Taipei, Taiwan-based Alfa Automation Machinery Co. Ltd. is investing US$10 million in its first plant in East China and plans to start making injection molding robots in February or March.
The company by then will have three production sites in Taiwan, Dongguan and Suzhou, general manger and technical director James Huang said in an interview at the International Machinery, Materials & Mould Exhibition, held Nov. 9-12 in Dongguan.
Alfa claims to be the largest robot maker in China.
In the field of injection molding, Huang said, Alfa makes more than half of the robots newly installed in China. With a sales record of more than 6,000 robots this year, the company said it will be able to sell 10,000 units in 2006.
The Suzhou facility will cover 430,500 square feet and employ 100, according to Huang. Alfa's existing sales and service branch in Suzhou - Alfa (Suzhou) Automation Machinery Co. Ltd. - opened last year.
Found in 1988 in Taipei, Alfa started its first factory on the mainland in 2001. The 20,000-square-foot plant in Dongguan now employs 300 and makes about 4,000 automation units every year.
In addition to facilities in the two largest manufacturing regions in South and East China, Alfa also has warehouses and repair services in the northern area.
``More and more Chinese plastics processors are adapting automation equipment,'' Huang said, but mostly cost-efficient robots for the time being.
Alfa makes Cartesian coordinates robots as well as transporters and conveyors.
In that low-cost niche, Huang said, the key to success is customer service. Robot pricing is one thing, but what Chinese customers need most is timely and reasonably priced service. The company has more than 20 service sites on the mainland, 10 of them in Guangdong.
Huang said the company's sales have been growing at 60 percent annually in the Donguan area and 30 percent across China. Currently, the mainland accounts for 80 percent of Alfa's sales and Taiwan 10 percent.
The company has decided to use sales agencies to serve overseas customers, and after a fruitless investment in Europe in 1998, Huang said: ``We now have distributors in every European country except Germany.''
He also mentioned plans to cooperate with U.S. companies to continue Alfa's success in the Chinese market. ``We are not afraid of Western competitors - we partner with them.'' But he disclosed no further details.