GUANGZHOU, CHINA — It's quite a career move from the banking industry in North America to one of the largest plastics machinery manufacturers in China.
But Freeman Tang, executive director and CEO of Hong Kong-based Cosmos Machinery Enterprises Ltd., thought it was all very natural.
“[The banking industry has] a lot of data, nothing really tangible, and there's the big-firm corporate culture,” he said in a recent interview in Guangzhou.
He also happens to be the third-generation of the Tang family that founded Cosmos in 1958. His father To Tang has been chairman of Cosmos since 1997.
Freeman returned to Asia in 2006 and worked on overseas sales of injection presses as well as the injection molding business, which he said gave him a real understanding of Cosmos' customers.
He was appointed CEO in late 2013, at a time when cutthroat competition and sliding profit plagued the performance of the company.
In the past two years, he said he has restructured the management suite for better teamwork — a common but nevertheless challenging task for the younger generation of a family business.
“We have a complex industry and tough competition, we must improve internally [in order to win].”
The company sees all-electric and two-platen machines as two main growth engines. It makes larger tonnage all-electric presses with technology licensed from Japan's Ube Machinery Corp. Ltd., in addition to its own small tonnage models.
The all-electric market in China is under severe pricing pressure, as the exchange rate has made Japanese all-electric machines more affordable to Chinese molders, Freeman said. The Japanese yen has depreciated nearly 20 percent against the Chinese yuan in the past year.
He said the company is working hard on cost optimization as well as developing hybrid machines.
Despite the contracting volume and overall saturation of the Chinese injection press market, he still sees plenty of growth opportunities.
“There are great projects and customer bases in food packaging, medical packaging, consumer electronics, automotive and high-end toys.
“Don't let yourself get distracted by the noises [in the market].”
He said he bets on automation, molds and unique material applications as the base of future growth.
To distinguish from other competition that focuses on standardization, Cosmos targets more customized machinery, Freeman said, leveraging the company's unique experience and technologies.
But there's one thing that hurts both him and his industry counterparts, regardless of their market niches.
Speaking for the entire Chinese injection press industry, he protested China's current import duties.
“We need to pay a premium for components because they are imposed a 10 percent import duty, while imported injection molding machines are exempt from that.
“That's unreasonable and unfair,” he said, “but it's not an option to wait for the [domestic] supply chain to develop itself.”