By maintaining footprints in China and the U.S., a rapidly expanding moldmaker is gaining new customers with the promise of faster, cheaper Chinese production plus American engineering oversight. Jade Group International LLC (Iola, WI) has a staff of 10 in the U.S., including six account managers, three tooling engineers, and Tony Stewart, VP of sales and marketing. There are around 75 in China working from a recently expanded production site in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province.
Jointly owned and operated by Li De Kuan, a Chinese national, and Patrick Smith, an American who has lived in China for 7 years and is fluent in Mandarin. In July 2012, Jade's China business moved into a brand new facility that is a little over double the size of its former site. "We wanted to make sure we have a bigger, better, new place to facilitate a lot of the growth," Stewart said. Stewart said the company enjoyed "steady growth" from 2006 to 2011, with a "significant uptick" starting in 2012 that is projected to continue.
Online collaboration in real time
In addition to lower cost (prices around 30-50% lower) and faster delivery time (24/7 moldmaking operations), Stewart said part of Jade's appeal is the ability to collaborate online in real time with teams in the U.S. and China. The company utilizes an online collaboration system wherein a client sends in a RFQ, and U.S. account managers upload new requests into a collaboration folder. From there, individuals that need to be involved can be sent instant alerts when changes are made to the project. Stewart said the fact that China operates roughly 12 hours ahead of the U.S. means that the American and the Chinese sides end up working continuously on design development, with one side logging in and picking up where the other let off and called it a night.
For any confirmed orders, Jade's U.S. tooling engineers become involved, using a system where they can allow people to log in and share screens, as the design is finalized with tools like Moldflow analysis.
"The American engineer will look at design, make comments, make changes, and then review with the client online," Stewart said. "Throughout the whole process, the account manager is involved, just sort of guiding the client thought the whole process, especially if they're a new client."
Targeting higher technology molds
The company is also using its transatlantic design team to take on some higher technology molds that wouldn't necessarily be associated with Chinese tool shops. These include work on cap-and-closure tooling, cold decks for liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding, and tools with sensors integrated into the cavity to monitor the injection process.
Stewart said Jade remains bullish on its future and its business model. "We're looking to see what we can do to set the bar very, very high for quality injection molds made in the fastest, best way possible at the best price possible." The price and speed advantage are a direct result of running operations from two continents. "We really couldn't do a better job if we did do it in America; we couldn't do it faster, and we certainly couldn't do it any cheaper."