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Establish a “Japan Model!”

Pioneering the Hard Way

Mr. Takehiko Hirai
General Manager, Myanmar Branch,
Penta-Ocean Construction Co., Ltd.

We also visited Mr. Takehiko Hirai, general manager of Penta-Ocean Construction Co., Ltd., one of the development work contractors. They are working efficiently on an approximately 210-ha plot in the Phase 1 advanced development area (Zone A Area: approx. 400 ha) of the Thilawa SEZ.

The toughest part of the work was the weather during the rainy season, Mr. Hirai recalls. With heavy precipitation between May and October and clayish soil, there is little that one can do once the ground has absorbed water. The only solution was to finish the major earthwork while it was dry.

“We had to use a considerable number of heavy machines to do the job.”

Their dedication paid off, and the earthwork was successfully brought to completion by early May. Returning to the site after a sixmonth interval, the prospective tenants were all surprised to see the difference, saying, “It used to be just a stretch of plains with cows wandering about here and there.” In fact, some companies decided to contract land right then and there after seeing the complete change of landscape.

When the rainy season set in, they brought in a large amount of gravel to build construction roads – the lifelines of construction work – as they started to work on site development.

“Because we were able to work only when it was not raining, we hired people for removing water from rain puddles and maintaining temporary roads, in addition to regular construction workers, so that we could maintain productivity.” On peak days, as many as 800 workers were employed in the work.

An area with an average elevation of 6.5 m was chosen as the site of the industrial park. The height was determined based on data from Cyclone Nargis, which claimed hundreds of thousands of victims when it hit Yangon in May 2008.

“At that time, the water level rose to 5.5 m in this area, and so we chose an elevated ground 6.5 m above sea level. When it's completed, a 7-m-tall bank will surround this advanced development area. Even if a cyclone of the same scale as Nargis hits this area, the factory will not be inundated.”

A relay pump station building awaits the installation of pumping equipment.
A safety slogan sign is prominently displayed.

In this area, KUBOTA is responsible for building installations for water intake/ supply, water purification plant, and sewage treatment plant using its own products, including ductile iron pipes, pumps, valves, and membrane diffusers. The plan is to lay ductile iron pipes along the road from the Zamani reservoir, which is about 3.5 km away, to the water purification plant within the park where irrigation water can then be supplied to each factory. For sewage treatment, wastewater from each factory is gathered at the sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and discharged into a regulating reservoir. When we visited the site, construction was under way on an intake installation and a sewage treatment plant.

We asked Mr. Hirai why KUBOTA was chosen.

“Because they came up with specifications while listening to what we wanted. Their genuine enthusiasm for the project strongly impressed us.”

Penta-Ocean Construction has been involved in a number of international projects, but they often had to play second fiddle to leading players, much to their chagrin.

“This was to be our first project in Myanmar after the country shifted to civilian administration, and so we had to take it by any means. I am happy to say that we now appreciate the importance of ‘being there ahead of the rest.’”

Once construction work started, however, they realized that they had insufficient materials and technologies for the project. It was thus necessary to import some materials and machines to keep the project going on.

“Even so, we really feel that we are receiving more government support than usual,” said Mr. Hirai with conviction.

As they move on with the Phase 1 construction work, they are currently receiving inquiries about constructing factories for new tenants of this industrial park.

“The Thilawa Industrial Park is gaining such a positive response that more and more companies are becoming interested in building their factories there. We are mapping out a plan to meet this demand by recruiting people for construction, installation, and design jobs,” Mr. Hirai told us ecstatically.

Before we left, we asked him what he emphasizes most when working in Myanmar.

“Safety supervision is our biggest concern. On top of the obligatory requirement of wearing helmets, we also have to transplant the rigorous safety and quality standards of Japan in this country.”

This remark reminded us of what Myanmar expects from Japan – creation of a sound working environment. Bearing witness to this effort, safety slogans could be found here and there throughout the construction site.

Creating a Model for Utilization of Water/ Environmental Technologies

Hiroshi Omori
Associate Manager, Overseas Sales & Planning Group (South East Asia), Water Engineering & Solution Overseas Department

Leading KUBOTA's project in Thilawa is Hiroshi Omori, a member of the sales team at the Water Engineering & Solution Overseas Department. He confesses that he had long wanted to dedicate his efforts to industrial park projects.

“In Japan, we have to speak to different authorities for each individual construction job, such as pumping, piping, and water treatment, and so we need to allocate different sales contacts to each job. However, building an industrial park is like building a self-contained town, and we only have one contractee. I always thought that KUBOTA could capitalize on its broad range of offerings in such projects.”

In fact, at first KUBOTA only received inquiries about water purification and sewage treatment for the Thilawa Industrial Park. As they met with the customer about the demands of the project, they began discussing iron pipes and pumps as well. Eventually, by virtue of a counter offer, KUBOTA gained an order for the total package.

“Having to speak to only one contact definitely benefits customers, as it makes things easier for them. It benefits us as well, because the greater the scope of the job, the easier it is for us to make adjustments.”

Omori's approach was to think together with customers to find solutions to their requests. For this project, the customers strongly wanted to reduce daily electricity charges for water purification and sewage treatment as much as possible. Omori then came up with a proposal.

“The most common technology for purifying water is to form the floc larger with chemicals and let them settle. For this flocculation process, we use the vertical baffled channel flocculator, which uses water flow, rather than using the mixer. For the supply of oxygen to activated sludge, which accounts for most of the electricity demand, we used KUBOTA's highly efficient diffuser, which saved a lot on such costs.”

In Omori's mind, any job is finished best if it is made-to-order, and this conviction is based on his past experiences. He had long been engaged in sales of waste treatment plant, where every single piece of equipment in the market is made-to-order, and salespersons typically present a plant design of their own conception to customers (“selling performance, not equipment”). Omori was later transferred to a team for submerged membranes used for wastewater treatment, where he was able to gain an outlook on this market through dealing with overseas customers. Now, his experience has led him to this project in Thilawa.

“I remember that (then) President Yasuo Masumoto insisted that we must all gather under the banner of ‘All KUBOTA’ when conducting water treatment projects. He also told us that Thilawa would be a model of such concerted efforts. That was when I was appointed to take charge of the project.”

The Zamani reservoir supplies an abundance of water to the Thilawa Industrial Park.

KUBOTA is currently involved in the construction of water intake/supply installations, a purification plant, and a sewage treatment plant in Thilawa. On top of that, Omori visits companies that rent offices in the MJTD building to give presentations on waste treatment plant, where waste discharged within the park is disposed of.

“For us to attract more companies, we need to have all kinds of infrastructures in place, such as uninterrupted electric power, water purification, and waste disposal services. I want Thilawa to be an industrial park that satisfies every demand. This first project is being led by the Japanese team, but I would be more than happy if we could pass on our knowledge to Myanmar staff members, so that this would become a recurring business.” To build an ideal industrial park that offers a package of water- and environment-related services, Omori looks ahead to the not-so-distant future.

When asked how he feels now about the project, Omori replied by saying, “I am supposed to be the person who knows best what is happening in the field, and so I first felt a strong sense of responsibility. At the same time, I began to encourage and build confidence in myself, thinking ‘If I don't do it, who will?’ I have also been made to keenly realize that whatever discussions I have with people in the field help me to gain their trust, and that you can make yourself understood if your wish for something is strong enough.”

If there is one thing that everyone in the Thilawa Industrial Park project's Team Japan shares, it is the great effort that each and every person is putting into making the project a success. For the sake of Myanmar and to prove the quality of the Japan brand, all of them are desperately fighting day in and day out. As the hopes and expectations of each person become one, the curtain will be raised on the Thilawa Industrial Park to proclaim to the world, “Look! This is the Japan Model! ”


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