Shenzhen – Second day

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The second day was dedicated to visiting Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing: an important manufacturer of cookware and kitchen tools.

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
This is how the company presents itself upon arrival. Almost an hour drive from Shenzhen.

Integrating the supply chain

It surprised me to discover that this company, although its manufacturing site calls for new machinery, has implemented a mechanism in the supply chain allowing them to organise the work much better, reducing transportation lead times, and in general the time required to have the finished product available on the market. With selected costumers and suppliers they have implemented a system of what I would describe as active feedback, which informs continuously about the sales to the customer. In this manner they can activate their warehouse to prepare the load and the ship and eventually ship the goods to Europe.

Winnington Inventory Turns Program
Winnington Inventory Turns Program

Advantages of an integrated supply chain

The advantages are that the customer is better served, as they don’t have too high stocks of slow moving products and no out of stocks, while the manufacturer itself is less subject to the volatility of the market. In fact working like this you avoid the subjectivity of the human judgment, which often exaggerates the meaning of increasing/decreasing sales figures, creating erratic behaviours and confusion in the company. With this system it is possible to attenuate this issues by setting limits to the inventory, which, when reached, are triggering replenishment actions by the warehouse. In case those limits are reached too fast or too often, it might be the case to reconsider them. In order to implement this the company needed to involve their suppliers and customers in order to have an integrated supply chain: in order to do that they had to convince their suppliers to work based on this scheme, and this wasn’t an easy task, as many of them preferred the idea of selling one big batch and closing the operation until the next purchase. This might be theoretically true, but on the long run, it is more efficient as it enables you to lock in the customer while adding value for him.

Theory of Constraints

I’m thankful to the general manager for the presentation as it was really well explained and you could feel that who was explaining it, had to live it through, solving many issues. For example I have asked how they managed to convince their personnel that there still was room for improvement in a manufacturing process that has been executed and has delivered good results for so many years. The company, helped by a consultant, used the Theory of Constraints to analyse their current process and, by playing a game simulating the building of trucks, they were able to show how some principles of the theory could be implemented and to motivate their personnel.

Future challenges

As the Chinese workforce is getting more and more expensive the company is facing difficulties in keeping the current customers happy: some have already moved the manufacturing back to Europe, others have moved to other countries, like Vietnam, were the workforce is cheaper.  Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing  is going to make good use of the industry 4.0 in order to regain competitiveness while keeping their uniqueness of having smaller batches but diversified products.

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Before leaving…

… a picture of the whole SUPSI group!

A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington's.
A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington’s.

Shenzhen – First day

During the morning we visited an important OEM manufacturer of shoes: Huajian.

Huajian - Main building
Huajian – Main building

During our visit we were told that as the manufacturing costs are increasing in China, the company has chosen to move a big part of its production in Ethiopia, Africa, as wages are lower and there are no taxes for exporting to Europe.

Huajian is building a huge project in Ethiopia, basically a city built around the manufacturing site comprehensive of hospital as well as a symbolic Chinese wall, with the aim of covering all possible needs of their workers. Which, by the way, will be Ethiopians!

During our short visit, we also had the chance to assist to a singing performance of Ethiopians employees, who are currently learning the job in the main production site in Shenzhen: once finished the training program they will go back to Ethiopia and teach what they have learned to their colleagues.

While talking about this company we also pointed out how strong is the sense of community in China and how families still share common room and life, while in our countries we are living more and more as singular individuals. As a joke we said that one could define the current state of “development” of a country by the number of clinics dedicated to the elderly: therefore if you look at Switzerland society, which struggles to keep elderly integrated, has a lot of rest homes, whereas China doesn’t have any. In my understanding though, also in China it is getting more difficult to be a large family, since  in order to find work long distances need to be covered and people from rural areas simply can’t commute everyday as the journey is too long. Companies like Huajian, which had almost 20’000 employees, have built dormitories directly behind the company, in order to have workers coming from rural territories which are distant and poorly connected.

Other, consequent, topic of discussion was what is being done in Ticino for its development beside the opening of new rest homes. And there was no positive feeling… and no propositive ideas either.

We had quick lunch in a noodle store. Not easy eating noodles with the sticks, but I managed!

Eating noodles
Eating noodles

In the afternoon we met Huawei, the company that we all know because of mobile phones. We learned that the company has many other branches, the base of it being hardware and software for networking. In Switzerland for example Huawei has collaborations with Swisscom and Sunrise in order to develop the internet connectivity for fixed lines in the first case and mobile for the second. I don’t know if it is true but our speaker implied that the recent overtake of Sunrise on Swisscom regarding the best mobile network in Switzerland was related to their collaboration.

The expansion of Huawei in the US is of course limited, because of US protectionism, but also because being a Chinese company a strong involvement of the government is taken into account and of course data networks, datacenters, security systems are sensitive matters that an independent state struggles to share with another one.

As we weren’t satisfied yet in the evening we went to an event organised by Swissnex China, Venture Leaders: China – Swiss innovation night, where Swiss startups looking for partners were presenting their ideas and products. There were 10 startups presenting their idea in a short presentation during 2 minutes each: here the list.

  1. Bestmile
  2. Flyability
  3. Technis
  4. Oviva
  5. Zurimed
  6. Lunaphore
  7. Climeworks
  8. Urbanfarmers
  9. VIUVentures
  10. Astrocast

While at this link you may find a .PDF file with the executive summaries of each company.

Here below few pictures I took of the incredible Intercontinental Hotel

 

A long weekend on the mountains

… although it wasn’t decided neither confirmed we managed to have a free Friday and have a long weekend in Pontresina very near to St. Moritz. We had taken into consideration going to Liguria, to the seaside, but the weather forecast was announcing rain for Saturday and Sunday, so we opted for the mountains.

The Hotel we decided to stay is called “Hotel Schloss”: it is quite nice, the SPA, the pool as well as the rooms are new and definitely welcoming. We even tried the different kinds of saunas which I usually avoid since I don’t like walking through the hotel wearing a bathrobe and meeting other guests in the lift wearing usual clothes reciprocally exchanging stupefied looks. It promptly happened. There is another ground why I often avoid the SPAs and saunas: it is the naked thing. I understand that it should be done this way, and, although I did try to have a sauna and obediently left my towel out and after a while I noticed that it wasn’t that embarrassing anymore, at the beginning I always have to make an effort to overwhelm myself. Do I really need to do that?

The funny thing is, that this time, I finished being in a warm water pool were everyone was supposed to be naked, but no one was: beside me! I had a laugh at myself and quickly left the pool…

After a quick research on trip advisor we decided to go to the Restaurant called “Sport stüvetta” were we had very good fish: we spent 150.00 CHF, with just one glass of prosecco, water, soup as a starter and a coffee. I’m not shocked , since we know that here everything is expensive, and also because the food was really good as well as the service, still… it is expensive and it is a pity because it would be great to visit that restaurant more often!

We managed to ski both Friday and Saturday: snow was hard and icy, but really fast. So it was fun both for me and my wife.

Beautiful view seen from the Chamanna Restaurant

On Sunday we decided to go for a walk through Val Rosegg.

Panoramic picture of the valley

The walk takes about two hours, it is mainly plain, so, no difficulties at all. At the end of it there is a restaurant/hotel which is quite good, with huge selection of desserts. We have seen that many preferred to use the coach with horses instead of walking…

Coach to the Rosegg Restaurant

Once we finished our lunch we just took some pictures at the first European Stupa a structure made mainly by ice and we headed back for our car since we had to slowly realize that our weekend was quickly finishing.

First European Stupa

Treviso

Arrived in Treviso! Luckily the rain already stopped therefore as soon as we left the car we went for a short walk through the old town… which is small but lovely. My wife loves the shopping here… we started looking for some ideas for Christmas! For the moment being we just have found gifts for us… a set of Alessi pots, called ‘Cintura di orione‘.