Words of Wisdom from Industry Veteran ABM

Based in Taiwan, ABM WOODWORKING MACHINERY CO., LTD. has specialized in the production of professional boring machines and a variety of other woodworking equipment since 1966. Nearly four decades of accumulated experience has built ABM a solid reputation in the industry for high quality and excellent reliability. The company places high emphasis on both precision and innovation, evident through their constant investment in R&D. We take pride in the comprehensive after sales service it provides, and constantly strive to make it better. Twice in a row ABM machinery has brought home trophies from the Taiwan Woodworking Machinery Design and Product competition held at the INTERWOOD TAIPEI exhibition, an honor entitled "The Outstanding Product Award". Export director, Mr. Allen Yu (also the current director of TWMA), is ABM second generation leader during this highly competitive time. His vast experience guides ABM forward with excellent results, and following are some of his words of wisdom. ============================================================== What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses in general, regarding Taiwanese-built woodworking machinery? A : To quote a phrase often used in advertising, I would say that Taiwan offers "A wide variety of machinery at very affordable prices". The superiority that we enjoy, I believe, is a result of the four following factors: First of all, Taiwan produces just about every type of specialized machinery applicable to professional woodworking. This equipment can be categorized into processes planing, sawing, boring, sanding, jointing, dust collection, finger jointing, rotary composing, spindle shaping, veneer splicing, copy shaping, edge banding and so on… Taiwan has around 400 manufacturers specializing typically, in the production of one or two of these machine types. Producing large numbers of specific machines allows our manufacturers to centralize their efforts and concentrate technical refinement very effectively. Our quality is well on par with machinery produced in advanced European countries and much better than that of China or new countries in Eastern Europe. Large scale outsourcing of specific components and raw materials allows us to keep our costs down, and though our overhead does not compare with producers in China or emerging countries, our quality and attached value compare with machinery made in Germany or the US at better prices. Second, Taiwanese manufacturers typically don't operate on a large scale, which adds to their vitality. Small to medium sized enterprises are often family oriented, which helps keep operation costs down. In times of economic downturns we show a high survival rate of these companies, and from the end users' perspective, they don't have to worry about after sales services like maintenance or part availability. Third, the majority of factory owners began their careers as technicians on production lines. What this means is a plethora of hands-on experience and a keen knowledge of what it takes to build a machine properly. The technology they employ is constantly on the rise, and their ability to produce tailor made machines is very strong. Additionally, the satellite sourcing system in Taiwan is very flexible. We can accommodate non-standard special orders very quickly, and adjust effectively to order revisions. In the present market, most clients are hesitant to order customized machinery from Chinese or East European companies due to issues regarding reliability and quality. Custom built machinery from Italy or Germany is simply too expensive (that is to say if one can even find a company willing to take custom orders). These trends make Taiwan the leading choice for those in need of custom made machinery. Fourth, we have a high rate of outsourced manufacturing with quality standards that are extremely strict. Taiwanese woodworking machinery manufacturers depend highly on satellite manufacturers. Their investment is relatively low, strain capacity high, and they deal with contingencies promptly and utilize high-tech inspection instruments in quality inspections, meaning an extremely low occurrence of discrepancies between batches. Ironically, the strengths I just mentioned also pose some weaknesses. For example, if a small scale enterprise receives a large order, they might not have the capacity to capitalize on that profit. And if profit is limited, funding for R&D naturally suffers. Ultimately the enterprise's future is affected negatively. In addition, small scale and economical machine production in Mainland China is catching up to Taiwan, and they are progressing in terms of mid to large scale machinery as well. In order to keep ahead, the Taiwanese need to pool their wisdom together. An example to this extent is reliable controls for large scale CNC machinery. German and Japanese brands are the most trusted at present, and Taiwanese manufacturers rely on them heavily. Yet they can make up a third to nearly half of a machine's total cost. What we need to do is come out with our own, highly reliable CNC controls. With a Taiwanese brand that everyone can trust, the industry stands to benefit a great deal. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What are some challenges the woodworking machinery industry has had, and how is it dealing with them? A: Taiwan has been experiencing a labor shortage compared to past generations. In this regard, China and emerging East European countries have an advantage. A lot of well known brands from those regions can compete when it comes to basic low-tech machines. They are catering to the low-tech, small machinery market at continued rates and opening new local factories to do so. On another level they are shifting away from basic technology which is already yielding benefits. These developments are diminishing Taiwan's share of that portion of the market. Taiwan's answer to this is the bolstering of our costs and quality control. OBM production is the most viable way to go. The hope is that domestic factories accept the premise of equality and reciprocity, and answer the call for conformity under the "MADE IN TAIWAN" mark. This draws on the long term prestige of many Taiwanese brands and will safeguard many manufacturers via non-OEM conformity. Of course this will take some time, and requires the help of larger domestic manufacturers to materialize, but in the long run everyone stands to benefit. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Please enumerate the machines that ABM produces and expound on how they compete with comparable brands. Also, can you comment on any obstacles ABM has encountered and how you have dealt with them? A: We specialize in boring machines which play a vital role in wood processing, particularly towards the final steps. There is a tremendous variety of types of holes, which require different machines to make. It's difficult for furniture manufacturers to purchase so many machines all at once, so many of them out-source this part of their production to specialized shops after performing preparatory procedures like sawing and planning. ABM is very good at developing and making boring machines. In addition to typical production line boring machines, we receive many orders for custom designed machines. Our enthusiasm in catering to this sector of the market, combined with our constant innovation, has kept our long term clients loyal while creating a new source of clientele. In all, ABM manufactures more than sixty types of boring machines which is one of the advantages we enjoy. As far as obstacles we have experienced in production, our main challenge lies with the fact that we make so many different models. Stocking that many parts affects our investment return time, which can be a strain. Producing the parts requires constant broadening of our technology and training of our personnel. It's a never ending challenge. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Could you share your perspective on transformation in the industry over the past five years? A: Early on, Taiwan's woodworking machinery industry was an extension of the Japanese system. However, since about ten years ago, European style machinery such as that built in Germany and Italy became main stream. The machines Taiwan has developed over the past five years have absorbed a lot of that influence. The main reason for this is the rising cost of labor, which is why automation and CNC equipment have taken over. Not only has the cost of labor increased in Europe, China and developing nations are investing more in automation and CNC machinery as well. Europe's innovation effectively lowers necessary manpower to operate the machines, and even totally unmanned machines are becoming the norm. As Europe is the acknowledged leader in R&D, it has become the main source of inspiration for Taiwan's woodworking machine industry. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Could you shed some light on product innovations by ABM during the past five years, its R&D, and marketing developments? A: Considering that vertical boring unit body made in Taiwan typically measure 150mm or 120mm thick, causing size limitations when boring two parallel holes. This year we've come out with bodys that are just 95mm thick which allows for a minimum distance between centers of 96mm. This is the first machine of its type in Taiwan, and it's a very worthwhile alternative to European models for furniture manufacturers. We've also increased the attached value of our boring machines which directly affects our competitiveness. We've done a full-scale upgrade of all components used, from PLC's, user interfaces and LCD displays all the way through to magnetic measuring systems. Our agents abroad are extremely pleased, as are the end users. This all equates to an even better brand reputation across the board, not to mention higher demand. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Can you disclose which products ABM plans to exhibit at INTERWOOD TAIPEI 2008 next month? A: We will display our new series of European type straight-line boring machines. This series includes single unit, double unit, triple unit boring machines, as well as an auto-feed six unit boring machine. We also have special purpose machines for top, bottom & side panel , hinge boring, angular drilling… more than ten machines in total. We are especially unveiling two new types, the SuperLinear Plus and SmartLinear. The SuperLinear Plus is the only mid-sized multi-function straight-line boring machine for kitchen cabinets, and utensils designed for furniture factories. For especially short boards, be they cabinet tops, bottoms or sides, they can all be processed in one operation. In particular, the base travels on high precision linear guideways and it includes magnetic rulers and LCD display. It is highly ergonomic and precise, optimal for small to mid-sized factories producing large batches of similar products. Also, we will show hinge boring machines and pocket hole machines. We welcome everyone to visit us either at our booth or our factory to see what ABA has to offer. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What is ABM expecting from INTERWOOD TAIPEI 2008, in terms of results? A: Although this triennial event isn't as large in scale as similar ones in Europe or China, as I said before Taiwan offers "a wide variety of machinery at very affordable prices". INTERWOOD is not a fair that can replace those in Hannover, Milan or Beijing. The most important thing is that it highlights the "MADE IN TAIWAN" image, one that draws upon over fifty years of experience building woodworking machinery. The industry on the whole has made tremendous advancements.
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