“We all pursue the same goals”
One Chinese job shop — Hangzhou Hengli metal Processing — is growing at breakneck speed. Its CEO, Ge Guan Hao, lets us in on how he boosted annual sales more than tenfold during the last decade.
How does a company become one of China’s leading job shops?
At Hangzhou Forklift I profited from a stroke of luck. I was not self-employed at the time but instead worked for that government-owned company. There I learned everything about processing sheet metal, from the ground up. Ultimately, I was given responsibility for a small branch plant and had the chance to expand it. Then in 2002 I set up my own firm. In retrospect, I’d say that the years between 2002 and 2012 were the golden age for the development of the sheet metal industry in China. This means that my company had the good fortune of being founded within that period of rapid growth. Hangzhou Forklift is still one of my customers, by the way. A business relationship characterized by trust has made us close partners.
Are long-term customer relations a success factor for you and your shop?
Naturally. Close partnerships and strategic co-operation are central elements in our company’s philosophy. In 2004 we entered into our first strategic cooperation agreement with the General Electric company. That made a name for us in the industry. Our formula for success is: We deliver the highest quality, grow with our customers, and expand our cooperative arrangements. In 2005 we began serving international markets and since that time we have improved our competitive position considerably. Today we carry out orders for major corporations such as the elevator manufacturer Otis, the diversified manufacturing company Carlisle, the Schott technology company, the Terex construction machinery manufacturer, and the Stanley power tools company.
Your staffing level reflects growth in recent years…
Today we employ 516 associates. In 2002 that number was just 13 and most of them worked on the shop floor. At that time I handled many tasks myself and was personally involved in almost all the mechanical work. That has changed. Today I employ a highly qualified team for administration, sales and marketing. During the past ten years our payroll has grown by 20 percent on annual average.
What developments do you see in the competitive arena?
Positive developments in the sheet metal industry have, of course, given rise to certain imitators nearby. But they could never catch up to us. I think that our close connections and the joint developments carried out with our customers play a decisive role here. A further advantage is our strong and dedicated team. Our employees are extremely loyal; we all hold to the same ideals and pursue the same goals. One goal is to create an exemplary company. We continue to develop our organization because — in our view — our work is far more than just doing a job.
This means that good workers contribute to success?
Absolutely. With an average age of just over 20 years our staff is, by the way, very young. They are all extremely innovative — regardless of whether they work in research and development or in manufacturing. My employees learn quickly and work easily with our modern machinery. Many have been with the company from its very beginnings. Some have, in the meantime, assumed leadership positions and manage their own teams.
Speaking of modern machinery. What does your investment strategy look like?
Having the latest in machinery is very important for us. You see, we weren’t only the first job shop in Zhejiang to produce sheet metal parts to customer drawings, but we are also the most professional. We work for major manufacturers and they need high quality parts to continue their success streaks. Thus we need the most modern equipment to achieve our strategic goals. Just like our customers, we also have great expectations in terms of our own processing and the quality of our parts. That is why we chose TRUMPF machines. I like to compare them with a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. They accelerate quickly and satisfy every need on the road.
Are there technologies that are particularly important to you?
The TruLaser 5040 laser cutting machine, for example, helped us expand our position as the market leader in cutting medium-gauge sheet metal. Thanks to this TRUMPF unit, we were able to capture important shares of the market. Actually, that system can be seen as the driving force behind this development. When working with thinner sheet, we use an automated TruLaser machine. And TRUMPF is very convincing in the field of bending, too. The great angular precision and efficiency in bending, augmented by quick spare parts delivery and superb after sales service, help us maximize our profits.
To stem the flow of rising costs, automated machines are ever more important for us. The overall economic setting, developments in society, and striving to conserve resources make automation a key factor in business success.
That means that you take a broad technological stance?
That’s right. As a job shop, we have to be able to accommodate our customers’ changing needs. The market is becoming ever more professional and more divided, as well. Procurement procedures in industrial companies are changing. In the past, they ordered sheet metal plates, but today they order finished parts. That makes for good prospects for job shops. More and more sectors of industry are calling for high-quality sheet metal components and that is driving growth. There’s no question that we want to capitalize on this trend. That is why we offer our customers individualized solutions such as machine frames and cantilever arms. From the procurement of the input materials, through cutting, welding and finishing, and on to warehousing and shipping — we handle all the steps in the manufacturing process. And, if desired, we can deliver “just in time”, directly to the assembly line.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2013.