Connecting with China
High quality solutions, local service, short lead times and long term commitment: LEMO China has been delivering on it's promice since 2004. The Swiss company's Chinese subsidiary has grown alongside this giant economy and it's quest greater quality. Our interview with LEMO China's director, David Renqing Ge.
David, you were the first LEMO China employee. Your team has grown considerably since 2004.
David Renqing Ge: There were just nine of Us when this subsidiary was created in 2004, we now have a staff of 120! We provide all levels of service, from seeking new customers, to pre-sales consultancy, project development, stock management, shipping and delivery to customers. We even do some production for the Chinese market: cable assembly termination and injection moulding of REDEL 1P connectors. Our aim is to provide services that combine high-quality and proximity to our customers.
This is the reason why you built up widespread presence...
China being a huge market, we chose to cover it as effectively as possible: we have offices in 14 big cities, with Shanghai as our HQ. This structure is highly appreciated by our customers.
Whenever they need our advice or support, they can call our local sales engineer and we will visit them the very same day or the day after.
LEMO's regional presence goes beyond China...
True. We set up LEMO Asia in 2010 in Singapore.
We now have offices in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Is your proximity service strategy also the reason why you decided not to work with representatives?
Yes, it is. We've decided from the beginning to go for direct sales and not through agents or distributors. The close contact with the market gives us a better understanding of the trends as well as our customers' true needs. Moreover, we maintain good control of sales activities in terms of technical advice, pricing, stocks, deliveries and after-sales services. Last but not least, it allows us to keep a highly motivated and trained sales team with strong links to LEMO's Swiss headquarters.
You are talking about quality of service, but what about the quality of LEMO technology?
Quality is at the heart of LEMO's offer and reputation - in China as well as anywhere else. I was told a little story about a company designing and producing radiation detection equipment.
They were being thoroughly audited by a Middle East client and things were not going so well. However, at one point, the auditors noticed LEMO connectors on the front panel of the company's equipment and their faces lit up: "The quality of your equipment can't be bad if you're using the best quality connectors!" Another example was when we were attending an exhibition specialized in medical equipment: a rather elderly visitor approached our booth and picked up a B Series connector. He was so stunned by its quality that he was almost screaming with joy "It's so beautiful I could cry! It's more of a piece of art than an industrial product!" (laughs). So, yes, you can find many cheaper copies, but the quality of LEMO's original push-pull connectors is what our customers are requesting and they are willing to pay for.
How come LEMO China started cable assembly?
Again, to deliver the best quality to our Chinese customers. In the first 2-3 years, we were selling only connectors and, from time to time, we received quality complaints which were in fact not linked to our connectors, but to their assembly to the cable. So we decided to take care of the assembly ourselves and started a small workshop in our facility...
..which grew fast...
... incredibly fast! It even led us to move into a new office in 2008. That same year, we officially introduced the cable assembly service to our customers. Today, it accounts for about 40% of our overall sales volume! What's most important is that our clients now benefit from higher-quality and better tailored complete solutions. It reduces their maintenance costs, increases their brand and market value. It Is also a very effective way for us to gain their trust and loyalty.
This led you to move to yet another new building in 2015...
Yes indeed. This new building is still in Pudong, Shanghai, just 4km away from our previous offices. It is much bigger: we now have a surface of 700 m? for offices, 1100 m? for ware-house, 1900 m? for cable assembly. Moreover, we have enough space to further expand our activities, if necessary.
For what applications are LEMO's solutions used in China?
They are used in a very wide range of applications requesting high quality and reliability and/or in harsh environments. This includes testing and measurement, such as professional GPS, IR cameras - most of the key IR camera makers in China are now working with us.
Applications also include medical equipment, cable assembly plants, military, broadcasting, research or automobile testing.
Who are your competitors?
We are competing with both global and local connector manufacturers. However, Our unique Push-Pull system, premium quality and strong local services make all the difference: we are the leaders in this niche market.
The quality of LEMO products and services appears to have convinced China...
Since our debut in 2004, we multiplied our sales by 8 and quadrupled the number of active customers. We add around 500 new customers to our client base every year. We are happy with these results, but keep on working to improve them!
What about the future and your perspectives?
The Chinese market and economy continue to grow, even if its growth has slowed down. More importantly to us, the demand for high quality technologies is rising. We are confident that we wIll continue to prosper in the coming years.
The SEA market is still growing. More and more OEM businesses are moving to this area, a growing number of local companies have started to design and produce equipment and machines - these are great opportunities for LEMO solutions.
What is on the LEMO China "to-do" list right now?
The LEMO brand is regarded and trusted as "high quality" on the Chinese connector mar-ket. This is great, but it comes with an "expensive connectors" label! We are considering how to even better control and reduce our overall costs to provide our superior quality solutions at more competitive prices. Producing in China technologies for the Chinese market is one of the possibilities. So we will continue to enhance and enlarge our cable assembly production capability.