Sri Trang – Sustaining a Family Tradition
Passion, excellence, responsibility, and sustainability have driven glove producer, Sri Trang, since its inception. As the next generation takes leadership, its core values will continue to fuel the company.
Nineteen years ago, when I was in the healthcare publishing business, I traveled to Thailand and Malaysia for a feature story on the production of gloves – one of the healthcare industry’s leading categories, and a key part of any healthcare distributor’s business.
At the time, Thailand was the world’s leading producer of natural latex rubber, which was used to produce exam and surgical gloves, among other things. Malaysia was close behind in production capacity, although it was in the process of converting much of its latex production to palm oil. As you would expect, many of the world’s leading glove manufacturers had factories in this part of the world in order to be close to the source of the raw materials.
At the time, natural latex rubber was the dominant material in the production of gloves, followed by vinyl. Of course, the United States has moved to nitrile, but many of the production lines that used to manufacture latex gloves are being used to manufacture nitrile gloves today.
One of the core issues almost two decades ago, which prompted the trip, was the wide variety of quality in the finished products coming to the United States. One of the companies I visited on that trip was Sri Trang, the top producer of rubber in the world at that time, whose chairman, Dr. Viyavood Sincharoenkul, Ph.D., was running the business he and his father started back in 1987.
Sri Trang was a fully integrated company at that time, producing products for many of the healthcare industry’s leading companies. It had 7,000 employees, annual revenues of $600M and a joint venture in place with an Austrian company (which was dissolved a couple of years ago). Today it is a stand-alone company, and remains one of the world’s largest producers of natural latex rubber and produces over 25 billion gloves per year, making it one of the top glove manufacturers in the world.
Sustainability as a core value
I returned to Thailand this past December and had the chance to visit with Sri Trang. While a lot has changed in 19 years, with his father moving into retirement, Dr. Viyavood remains as the chairman, and has three sons that have joined him in the business:
- Veerasith Sincharoenkul, director
- Vitchaphol Sincharoenkul, director
- Vitanath Sincharoenkul, marketing and brand management
What is evident is that the behaviors that drove the business on my last visit are still in place today.
Dr. Viyavood’s passion for sustainability that he displayed years ago remains a guiding principle. “Taking care of our people and the environment is not a human responsibility; it’s simply human,” says Dr. Viyavood. With nearly 420 employees farming over 18,000 acres, with well over 2.5 million rubber trees planted and farmed, Sri Trang is dedicated to protecting the farmers, factory workers, and local population, as well as the environment.
“Sri Trang participates in numerous community and society development initiatives through various activities and projects,” says Vitanath. “Of course, we focus on producing high-quality products but do it using environmentally friendly technology, green energy such as biomass, natural resources, and energy conservation. And our employees participate in various ways from community projects to finding unique ways to reduce waste internally.”
His brother Veerasith is in agreement, stating, “Yes, we are very focused on the environment, but we are just as passionate about our people and local culture. For example, when we build a new factory, we strive to make sure the surrounding area is better than before we arrived.” That can be accomplished through the proper building of infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, recreational areas and more, he says. “We understand people don’t always welcome change, but when they look at the effect our company has had on the quality of life in the communities in which we invest, they tend to support our development efforts. Our desire is to allow them to live better, fuller lives.”
Planning for the future
With infection prevention efforts on the rise, and as best practices spread across the globe to prevent diseases like the coronavirus from spreading, the market for gloves is growing. In the developed world, demand for gloves is increasing. And as third world countries become more developed, the demand for gloves will continue rising as well. Today the global glove market is an estimated 330 billion pieces.
Sri Trang currently has seven glove manufacturing facilities on three campuses across Thailand, manufacturing 25 billion pieces of latex and nitrile gloves on an annual basis. As new facilities are brought on board, technology has enabled Sri Trang to greatly increase its production capacity, and that is expected to continue.
Sri Trang is fully integrated and therefore controls the raw latex coming into its factories. This allows Sri Trang to coordinate the collection of the latex, control the quality of the latex used, and get it stabilized and purified quickly in order to support the glove production process. The components of the nitrile products they produce are managed the same way. Their goal is to control every step in the process, allowing the company to eliminate waste and control its destiny.
“We have been applying AI and machine learning to increase our capacity and speed up automation,” says Vitchaphol. “We are an engineering company driven by production metrics. One of those is to get a single production line producing over 1,000 pieces per minute. Of course, it’s a stretch goal, but we believe in time, with patience and the proper application of technology, we will get there.”
In a connected world, with customers relying on Sri Trang for a critical component to outsmart infection, Dr. Viyavood and his family intend to deliver to all of their constituents: customers, workers and the local communities they inhabit, all while being good stewards of the environment.
The process of capturing rubber and its effect on the environment can leave permanent scars if not done properly. Natural rubber latex is a product that comes from rubber trees and is Thailand’s main crop. The life cycle of a rubber tree is about 35 years, and once the tree is mature it can be tapped for approximately 30 years. When it stops producing, it is taken down and then turned into wood chips that are used to power the factories that produce latex and nitrile gloves. Since its inception, Sri Trang has planted and farmed over 2.5 million rubber trees.
Dr. Viyavood has had an interesting career. After obtaining his doctorate in chemistry at the University of London, he returned to his native Thailand, planning to visit just five months before beginning work as a college professor in the United States. Those plans never materialized, however, as he began working for a local rubber company in the city of Hatyai in Southern Thailand.
Although he was bright, well-educated and had a lot to contribute, Dr. Viyavood realized he would not control his own destiny or achieve success at the business that employed him. When his father was forced to leave that same company at the mandatory retirement age of 60, they decided to start their own company. They began with a small, rented rubber factory in Hatyai. That was in 1987. Today, 23 years later, they are the No. 1 producer of rubber in Thailand, with top-notch sourcing, trading, and manufacturing capabilities. They are also one of the world’s largest glove producers.
Sri Trang leadership:
- Dr. Viyavood Sincharoenkul, chairman
- Kitichai Sincharoenkul, director
- Somwang Sincharoenkul, honorary advisor
- Veerasith Sincharoenkul, director
- Vitchaphol Sincharoenkul, director
- Vitanath Sincharoenkul, director and CBO
- Jarinya Jirojkul, CEO
- Thanawan Sa-Ngiamsak, CFO
- Chia Chee Ping, CMO
Sri Trang Group has received multiple FSCTM (Forest Stewardship Council ™) certifications for international standards including: FSC-FM (Forest Management Certification), FSC-COC (Chain-of-Custody certification), and product chain management. Sri Trang Group became the first fully integrated rubber company in the world to receive the FSC certification in the entire latex product chain, which includes the upstream rubber plantation business through to the downstream medical rubber glove business. Sri Trang Group is proud to act as a leader in pushing the Thai rubber industry and the Thai rubber glove industry to become the premier sustainable rubber industries.