Saturday, 8 August 2015

History: Thailand Ceramic Scenario

While the world population grows, so does the need for good housing. With increase in literacy and awareness of sanitation, every country is witnessing a surge in the need for ceramic goods. Moreover, with every country becoming more self reliant, better lifestyles too are demanded. Thailand, is not far behind in the phenomenon. While a, lot of industries are doing well in Thailand, so is the Ceramic Industry. So here is a look at the Thai Ceramic Scenario.


The archaeological survey of Thailand reveals that Thailand had a strong ceramic culture since years. However, the exact periods are unknown. Further, the articles found at various sites can be classified into two major categories.

Ones that were manufactured in Thailand had a clear touch and appearance of the Thai Artisan. As the communities in Thailand developed in science and art, the ceramics of those times reflect this progress. It is also evident that Thailand’s rich resources in clay were discovered well before these times and slowly, the ceramic potter’s tools and products came into the Thai households. Most of these products were common household utensils.

In the same period, there was imported ceramic ware in use as well. Thailand being a land of trade in those times, it is no surprise that there were other countries whose ceramic goods made it to Thai house holds as well.

Raw Material : A major Advantage

 As we know, the ceramic industry is the industry of good quality clay. If there is clay there is industry. Luckily, Thailand has huge deposits of quality clay largely in Lampong province of the country. There are other areas too that have good clay deposits.

The nearness to the major raw material makes for a great strategic advantage for the industry. This is also a major reason why a number of domestic as well as foreign players have entered into manufacture and supply of ceramic goods in Thailand.

Further, Thai Labor is quiet cheap as well. Another big reason for the Ceramic Products being cheaper and more affordable in the international market. Ceramics being a highly labor intensive line, this factor of production helps the cause of small industries. In fact, Lampong Province prides itself to provide one of the largest employments in the whole of Thailand. The province virtually survives on ceramic factories that are around 200+ in the province and surrounding regions.

Some Statistics: 2010 Survey

In the year 2010, Ceramic Industries Development Center reported some findings of the ceramic industry that are worth looking at. The Ceramic Industry in Thailand has attracted lot of foreign funds inflow which is one of the major catalysts of the industry. According to the report, approximately 800 million USD inflow was witnessed. The classification of product wise investments can be summarized as below.

The floor tiles, wall tiles and mosaics had 12 factories that focused on high technology and had a 60% exports of the total production.

Sanitary ware sub sector had 8 factories, again with the similar 60% exports to international markets.

The insulators sub sector’s 90% of the production was consumed in domestic market, which again is great, owing to the growth in the Thai economy, a clear indication of investments in infrastructure. The 10 factories in insulators are largely located in Bangkok, Nakom Pratom and in central Thailand and the Rayong province of Eastern Thailand.

Smaller Industries in decoratives ceramics as well as dinner ware are largely located in Lampong, Lamhun and Chianmai. The dinner ware had approximately 68 factories of smaller size, while decoratives are manufactured in 123 small units. All these are labor intensive and provide good amount of employment in the region. 80% of the productions of these sub sectors are exports.

Thailand also has a number of high technology roof tiles manufacturers. The best part is their Roof tiles manufacturing is now focusing on Green Manufacturing, and yet it has an affordable pricing that has domestic as well as International markets.

As can be seen from the above, the Ceramic Industry of Thailand has a very large chunk of Exports.

Lampang : The Epicenter of Thai Ceramics
Lampang is one of the most important ceramic regions of all producers. It is located at the north of Thailand. Reasons or it being a successful region for ceramics are:
  1. It is the main source of white clay in Thailand, with 93% of all white clay coming from Lampang. This white clay is highly resistant to heat thus producing quality products.
  2. The labour is cheaper in the province and surrounding areas.
  3. Lampang is has a major locational advantage. It is the bypass to many nearby provinces and has all forms of transportation.
The origin of Ceramics in Lampang was when a villager from Jae-Hom district found Whetstone made from Kaolinite. After that there were some Chinese making progresses as they had the financial might to do it.
From 1947, when partially organized factories started coming un in Lampang region, through 1960s and 1980s the economic situation as well as organizing of industry was faster. Government started taking interest in the growth of the sector in the region. There was better education and training. Stronger research and Quality Control Support. Seminars and workshops on technology and commercial education to upgrade trade commerce and exports.

Today, the ceramic factories in Lampang range from small to large scale. There are about 30 factories for medium to large scale numbering from 100-600 in labor force per factory. There are about 120 factories for small scale with 10-80 in labor force per factory. This generates a cash flow into the province of at least 2,000 million baht per year.
Some distinguishing features Of Lampang ceramics are:
  • Conservative style, i.e. : using the jigger method of production and dragon kilns, which still use wood as an energy source; they produce 5" - 7" local bowls along with electric insulators and Art Ceramics of which only 7-8 factories remain in operation today.
  • LPG kiln: to compete with products from abroad, the LPG kiln is used to produce gift sets, home decoration sets, dinnerware, ceramic fences, and handmade products.
  • High technology products: using the tunnel kiln, Lampang was able to expand production capacity to serve the market demand of Europe and America. These products are tableware, large flower pots, and vases.
Though Lampang has been producing white clay ceramics for only 50 years, it is one of the most important exports of Thailand and will continue to enhance income and occupational growth of the local people in the future.
The Future
The Future for Thailand Ceramics Sector is expected to be good in the coming years. The labor costs are going high so are the raw material prices. These may be a matter of concern, but looking at the pricing of all ceramic products going up in the past few years, there is no fear that the industry will loose its shine in the future.
However, the major players will have to look out for trends in designs and technologies. These factors will decide their actual position 10 years from now. As the world is changing fast and Asia is pretty much becoming the manufacturing continent of the world, there will be sharp competition from other countries in Asia. The development too will be huge in Asia, so it is imperative that there be consistent quality and design up gradation in Ceramics in Thailand.

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