Shanghai — Longtime injection molding machine maker Chen Hsong Holdings Ltd. has been a small player in the U.S. market, but it has plans to boost its presence here.
Group chief officer of strategy, sales and marketing Stephen H.L. Chung describes the Hong Kong company's relationship with sales and service offices in Detroit and Connecticut as a partnership "like a joint venture" that will assure customers of long-term stability.
"We are sinking money into this infrastructure," said Chung, who also sits on the Chen Hsong board of directors. He spoke during an interview at Chinaplas 2018 in late April in Shanghai.
The 60-year-old company, which is based in Hong Kong's New Territories, also exhibited at NPE2018 in Orlando, Fla., under its Taiwan subsidiary, Asian Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd.
At NPE, APM showed two machines in the Supermaster series: an SM150EV2, a 150-ton clamping force machine with a W6 WE-Technologies robot, and a SM200TSV 200-ton machine with a W8 WE-Technologies in-mold labeling system.
Chen Hsong, which has factories in Shenzhen, Shunde and Ningbo, acknowledges a clash of styles with mainland management in recent years.
"It's a problem of a mismatch of culture," Chung said. "Frankly speaking, everyone knows we hit a rough patch a couple of years ago."
Since then, "We've put in a very rigorous program of quality control," Chung said. "The major challenge of the coming year is serving our customers."
Some of that quality control knowledge was gleaned from the company's experience since 2011 as an OEM manufacturer of injection machines for Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plastics Technology Co.
At its Shenzhen plant, Chen Hsong manufactures hydraulics for Mitsubishi, Chung said the Japanese firm values Chen Hsong as a trusted partner.
"They've had lots of bad experiences with joint ventures in China," he said. "They see us as an honest partner not in this to steal their technology."
Another key reason: know-how.
"We're one of the few Chinese companies which have the technical expertise to understand their engineers," he said. "We've adopted a lot of their technologies in our product lines as well."
For the six months ended Sept. 30, the publicly traded company registered sales of HK$870 million (US$111 million), an increase of 22 percent over the corresponding period in 2016.
The company credited the surge to the continuing popularity of its servo-drive MK6 hydraulics featuring Japanese technology. The MK6's patented pressure-regulation technology avoids reversing the pump, a common technique that leads to pump wear and tear, the company says.
President of Manufacturing Chi Kin Chiang called the MK6 "the very best machine on the market today." The MK6 has become the fastest-selling product line ever launched by Chen Hsong, with especially strong repeat sales, the company noted in its December 2017 interim report.
Chen Hsong offers a 60-month warranty on the MK6.
Chen Hsong also offers the Speed line of Japanese-designed injection molding machines in a range from 128-468 metric tons of clamping force. This line combines very high injection speeds with dry cycle times as short as 1.5 seconds. Speed machines feature Japanese-engineered hydraulics that eliminate unnecessary pressure drops.
Both the MK6 and Speed lines feature "air buffer" technology, a combination of highly sensitive sensors and algorithms that offer low-pressure mold protection that is effective with obstacles thinner than a sheet of paper.
Sales in China and Hong Kong rose 27 percent to HK$602 million (US$76.7 million), or 69 percent of total sales. Most domestic sales are to the appliance industry.
A healthier-than-expected domestic automotive industry also fueled sales of two-platen large-tonnage injection molding machines, the company reported. Sales of these big machines nearly doubled from the year-before period.
Taiwan sales climbed 20 percent to HK$73 million (US$9.3 million). Exports to other countries were up 10 percent to HK$195 million (US$24.8 million). Strong sales to Brazil, Russia and India were offset by sluggish sales in the Middle East due to political uncertainty, the company said in its interim report.
The company is also closely watching the rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Despite heated rhetoric and possible 25 percent tariffs on Chinese injection molding machines, Chung hopes cooler heads will eventually win out.
"[President Donald] Trump does a lot of talk. Whether it's going to boil over into actual action that has consequences and costs remains to be seen," he said.
Chen Hsong has been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 1991. On April 23, the company announced the appointment of Executive Director and CEO Lai Yuen Chiang as chairman of the board. She replaces her father, Chen Chiang, who is retiring as chairman of the board and executive director. The elder Chiang founded Chen Hsong in 1958.
Lai Yuen Chiang's brother, Chi Kin Chiang, was appointed deputy chairman in addition to serving as president of group manufacturing and an executive director.