The role of harvesters and cane loaders in the sugarcane and sugar manufacturing industry is growing more important each day as mechanization replaces traditionally manual cutting work.
And in the global markets, harvesters and cane handlers produced by the Thai agricultural machinery producer Samart Kaset Yont (SMKY) are gaining increasing acceptance because of their reliability and superior performance.
This is underlined by the success of the SM-200, model which many customers see as a benchmark product and has been proving itself for several years. Recently SMKYs introduced SM-200 Giant, their large capacity harvester that perfectly combines durability and technology.
Mr. Samart Leethirananon, the President of Samart Kasetyon, and Ms. Srinaul Leethirananon, Sales director, will introduce the business and the products of Samart Kasetyon as below.
Manual Labour Problems: The Turning Point Toward Machine Production
Samart Kasetyon was founded in the year 1996 by Samart Leethirananon, the current managing director. Initially, the company was a small store that sold agricultural tools,reparing of tool and equipment for sugarcane farm, located in Phankha District, Chai Nat Province. Srinaul Leethirananon, Sales Director and the daughter of Mr. Samart, comments that her family had owned sugarcane plantations since her grandmother’s generation. Her grandmother often had problems with the workers who cut cane. For example disputes over amount of cane produced being short of what was agreed. The problem was not confined to Miss Srinual’s family and other farmers were experiencing the same issues. That prompted Mr Samart to begin to look at machinery that would replace the manual cutting and lessen the burden of sugarcane farmers.
Initially the company produced cane loaders which were based on the popular Ford tractor. Miss Srinaul recalls that the first major market for SMKY cane loaders was in Kamphaeng Phet Province. Because the area had so many sugarcane plantations it was a large market. Sales there were sufficient to drive enough volume to establish their product and soon sugarcane farmers from other areas began to use the SMKY cane handler(loaders) also. As the demand rose, so did the company’s capacity to produce.
Quality Of SMKY Harvesters And Handlers Wins Out In Export Markets
The growth of business led to the growth in production, and fifteen years ago Samart Kasetyon introduced an improved cane loaders to the market. The sales of this product reached 100-200 pieces per year and fueled the opportunity to increase production capacity further and expand the market to other countries.
Our latest designs include cane loaders with front handling and rear handling equipment. Our rear handler is based on a modified tractor with torque convertor transmission meaning that the driver can reverse the machine without using the clutch. It is very efficient and is on the list of top-best sellers in Thailand. Our front loaders however, are being exported to many countries, such as Indonesia, the loaders frame can fit to a customer’s existing tractor so is quite desirable for many markets. Or else, of course, we can supply complete units.
Commenting further Miss Srinaul ; “All of our loaders products have quality steel structure and are well-designed.Our customers always confirm that the SMKY loaders are very durable and rarely need repairing. One told us that he used the same SMKY loaders machine continuously for ten years, but never have to change the engine oil or filter.Which he thought was great, however, we quietly advised him that it was always best to change oils and that he really should keep regular maintenance of the machines.”
“When we started to look at producing harvesters we combined our knowledge of tractors into designs. Actually, we conducted so many different forms of experiments in order to get where we are with our concepts. For example, for our cutting systems we experimented with so many methods of cutting like spinning blades, wire blades, thread nets. Initially we mounted them onto tractors for test purposes and I think in total we tested about 5 or 6 different methods before deciding the best approach.
“But this work was worth it. In export markets we often face tests against competition. On one site they tested our harvester in an extreme environment, with difficult to access fields, then plantations where the cane had fallen (sleeping (lodged cane or larges cane) making harvesting very difficult. We knew our work had paid off because our machine is very efficient in cutting fallen cane, results were that our harvester had strong performance and good capacity. They can use it to cut the sugarcane every day continuously, no problem at all.”
Miss Srinaul also said that another customer, this time from the Philippines confirmed that in their test they had run the SMKY machine against harvesters from 5 different countries and found the performance of the SMKY harvester to be the best. It satisfied their criteria for cutting capacity and combined that with affordable pricing. Since that time the SM-200 (smaller harvester) has gained considerable popularity in the Philippines as well as in other countries, such as Brazil, Cambodia, and Indonesia.”
Samart Leethirananon, the managing director of Samart Kesetyon, interjects that some people have the view that Thai products are of lesser quality versus imported products. His personal belief is Thai products need to receive enough support to allow serious development. And if government is able to get rid of monopolies, especially in sugarcane and sugar manufacturing industry, the capability of small and medium entrepreneurs will be fully realized allowing better quality systems to be followed. Our success in export markets, where SMKY product is well accepted is proof of this.
Gaining Customers’ Heart with “Durable Products and Quick Service”
Miss Srinaul reflected on the domestic market, saying the advantage that differentiates SMKY from other brands is the quality of their cane harvesters and loaders. Unlike some competitive brands SMKY concentrate on providing a tool which can be used to make life simpler for farmers. Designs are not complex and we focus on function not asthetics and combining quality with service and parts availability is gradually forcing more and more customers to accept the SMKY product as their choice.
On the subject of service Miss Srinaul explained the SMKY advantage. “basically because of the limited crushing season (around 4-5 months in Thailand ) farmers or users often have to fix breakdowns themselves. Parts availability is crucial but in special circumstances when customers face that need special components or skill in repairing, technicians of Samart Kasetyon are ready to serve them and because our technicians are multi discipline they are able to repair both harvesters and loaders units.
SM-200 and SM-200 Giant to Win Domestic Markets
SM-200 harvester is very popular among Thai users. It has been on the best-seller list in Thailand for more than 10 years since its release. Assuming a single 8 hour shift operation the harvester 80-100 tons of cane per day. The engine is a high torque 6 cylinder diesel with 200 hp. Because of the high power to weight ratio it works well in restricted, upland and hilly area like Wang Nam Kheow District in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. And as it is so compact it cuts well in the rainy season and can even cut fallen stems near to the ground if the area is not flooded. Again, simplicity of maintenance make it attractive for both Thai and foreign farmers.
The flagship product is SM-200 Giant, the large harvester. Twenty of them were sold even before the product had not been formally released in the market. It can cut 120-220 ton of sugarcane per day. It has similar engine to that of SM-200 (200 hp 6 cylinder diesel). Its size and capacity makes it suitable for large, well prepared sugarcane plantations with a row length of 500-1000 meters.The “Giant” performs the total process, cut, stack, and transfer of product to transport combined in one machine. Miss Srinaul explains; “It is a 3-in-1 machine. It cuts, and processes the cane billet into a self un-loading hopper. Once full the machine unloads the cane onto road transport. Trucks never have to enter the field. And of course, the Giant can cut sugarcane even when it’s raining,”
The machines have been developed Thai engineers who understand more fully the needs of users in Thailand and SE Asia. They are different from the machines of other brands and responds more directly to the needs of sugarcane plantations in SE Asia because they are designed in Asia, in the sugar producing areas, not in an office in Europe or USA. The design is the deciding factor that makes SMKY cane harvesters and cane loaders the choice of many Asian farmers.
SMKY Developments Poised To Strengthen Future Competitive Capacity
Fiercer competition both in the Thai market and other markets of the world has certainly put pressure on SMKY to develop itself to stay above the rivals and increase the capabilities of cane harvesters to meet the future needs of farmers. The plan can be divided into 2 parts:
(1) Using technology to make the harvester capable of doing more than cutting sugarcane.
(2) Market expansion
Srinaul said. “Our cane harvester in the future will be able to report on weight of cut cane, the cane yield over the cut area, total tonnage (for example per shift)or even whether the amount of produce is viable versus investment. It will be able to show engine and fuel use and machine usage data in addition.”
Secondly, our plan is continued expansion into export markets. With the world becoming more aware of the potential of sugar not only as a foodstuff but as a fuel commodity many countries in the world that previously grew sugar are becoming potential customers and we are already in touch with many of them.
Although products and services of the company have been extensively developed, what the company never overlooks is the needs of customers. Miss Srinaul said that customers continue to have a role in advising them which direction to improve and develop. The attention and care the company gives to its customers have been its standpoint from the past. For SMKY it is still the way forward, and will continue being so in the future. Her father Mr. Samart, used to be a sugarcane farmer so he knows best about what farmers want.
“We almost think nothing about profit. We only think about what the farmers need, what they can do, and what they can get from our products. But as an innovative producer we have a duty to lead our customers towards technology and development that will bring efficiency, we cannot stand still in the past, we need to innovate and bring those advantages to our customers. We take care of our employees as if they are our family members. We do not only listen to the farmers, but we also listen to our employees. The executive is accessible to everyone in the company. In the future, we plan to expand the production and we will develop our employees to meet the needs of sugarcane farmers.”
“Growing Together”, Sustainable Survival for Thai Sugar and Cane Industry
Mr. Samart ended the conversation by saying that in this interview he has spoken a lot about other business sectors and other groups of farmers that are related to sugarcane industry because he believed that if farmers survive, then sugar producers and machine producers will also survive. None of them can function totally independently alone. The industry must recognize this as a solution.
“As a producer, we need to drive this industry together with the others. We can’t grow alone. It has to be the cooperation between farmers, production industry, agricultural machine, and sugarcane-sugar manufacturing industry. Most importantly, we have to look back to the market within our own country, develop and give it more opportunities, not allowing any specific group monopolizing it. In the future, even if Thai sugar were to be a hundred times more expensive than imported sugar, I would still buy it for the sake of Thai farmers’ survival.”