Let's face it. Every machinery supplier is eyeing the booming U.S. market. Chinese firms are no exception.
But going from zero sales to 150 machines per year in just three years stands out, and Borch Machinery Co. Ltd. made it happen.
The Guangzhou, China-based company is aiming high and making entry into top tier clients. It sold a 1,400-ton press in 2014, used to make interior trim for doors on the upscale Chrysler 300 sedan. And the customer is interested in purchasing two more 4,000-ton machines.
“When we exhibited At NPE 2012, Borch only had one machine in the U.S., a 150-ton press in Miami,” said Chairman Zhu Kangjian, in an interview at the company's booth (S21073).
A second-time NPE exhibitor, Borch's 2015 booth is three times the size of the 2012 booth. Instead of one machine on display as in 2012, Borch is running three machines this year — a 600-ton BU600 two platen machine, a BH320 in-mold-labeling system, and a 150-ton BS150 servo hydraulic press. The first two are new to the North America market.
“We've been doubling our North America sales every year,” Zhu said. Granted, it's challenging to keep up that speed when the base becomes bigger, but the company is working to sustain the growth.
“We understand North American molders' changing needs. They are asking for better technology, service, delivery time and value,” Zhu said, “We are adapting to their customization needs, design [and] taste as well as habits.”
The company established a warehouse in Los Angeles in 2013 and now has stock machines in L.A., Chicago, Toronto, North Carolina and Michigan, according to Hans Chen, president of Borche North America Inc. The company — which slightly alters the spelling of its name for the North American market — also has formed a local team of eight service engineers and recruited experienced sales agents across the country.
Zhu, who also serves as chairman of the China Plastics Machinery Industry Association and led an industry delegation to NPE 2015, spoke highly of his experience at this year's show. “It has reached new levels for sure, including the scale, organizing, exhibitors and attendees.
“There is a clear focus on the U.S. market from global suppliers,” he said.
“It's a perfect opportunity,” he referred to the current U.S. market, “We must capture it. We can't miss it.”
Speaking of Borch's market development effort in the U.S., Zhu said the company also is exhibiting at smaller, regional shows.
Back in China, Zhu said, Borch has annual capacity of 3,000 machines.
He said the privately owned company invests 5 percent of its annual sales in R&D. “Our R&D team nears 90 people.
“All we want is to provide customers here in North America another option when they replace machines and help them increase their competitiveness,” Zhu said. “We've learned our lessons trying to break into the market.”
Zhu and Chen shared a story from the early days: A machine broke down at a customer's plant. “We were told if the machine doesn't get back up and running by the next morning, we must tow it away.”
“He crawled into the machine and looked for the cause,” Zhu said, referring to Chen.
“My team worked on it overnight and fixed the problem by 5 a.m.,” Chen said. It might sound cheesy, but Chen insists “sincerity” is his key to sales.
But he knows exactly what it takes to win more North American customers. “High performance stability and low machinery failure rate.”
The slowdown in the Chinese market hasn't impacted Borch much, Zhu said, as the company focuses on bigger customers.
“Orders are coming from [appliance giants] Chanhong and Midea. This month we also received 9 million yuan ($1.5 million) of orders from [Chinese automaker] Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co. Ltd.”
The tough market condition in China has forced some small players out of business, Zhu added, “which is good for us. Our workforce is more stable, and in fact, some former employees are trying to come back.”
Executive shakeups explained
Borch made headlines twice in the past six months with its executive shakeups.
In September, the company replaced chairman Zhu with Chen, who was previously vice chairman and head of North American operations. Zhu became Borch's “honorary chairman” and remained president of CPMIA.
Four months later, Borch announced in January that Zhu is back in the chairman's seat.
Long story short, Chen is now back to his previous position as Borch's vice chairman and head of the North American business.
“Chen still is a main shareholder,” Zhu said.
“We came from the same city and were schoolmates in middle school,” Zhu and Chen smiled.
But what exactly happened?
Zhu referred to it as a transformation that involved himself and the management team.
“I founded Borch in 2002 and it was the 12th anniversary last year,” he said, “I built it from nothing to a well-known brand. I wanted to take a break. There was too much of my personal influence in Borch. It needed some change.
“It's like weaning a baby from milk. I wanted a new management team and new mindset. [But] the process was painful,” he said, pausing for a few seconds.
“A few months later, I came back.
“But I achieved what I intended to achieve,” he said. “I was able to take a step back and look at everything from a third person's view and really saw things clearly.”
He said it was a “qualitative change” for himself and the executive team.
“The shakeup was done. Some of our founding team members became too content or unaligned with the company, they are gone. The team is now younger and better.”
One of the outcast executives is Tang Xiaojun, who used to be sales director but was promoted to CEO in September.
“People are the foundation of success,” Zhu said.