From mass producer to innovator: Taiwan further explored

Posted on 30 Jul 2013 by The Manufacturer

On the second day of the Taiwan automotive supply chain tour, The Manufacturer’s James Pozzi ventures out of Taipei to view a lithium-ion battery production facility and the HQ of a world leading automotive component plant.

The early start meant a bus ride out of Taiwan’s capital to venture into production territories further south.

Aside from the inexplicably high temperatures accompanied by the equally mystifying Chris De Burgh combination playing on the designated bus at such an early hour, the journey south was a pleasant experience which again showcased the sheer volume of manufacturers operating in Taiwan.

Firstly was lithium-ion battery specialist Reduce Carbon Energy, based in Taipei County’s Sanshia Township and currently the number 1 brand in Taiwan.

As an innovator specialising in producing batteries for high end automotive clients, its setting in an uncomplicated garage-office hybrid is the very definition of modest.

But this is a company which doesn’t do things for show, as CEO Michael Chen, perhaps possessing the world’s greatest business card, informs us that the profits go predominantly into research and development.

Given the prominence of the battery in recent times – used in products as diverse as the iPod to Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliner planes – its point of production and how it is processed the product was insightful.

Using no wires in the batteries creation which also encompasses 3D printing technology, it has a flexibility which covers automotive but also mobile phone chargers.

Its motorcycle battery, which the company credits as starting its success, can cater for superbikes ranging anything from 100cc to 2300cc, and boast longer endurance, lighter weights and less fuel consumption.

One of the jewel’s in the Reduce Carbon Energy crown is iBatt, a programme which uses Bluetooth plugged inside a battery to transfer its status to a cloud system.

This enables the company to know every customer using a battery and in what capacity, while empowering them to be able to inform the customer if the battery is failing or underperforming

When showcasing his company’s iBatt system, Mr Chen predicted lithium-ion would eventually have full control of the market and replace the traditional battery.

As the smallest and most lightweight of its kind in the world developed to withstand the extreme temperature of minus twenty degrees, its potential is limitless.

But with a retail value of $2,500 per battery, Mr Chen added its decision to focus solely on the higher end of the market is proving to be a correct one.

After lunch we set off to the city of Taichung. As Taiwan’s third most populated city, it also serves as a thriving manufacturing hub every bit the rival to the activities in Taipei.

Taichung is home to Mobiletron, a world leading producer of over 1,800 premium items of advanced design and construction, specialising in components to the automotive sector, exporting to over 100 countries worldwide.

Founded in 1982, Mobiletron now boasts other facilities including two in China, the USA and a production plant in Manchester in the UK.

Kim Y.C. Tsai, the company’s chairman and owner, addressed the media through a presentation which preceded a factory tour.

With 60% of its annual turnover in charging systems followed by ignition and vehicle safety, Mobiletron is a company influencing all aspects of a diverse automotive supply chain.

China is a predictably large market, as Mr Tsai states 95% of new car buyers in China are buying their first car, when he also stated his company’s future focus on Brazil, which currently accounts for just 0.4% of Mobiletron’s sales.

A Mobiletron show car, simulating the monitoring of tyre pressure levels.

A look around the showroom shows why business is booming. You are treated to the demonstration of products ranging from viewing monitors, vision cameras and tyre pressure monitoring, among many more.

Perhaps most fascinating of all was during the factory tour, Mr Tsai gave an insight into how the company manages its workers.

In the entrance to the shopfloor, every worker is listed in detailed charts on the notice board, analysising their daily performance in terms of productivity and quality.

A green sticker signifies a pass, while a dreaded red sticker shows quality has diminished and needs addressing, and results in a downsizing of a worker’s monthly bonus.

This course of action is clearly working, with productivity at the plant currently at an all-time high.

As we left the facility to return to our 50-floor hotel, we were given a demonstration not just of the existing influence of Tawan on global manufacturing, but also its often overlooked status as an innovator producing exciting products.

The third day of the tour will see me remain in Taichung, where I’ll be off to visit Holux Technology and Orange Electronic.