Events such as those that slowed down the Chinese vehicle market last year may prove to be merely temporary brakes on economic development. Trade disputes with the USA and the downturn on the stock exchange nevertheless had a considerable effect on growth figures in China. The projected GDP growth of 6.2 percent for 2019 would mean a drop compared to the last years.
Tong Yanjun, General Manager of Fronius China, is not particularly concerned about these fluctuations. “China is one of the largest vehicle and robot markets in the world, and the demand for high-quality welding technology is equally as strong,” explains the head of the subsidiary. Until 2013, Fronius relied exclusively on its long-term partner, Simeco Cowin, to manage sales and customer service for the welding experts through its national network. “Proximity to the customer is very important,” explains Yanjun. Keeping a personal relationship with the customer has significant benefits, such as helping the company to better understand the customer as well as their needs and requirements. Furthermore, the ability to receive direct feedback from customers helps the company to gain a better understanding of the market. In 2013, in order to appeal directly to the automotive industry in China, the Business Unit Perfect Welding decided to establish their own subsidiary in the country. “Simeco Cowin will continue to look after all other sectors,” says the head of the subsidiary, confirming the continued relationship with the sales partner.
When Tong Yanjun took on the role of General Manager of Fronius China in 2016, he became the head of a 50-strong team. Today, he has roughly 100 employees, who serve the whole of China from the headquarters in Shanghai and twelve other cities in the five regions of the country (North, South, West, East, and Central China). The regional distribution of the sales and customer service teams makes it possible to visit customer sites regularly and at short notice, even in a country the size of China. “Fast response times for technical problems are of particular importance in vehicle manufacturing,” says the General Manager.
Automobile manufacturers who already work with Fronius in Europe can expect the same level of expertise from the subsidiary in China. “Many well-known Chinese companies rely on Fronius know-how,” adds Yanjun. He points to the excellent cost-benefit ratio and explains that “there are many cheaper providers on the Chinese market. However, many large automotive companies are choosing Fronius welding technology as they evaluate the lifecycle costs of their investments very precisely.”
However, it is not all as easy as it seems at first glance. Tong Yanjun discovered this for himself when the company tried to enter the resistance spot welding market, something which Fronius is currently working on in China: “China has a large market for resistance spot welding, but other providers have already achieved a strong position,” explains Yanjun. Around a year ago, Fronius put together a team of experts to focus exclusively on resistance spot welding. “Thanks to the positive developments in electrically powered vehicles, lightweight automotive construction is becoming more and more important,” reports the head of the subsidiary. Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly using materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, which require alternatives to arc welding. Tong Yanjun is certain that “with DeltaSpot and DeltaCon, we have two high-quality solutions in our portfolio that give us a particular edge in spot welding aluminum without filler metal.”
How will things develop from here? To that, the General Manager responds: “We are concentrating on our strengths and continuing to expand our sales and service network, whether it is with new services such as commissioning, calibration, and training, or through expanding into even more cities. We also want to work even more closely with our Japanese counterparts, so that we can better serve Japanese OEMs with factories in China. In addition, a clear focus on resistance spot welding will be one of our key strategies for the next year.”
“There are many providers in the Chinese market. – However, many large automotive companies are choosing Fronius welding technology.”
Tong Yanjun, General Manager Fronius China