The Shin Sung principle
Kwang Young Choi has turned a small-scale job shop into one of Korea’s largest system suppliers. His recipe for success? Capitalizing on the advantages found in any given situation.
“It’s all a question of timing.” Kwang Young Choi is convinced of that. A glance at the production floor at Shin Sung S&T Co., Ltd. in Daegu, South Korea, shows how good his timing has been. Twenty TRUMPF laser machines, punching machines and press brakes are lined up proudly on 25,000 square meters of floor space.
Seven of them are brand new, as is the building in which they stand — built on a greenfield site and dedicated by the company’s founder in November 2010. Operations had once again outgrown the old production facilities. Choi and his machines have already relocated four times and Shin Sung S&T has grown to become one of Korea’s largest job shops —if you can call this a shop at all. The company employs a staff of 150 and fifty more are scheduled to join them.
Capitalizing on advantages
Choi’s beginnings in 1984 at the age of 24 were modest, “occupying just 165 square meters, with little expertise, only seven employees and a ‘homemade’ press brake,” the CEO recalls. But the timing was right. The company was founded as Korea began to emerge as an industrial nation. The textile industry in Daegu was booming and the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Olympic Games, both held in Seoul, boosted the demand for metal structures. “We saw the potential demands and started our business,” Choi explains.
In the lead by a nose
But Shin Sung also ran into stumbling blocks along the way. “At the beginning, our customer base was not diversified in terms of their product range and our potential applications. We concentrated almost exclusively on cutting and bending,” the CEO reports. Thanks to continuous and consistent further development, the company managed over the years to overcome these limitations and to broaden its activities and appeal.
Instead of turning out sheet metal parts only, it quickly began manufacturing components used in mechanical engineering, transportation, power plants and the electrical industry. Among today’s customers are major corporations including Samsung, Doosan Heavy Industries and Hyundai Rotem — along with about eight hundred small and medium-sized enterprises.
Variety in its products and technical capabilities is what distinguishes Shin Sung. Choi is sure of that. That is especially important in the town of Daegu, deemed to be the hub of the metalworking industry. Competition here is tough, with about two hundred small job shops in the immediate vicinity. “But most of them work with only one or two laser cutting machines or a punching machine and a press brake,” Choi explains. “Our equipment and capabilities let us offer more service.”
Included here, in addition to high product quality, is an attractive ratio of price to performance and the capability for just-in-time deliveries. “You have to offer something special to set yourself apart from the competition,” he notes. As a consequence, his expectations for his own manufacturing output are high. “A product which doesn’t satisfy me could not satisfy the customer either,” is his creed.
Thanks to this philosophy we have some loyal customers who have been with us for twenty years.” A clear strategy is also important in his recipe for success. “I put my faith in the latest technology. That lets us offer both excellent service and attractive products,” he notes. This principle has remained unchanged for 27 years now. “Customers, the applications, the competition and the technologies are in a permanent state of change. We have learned how to stay a step ahead of developments,” is his summary of the Shin-Sung principle.
TRUMPF has flanked these steps in the company’s development ever since 1992. “The textiles industry was booming, but the punching machines we used at the outset could not guarantee the required quality level,” Choi recalls. At that time, there were just a few laser machines on the market. Other technologies still dominated. “And then we ran across TRUMPF with its extremely fast, high-precision machinery.” It was through the TRUMPF branch office founded in Korea in 1997 that he bought his first laser cutting machine — the TRUMATIC L 3030. “This unit brought about our breakthrough,” Choi emphasizes.
In the years following, the laser advanced to become the tool of choice at Shin Sung. TRUMPF’s reliable onsite service made a contribution here. “At that time, buying machines from Germany was considered to be questionable since technical support was often difficult — simply because of the great distances involved,” he remembers. “Thanks to TRUMPF Korea, we never encountered such problems.” This collaboration, characterized by mutual trust, bore fruit. In the past eighteen years, 32 machines built by the German manufacturer have made their way into Choi’s factory halls — and twenty are still in service today.
The future is green
But technology isn’t the be-all and end-all for Choi. “A company is run by manpower. Qualified labor is just as important as modern machinery,” a fact he is fully aware of. “We try to achieve a balance by both providing for our employees and demanding top performance,” he explains. New workers receive on-the-job training.” Generous fringe benefits encourage staff loyalty.
Their skills are going to be sorely needed in the future too, since a new field of activity is already on the horizon. “Green technologies are booming in Korea,” the CEO reports. “The prospects for renewables — such as solar power — are bright. We want to keep pace with this development to continue to be that decisive step ahead of the field.”
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2011.