Interview - Mr. Kevin Chen

Mr. Kevin Chen, The President of Chuan Chier Industrial Co., Ltd, has been involved in the woodworking machinery manufacturing industry for thirty-one years. Thirty years ago, when he had just graduated from school, he got a job working in a woodworking machinery company and he stayed with that job for ten years. He gained experience in electric controls, assembly, warehouse management as well as purchasing and eventually became the factory director. Kevin Chen said that the ten-year experience established his foundation in the woodworking machinery industry. Because he started from a basic level, he has had practical experience of all facets of a woodworking machinery factory, including spindle shapers, sanders and four-side planers, etc. Then, because of the reorganization of the company, he left to take up a position in a furniture factory as an engineer specializing in the maintenance and R&D of the machinery. This work was quite familiar and Kevin Chen was able to handle the job with ease. He stayed at that company for five years. Kevin Chen said that, in order to make more money during his spare time after work, he contracted the projects of spray booths and ovens. Due to his practical experiences in woodworking machinery and furniture factories, designing and planning for ovens and spray booths was not difficult for him, at all. Every time after work when he finished a design, he would outsource that contract for construction. He also went to contractors' factories and checked the finished product after his working day, or during holidays. When each case was ready to be installed, Kevin Chen personally supervised the operation on-site. Sometimes he had to travel all over Taiwan and one could say that he never had the chance for any time off or vacation. However, Kevin Chen felt that the situation was a good one for a young man in that he could gain more valuable experience and also increase his income. The Time of Starting the Business Speaking of when Chuan Chier was born, Kevin Chen said that, after working 'outside' for a period of time, he felt that the time was right for him to 'challenge the world' and begin his own enterprise. He was lucky because, at the time, a teakwood company from Hong Kong established a factory in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. This spurred a trend of domestic furniture production and there were many family-based, labor intensive local manufacturers. As these clients were closeby, it was easy to trial run and adjust newly manufactured machinery once it was produced. The business improved and grew very quickly as a result. Gratitude Kevin Chen deeply appreciates the many friends and companies that helped him during the time he started his business. For example, during that time, the President of KSTONE Machinery Ltd., - Mr. Alex M. Chen - was importing a lot of European woodworking machinery and offered him many suggestions as well as the opportunity to view and emulate. After Kevin Chen's products were developed, Alex Chen also helped him to effect sales. Another friend is the President of Sen Yuh Industries Ltd., Mr. Yaou-tang Chen, who was mainly engaged in the maintenance of European machinery. When he heard that Kevin Chen wanted to start his own business, without asking, he gave him a batch of molds. Kevin Chen said that he also wants to thank the Kin Chi Li Machinery Corporation which bought his first machine that very year. From the delivery of that machine and continuously testing it, Kin Chi Li has offered Kevin Chen much support. The needs and perfect timing for starting the business all came to Kevin Chen and for that he will be eternally grateful. Remembering his career over several decades, Kevin Chen said that, before 1996, there was rapid growth. The boom was really strong and there were many orders. However, after 1997, the whole market experienced an economic depression. This, together with the emergence of the woodworking machinery industry in China, caused a stiff increase in the intensity of local competition. Because of this, Kevin Chen reevaluated his products, thought carefully how best to lower costs whilst at the same time improving quality and precision - as well as developing new models to meet the demands of a changing marketplace. Researching and Developing a New Model Five years ago, Kevin Chen released his new model - a "Double-end Tenoner". Having being used to producing large-scale machinery, such as finger jointers and composers, he also pioneered double-end tenoner development. He said that as long as large-scale machines could be produced, then smaller models should never be a problem. Kevin Chen confessed that the development of this tenoner cost him a lot of time and money. He said that he was trying to 'grow out of nothing' and to gain experience from failure. The machine was tested again and again and Kevin Chen said that he can't remember how many models had been changed from start to finish. He recalled one occasion when the machine encountered some problems and he sent it to an engineer to fix. The machine stayed away for a month. In the end the engineer couldn't bear the problem and told Kevin Chen that he wanted to go home! At the time, Kevin Chen almost gave up, but was determined to succeed. Today, when remembering the past, Kevin Chen feel satisfied, indeed. The Joys and Sorrows of Running the Business Speaking of what he has learned and feels from managing his company, Kevin Chen said that strong interest and a sense of 'foolishness' are the main strengths that support him. The development of the double-end tenoner is an example. As he mentioned, it was not very easy to produce that double-end tenoner. About the way to success, Kevin Chen said that to choose the right product and the right market is the basic key. Additionally, good management and quality control are necessary operate a successful business. Market in China About the operation of the market, Kevin Chen said that the situation of competition in China, will not only happen there, but has the potential to expand to the American or other markets. He appealed to Taiwanese companies to face up to the problem by identifying the differences between their own machines and those from China. Low-priced competition is not the only solution. Kevin Chen also said that, despite the competition of machinery from China, there are still many machines that sell very well - and not just because of a low price. He also encouraged Taiwanese companies to take a broader view and to see how European machinery has improved without price-cutting or copying Taiwan's machines. Kevin Chen said in the woodworking machinery companies in China now have a popular saying: "Now we don't copy Taiwanese machines, we copy European machines directly". Kevin Chen further encourages Taiwan to not to give up on the market in China. He said that if one clearly understands one's product advantages and improves upon them, then the opportunities of the market in China are still limitless.
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