Interview with Forwell Precision Machinery Chairman Xiao Wen Long – Machinery News September Issue
【Reported by Xu Shu Ling, Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry Commissioner】
Xiao Wen Long: Intelligent Automation Can Upgrade Industrial Management Mold and Die Needs
Forwell aim for mainland GEM listing in 2017
Goal of NT$2.5 billion revenues in 2018
Cross-Strait Leading Quick Die Change Systems Require Little Maintenance
Forwell Precision Machinery has been a cross-strait leading manufacturer that specializes in quick die change systems and quick mold change systems for 27 years (founded in 1987). Headquartered in Puxin, Changhua their main products range from a variety of quick die change systems, hydraulic systems to hydraulic clamps, and it focuses on the global marketing of the Forwell brand.
Forwell Precision Machinery Co., Ltd. Group President Xiao Wen Long graduated from Changhua Mechanical Engineering Branch with his first job as a tire machinery designer at Kenda tires, with a particular interest in hydraulics, pneumatics, and automation. Later a friend introduced a quick die change system equipment manufacturer, which opened the road to entrepreneurship, when at the time most of the quick die change systems in Taiwan were imported from Germany and Japan.
In the early stages, the industry was not familiar with quick die or mold changing systems so the first five years were very slow. However later due to Taiwan’s economic boom, and increase in wages, there was a serious shortage of manpower and other issues. For these reasons factories started to import automation equipment and at that time Taiwanese investors also flocked to China to set up factories like Hon Hai Foxconn, who also purchased many quick die change systems. At the prime age of 10, Forwell had grown more than NT$ 10 million per year with a turnover of NT$150 million and Xiao Wen Long says: “this is Forwell’s fastest growing and most technologically advanced period”.
With regards to production and revenue, Forwell is one of Taiwan’s top 100 largest listed companies and as long as companies continue to use molds and dies Forwell will continue to grow. Forwell’s serves China’s largest manufacturing companies with quick die and mold change systems and they have more than 1000 customers. Their customers include, Hon Hai, AU Optronics, Hitachi, Haier, Konka and many more.
Intelligent Automation Takes Off Creating New Automation Opportunities
In April 2013 at the Hannover Exhibition in Germany the “Industry 4.0” concept was officially coined, which put forth the idea of a new generation of core manufacturing patterns setting off the fourth wave of industrial revolution.
With the trend of robotics sweeping the globe, Foxconn, Pegatron, Delta, and Imei are joining in. As the high-tech development of the manufacturing and food industries has been planned around automated production lines, factory automation has become a new trend. Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou has the aim of creating a “million industrial robot army” in 2014, as Gou believes industrial robots are the most promising way to accelerate the productivity of automated production lines.
Xiao Wen Long said that the development of applications of “intelligent automation” will help the industry reach certain business goals. This is because “intelligent automation” results in stable product quality, increased productivity and reduced production and labor costs. Furthermore you can make the production process more fluid, provide higher management effectiveness, and also increase operator safety. This is why automation equipment has become an inevitable trend for the future.
By emphasizing the fast response of automated production to the industry demands, the annual production value of Taiwan’s intelligent automation equipment is close to NT$1 Trillion. With a change in the mainland’s population structure, soaring labor costs and the growing problem of a lack of skilled workers, the world’s major manufacturers have quickly focused on building automated production lines and factories using intelligent automation systems. In response to the market trends of intelligent automation Xiao Wen Long says that Forwell has a very positive attitude towards the development of whole factory automation equipment. From their first products developing single die and mold clamps, and gradually developing mold cart systems and automatic storage systems, they have now entered a new phase of intelligent automation by developing “mold management systems”.
Forwell Group Revenue Goal of NT$2.5 Billion by 2018
Forwell Precision Machinery has started a transformation year and Xiao Wen Long has said that Forwell will set up operational headquarters in both Taiwan and mainland China. On the one hand they want to expand the international market, on the other hand they want to make inroads into the mainland market. By organizing and integrating their resources cross-strait they can continue to upgrade their service and the Forwell Group also plans to be listed on the mainland GEM market in 2017.
Forwell had consolidated revenues of NT$450 million (2013), with an annual increase of about 10%. It is estimated that revenues will be increased to NT$500 million in 2014 with a new plant in Huai’an, Jiangsu Province due for completion in December. Next year (2015) revenues are expected to increase to NT$700 million of which China will contribute at least NT$500 million. With continued growth year after year Forwell has set the ambitious target in 2018 to reach revenues of $2.5 billion. Xiao Wen Long said that Forwell has entered the 27th year of setting Group development goals, and with many organizational changes this year, the new headquarters in Taiwan and the new Huai’an plant as the mainland headquarters the cross-strait “division of labor works hand in hand”.
The new Huai’an plant has an investment of about NT$350 million and covers an area of 13,000ping with a total floor space of about 36,000ping in the new plant. There are plans to build four plants of about 4,000ping, a four-storey office building, research center and a 4,000ping dormitory, canteen, and activity center. The new plant will create an estimated annual output value of NT$2.5 billion for the future development of industrial robots in preparation to be listed on the mainland GEM stock listing.
For the organizational changes, Forwell has planned a “forming division”, “stamping division”, “3C division”, and “manufacturing division”, as well as four other divisions for the design of products, research and development, professional training of staff, and providing customers with professional service.
The four business sectors will continue to expand cross-strait with three completed factories in the region. The “forming division” will supply die casting and plastic injection molding automation needs. The “stamping division” will supply hydraulic press and metalworking manufacturers with automation equipment. The “3C division” is responsible for supplying the 3C electronic industry and the printed circuit board production with automation equipment. The “manufacturing division” is responsible for research and development of planning and is responsible for the supply and support of the three other divisions so that product development processes run smoothly.
Taiwan’s factory currently exports to Southeast Asia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The factory in Taiwan has also recently invested about $50 million for plant expansion and to purchase new equipment, while fast growth of Turkey, India, Indonesia, and Brazil have accelerated the expansion of the international automation equipment market. Currently, Forwell has 8 strongholds in mainland China, in Shanghai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Kunshan, Huai’an, Ningbo, and this year plans to expand their market share by tapping into the Northeastern region, in Tianjin, Shenyang, Qingdao, Wuhan, among other places.
Automotive Industries Boost Demand for Quick Die Change Systems
The booming automotive industry will drive automotive parts, automotive electronic-related industries, and so the desired metal forming and plastic injection molding market potential for automated production equipment is tremendous. Xiao Wen Long noted that about 95% of the industrial production equipment used by the metal stamping and plastic rubber manufacturing industries can benefit from using quick die and mold change systems. With about half of total sales going to the injection molding industry, Forwell expects the molding industry demand will gradually increase. “As automation continues to develop, the demand will continue to rise, and this will never be a declining industry”.
Forwell’s new “automatic die cart system” uses a single system for semi-automatic or fully-automatic loading and unloading of large dies and molds between 3-15 tons in weight. This system moves, positions, and clamps the dies into place in a completely automatic operation. Furthermore the prices are about a third of comparable Japanese products which makes them very competitive in the global market.
Xiao Wen Long said that with the vast mainland population reaching about 1.36 billion in 2013 and total car sales of 29,180,000, China is now the world’s largest market, manufacturing country and is set to show steady growth in the future. The continued growth of the automotive industry will boost the demand for automated production equipment. Now that the concept of automation is growing and the mainland market has matured it is time to reap the rewards. Along with the relocation of many Taiwanese businesses from China to Southeast Asia, this will expand the need for automation equipment in Southeast Asia. Therefore it is expected that Southeast Asia will generate a new wave of automation equipment demand and that it will become another emerging market for automation equipment.
Furthermore concerning the “3C division” the printed circuit board industry is constantly developing new products so there is a growing range of applications for quick mold systems. Currently Forwell is concentrating 70% on existing products and 30% on new products, so in the future there will be many new areas to develop.
Ultimate Goal to Develop Whole Plant Quick Die Change Systems
In order to assist the industry and to strengthen global competitiveness, Forwell is actively dedicated to developing “Whole Plant Quick Die Change Systems”, which will consist of die conveying, haulage, storage management, warehousing, and maintenance. These automatic systems will offer complete solutions for customers looking to save manpower, save time, reduce production costs, increase productivity, and ensure safe mold exchanging operations. and resolve the issue of a shortage of technical staff.
Xiao Wen Long said that Forwell has an ultimate goal of developing a complete “Factory Automatic Quick Die Change System”; with the first stage “Quick Mold/Die Change System” (QMCS, QDCS), the second stage “Mold Transport System” (Automatic Die Change Cart System), and finally onto the third stage “Mold Management System”.
The current production trend of “low volume, large variety”, will substantially increase mold usage, and increase the rate of mold changing equipment. Xiao Wen Long further explains that the core concept of “die management” is to quickly search for and find the required mold. This provides the industry with fast, accurate, and safe mold exchanging operations, which greatly simplifies maintenance and improves production efficiency. “Die management” can be implemented at any time, but the sooner it is implemented the easier it is for the management.
“Die management systems” focus on the development of two major systems, “die automatic storage systems” and “die maintenance systems”. In lieu of large scale facilities and factory space, this requires initial system planning before construction and the reservation of extra space. The first system is completely customized equipment, where you must plan and design according to the different demands of die storage. Forwell has the ability to meet a wide range of die and mold storage needs with the second system able to maintain the die so that it achieves a longer service life.
“Die management systems” can help the industry solve a lot of problems as they can store dies quickly, as well as accurately retrieve the required die to exchange. This greatly improves production efficiency, reduces inventory so die exchanging operations are very easy and safe. Xiao Wen Long said that the new Huai’an factory will have a dedicated “die and mold management system show room” that will demonstrate the systems for illustrative purposes.
Mold Management System Layouts to Debut at Taipeiplas 2014
Forwell’s newly developed mold management system is expected to be released at this year’s Taipei International Plastics & Rubber Industry Exhibition. This system combines a mold storage system with a mold maintenance system that allows for mold management “from zero to more”. Xiao Wen Long said that in the past there were hundreds of companies that lack the support of a mold management system. This is especially the case when many molds are being used, molds are very large, or when mold changeovers are very frequent (about every 2 or 3 hours). In general mold changeover times take about 30 minutes, but using Forwell’s mold management system, changeover’s can be performed in 3 minutes which is a tenth of the normal time. In addition the software of the system can handle warehouse management, as it can support maintenance operations, which will ensure that molds maintain optimum operating condition which significantly reduces operating costs and problems for manufacturers.
Forwell has developed “point, line, and surface” milestones goals which include mold delivery to the “point” of the mold, storage and maintenance along the “line” of the system, and future development of the “surface” of the whole plant equipment. Xiao Wen Long said Forwell’s quick mold change systems are the core technology, and whole plant quick mold change systems are also related to the development of peripheral equipment. The ultimate goal is to develop quick mold change systems with “industry specific robots” (such as mold handling robots).
Technology, Humanities, and Technique Furthers Development of Intelligent Automation
Forwell aims to promote the concept of quick mold change systems as standard automation equipment. Xiao Wen Long said that one day as long as machine tools and equipment use dies and mold, quick die and mold change systems will be considered as standard. Forwell will continue to be a huge success as their products can be generally applied to a broad range of industries.
Xiao Wen Long especially loves mechanical design as well as community service, and that is why he has served as Taiwan Machinery Industry Association’s Director and Supervisor for many years. He has also participated with the Lions Club International for more than 15 years, dedicating a lot of time to introducing more enterprises to participate. Next year he will take over as 300-C3 District Regional Director. 5 years ago he created the Forwell Lions Club International which is dedicated to community service and annually raises at least NT$1.5 million. These contributions include blood donations, supporting the elderly, concerts, dance performances, and other community services.
Diffusion and industry competition is inevitable, as Xiao Wen Long said, “of course if they do not work hard they will not catch up, and as long as the customer envisions ways to improve, then automation can help them stay ahead of the competition”.
In the future, Forwell will continue developing “humanities, technology, and technique”, with the central idea of optimizing the field of intelligent automation equipment. Forwell aims to lead the way in the global development of automation systems to reach the peak of success.
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