TAICANG, CHINA — The offices are quiet at the China facility of Windmöller & Hölscher KG, the German manufacturer of blown and cast film and printing presses, which began operations near Shanghai at the beginning of the year.
But China manager Jinghui Dai says the silence is a sign that business is going well. That's because all of the facilities' technicians and sales reps are traveling throughout China. He keeps in constant contact with them through email, phone calls and reports. “It's good for us,” he explains while giving Plastics News a tour of the facility, “because it means that everybody is busy.”
The 1.6 million euro ($2.1 million) facility is located in Taicang, in Jiangsu province, a quick 40-minute ride from Shanghai. After an extensive search, the team chose the location based on the how well organized the industrial area is, as well as the German feel of the area. Dai says there are about 200 German companies with facilities in the area.
The 10,100-square-foot facility is located in a former Siemens workshop and has room for a machinery showroom, an electronic and mechanical spare parts storage room, a die head cleaning workshop and a training area for technicians and visiting clients. W&H also opened new offices in Hong Kong and Beijing earlier this year.
With 2013 global sales of 600 million euros, China has grown into an important export market for W&H, second only to the United States. In the past five years, the company has sold six to seven lines of paper sack machines and, according to Dai, more than 70 percent of paper sacks in China are made using W&H machines. In the past 10 years the company has sold more than 43 blown film lines here.
The China site focuses on sales and service for China clientele, fulfilling a pressing need for the company. Before the facility opened, Johs Rieckerman, the company's former Chinese agent, handled sales and service but their cooperation ended at the end of last year. W&H has taken on some of the Rieckerman staff, including four technicians.
The need to open a facility in China has become increasingly apparent over the years. “In the past we had big success, [and] we sold a lot of machines to China, but our Chinese customers they want not only good machines but good service from us. That's exactly the reason we set up a plant here in Taicang. We need better and faster local service,” Dai said.
The spare parts stockroom is an important component of this goal of better service.
“Our Chinese customers want something right now,” Dai said, and the stockroom will improve turnaround speed. Previously all replacement parts had to be sent from headquarters in Lengerich, Germany, which required long waits and paperwork.
“There were lots of complaints regarding that they had to wait for spare parts for a couple of weeks,” Dai said. “Many of our customers are not so big and they cannot organize everything by themselves.”
At this year's Chinaplas in Shanghai, the company announced the launch of a 24/7 Chinese-language hotline for its largely local Chinese customer base. The company also is investing heavily in training for its technicians.
“We want to build a super service team,” Dai said. Currently at seven people, the team will expand to 15 technicians and the company is sending each of them to Germany for three-month training programs.
The company is not looking for high-speed growth in China, but instead is prioritizing quality, Dai said. The 2014 sales target for China is 40 million euros.
“Our focus is not on expansion,” Dai said. “Our focus is keeping the company growing healthy with good figures and proper size.”