Filling an upstairs room at Shanghai Chunxu Mould Industrial Co. Ltd.'s factory are an array of molded products. From a colorful set of children's toys to fuel tanks and fenders, the spread of goods traces the nearly 15-year history of the Chinese rotational molding company - the deeper you walk, the more technically advanced the products.
Chunxu is one of China's most successful rotomolders - with an annual growth rate at around 50 percent, with 80 percent of its products now earmarked for export. The company was chosen last year to supply a series of red drums for a Beijing Olympics installation.
``The design company spent time looking around China for a rotomolder and someone suggested us,'' said Huang Quan Chun, the company's founder and president.
``They needed to work as drums and also as light fixtures,'' he said.
Nearly half of the Chunxu factory and 600 of the company's employees are dedicated to creating molds, giving Chunxu an edge over many Chinese companies. It's an advantage that Huang will use to continue to help the company win additional projects such as with the upcoming Shanghai World Expo.
When Huang first came to Shanghai as a carpenter from Ningbo, he knew how to work with wood and was looking to make his fortune at a tooling company on the outskirts of the city. Carpentry, however, was not the only talent Chunxu's founder possessed. With a careworn face and easy laugh, Huang was quick to make friends in the city, particularly in industries related to his own tooling company. It was not surprising, then, when the Shanghai Aviation Manufacturing Factory came to Huang with a request.
The company had purchased the parts and design for a military helicopter from the United States, complete with a rotomolded plastic fuel tank. After completing five helicopters, the aviation company needed more. When they looked to a U.S.-based company to purchase the fuel tanks, however, prices were high.
``They wanted 10,000 renminbi [$1,439],'' Huang said. ``The piece only weighs 7.3 kilos [16 pounds].''
They brought the product to Huang's firm, which at the time could make an aluminum mold but did not have the ability to manufacture the product itself.
``At that time we hadn't even heard of rotomolding,'' he said. He traveled around China looking for rotomolders and did find a few but none that made the molds in-house.
``I started to understand how rotomolding works,'' Huang said. ``And I decided to do it myself.''
After four tries, Huang managed to produce a fuel tank that worked. The former carpenter had found a new business.
Huang grew his rotomolding enterprise with a project to mold playground toys for a local company. Soon, Chunxu was designing and molding its own toys for export to markets throughout Asia.
``We really started from making playground toys,'' said Sam Song, a computer-assisted-design engineer at Chunxu. ``Now there is too much competition from rural areas.''
Today, the company focuses on products that require more technical expertise like fuel tanks, and automobile and scooter parts.
``We did our first project for the United States in 2004,'' Song said, pointing at a plastic speaker shell in the showroom.
Now the company is looking to expand its business abroad with a newly opened sales office in Birmingham, England. Chunxu also is considering opening a similar office in Australia, Huang said.