, we focused on the key topics of development and production. Search for a sales team or marketing department at our company and you’ll come up empty-handed! Instead we gradually established a broad network of sales partners. That saves me having to set up costly demonstration centers in multiple locations. I prefer to channel that money and manpower into our core competence. That way I can be sure that we will ship our 400 beds a month. We currently handle a total of 2,000 orders a year, and our portfolio consists of 150 different models for numerous international markets.
So you finally got to where you wanted to be?
We’re already one of the leading providers in our industry internationally, but we’re not resting on our laurels. To meet all our customers’ needs, we have three design teams working in parallel on new models and on improvements of existing models. We focus on issues like reducing weight and optimizing our manufacturing processes. Of course that means that I also have to continuously invest in new technology. That’s why we recently came up with the idea of becoming the first Indonesian company to purchase a TruLaser Tube 5000. It represented a huge investment for us, but my gut feeling told me it was worth it.
And were you right?
The new machine boosted our productivity by 30 percent, which I think answers the question pretty clearly! More specifically, the laser system has considerably reduced the amount of manual work we have to do. The level of precision it offers has enabled us to significantly cut down on costly secondary processes. In some cases it has even made old machines obsolete, and we’re making much more efficient use of the space that we freed up in the production facility. Our partners at TRUMPF put a lot of time and effort into helping us get started with laser tube machining, and that’s one of the reasons why the whole switch-over ran so smoothly. The overall experience was so positive that we also ordered the new generation of the TruLaser Tube 5000 with even more innovative functions.
Whether you’re dealing with major decisions like those made in the past or new technologies, it’s always important that your team is involved in the decision-making process. How do you motivate your employees?
Our mission statement makes it clear that we want people to love PT Mak, and that obviously applies in particular to our employees. That’s why it’s so important to me to reward my workers fairly for the work they do. We pay 50 percent over the minimum wage and we also look after their families, with each person taking 15 kilograms of rice home each month in addition to their salary. I think that treating people like this sets a good example for my country. With 230 million inhabitants, we have some enormous market potential to tap into. I try to do everything I can to help. For example, I regularly invite young people to visit the company and hand out scholarships. I hope those kinds of things will go some small way to boosting Indonesia’s economic growth.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2016.