Bottlemate, founded in 1982, originally manufactured plastic toolboxes and utilitarian type bottles, like those that hold motor oil, but converted to making cosmetic containers in 2003. Managements philosophy is to “bring up the level of manufacturing bottles to the quality of the service industry” according to our tour guide Jenny Chen. Manufacturing takes place in Taiwan, China, and the U.S., with branch offices in Germany and plans to expand into Europe. Bottlemate employs OEM manufacturer, producing containers for others, and ODM, designing as well as manufacturing containers for customers around the world. The containers are produced using an injection and blow molding process where material is forced into a heated mold where it hardens to the desired shape. We were treated to a tour of the entire process, from molding, to labeling, to packaging and shipping. The facility was very clean and tidy which our guide explained was necessary for cosmetic containers. Below are some pictures of the molding and labeling process, as well as samples of finished containers.
Next we traveled to LC Saxophone Co where several students took a turn showing off their playing skills. We learned that the company was founded by Lien Chang, a man who had a passion for art as well as music. As a young man, Chang belonged to a jazz band when a fire destroyed their only saxophone. He painstakingly separated every part of the burned saxophone, repaired them and reassembled the instrument. I believe the process took three years. This was the inspiration for Taiwan’s first saxophone manufacturer. The company is now owned by Chang’s grandson who along his four daughters are working to establish Chang Saxophone Memorial Hall on the ground floor of the manufacturing facility. They have decided to abandoned OEM, and instead work on designing, manufacturing, and marketing their own LC Saxophone brand. The daughters have formed a quartet and travel the world promoting the beauty and quality of the LC Saxophone. Taiwan is the home of other saxophone manufacturers, most were apprenticed under Chang. LC Saxophone however, is the only company to use materials other than traditional brass. LC also creates instruments from copper and cupronickel which our guide explained produce a warm, deep sound.
We ended the day with a farewell to Taiwan dinner served family style. The food was exotic and endless, below are some photos of our traditional Taiwanese meal.
On May 21 we visited Yung Shin Pharmaceutical Company at their oral tablet manufacturing facility and Giant Bicycle at their factories in Taichung. These visits were our first opportunity to visit large scale manufacturing facilities rather than main/branch offices.
At Yung Shin we were able to see the quality assurance process throughout the oral tablet facility. The group was interested in the automated storage facility and waste disposal process. The storage process was almost entirely automated but the outgoing orders were overseen by factory workers. Our guide stated that the facility had about 200 employees on site which was surprising considering the size of the facility but given the amount of automation we saw it made sense.
In the latter part of the afternoon we visited one of Giant’s bicycle manufacturing facilities and took a tour of the assembly line. The main component of our visit consisted of an overview of how Giant composed itself as a company. From its beginnings as an OEM producer for Schwinn in 1981 Giant has grown to become the largest bicycle company in the world. It is also the only bicycle company to achieve full vertical integration including R&D, Manufacturing, and Marketing. We found that Giant has contracts to manufacture bicycles for other companies including Trek and Specialized. Also, because Giant does not directly advertise in traditional media formats their marketing strategy is to promote cycling culture through events, sponsorships, and public transportation systems like the Ubikes we saw in Taipei. The prospect of a bike rental system for the public was very intriguing and seems like it could be successful in the US in larger metropolitan areas and college campuses (although more safeguards might have to be put in place in the US).
Taiwanese Financial Markets lecture, tour of Tunghai University (THU), and dinner with THU students.
We started off the day with a Taiwanese Financial Markets lecture by Dr. Chen-Jui Huang, Deputy Director of the Office for International Accreditation and Associate Professor, Dept. of Finance for THU. In the lecture, we learned about the difference between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) as it pertains to Taiwan. There are about 10 million workers in Taiwan total and about 1 million of them work in mainland China. There are many industrial type jobs that most Taiwanese workers do not want, so many of these jobs go to people from other countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines. All of this affects both GDP and GNP. Also, the export sector is 50% of Taiwan’s GDP, which could be a problem if the foreign economy has a crisis.
The exchange rate is about $1USD to $30NTD. This has been consistent for quite some time and is most likely undervalued in order to stay competitive in the export market. Dr. Huang also talked about the per capita exchange rate vs. purchasing power in Taiwan, China, Japan, and United States. Though we have noticed that food, clothing, and transportation is cheap, the housing market in Taiwan is very expensive and actually not affordable for purchase for most people. We also learned that though the unemployment rate in Taiwan is about 4%-5%, it actually seems like less. The culture in Taiwan is very family oriented and usually your family will step in to take care of you if you are un- or under-employed. There is a Taiwanese saying that it is easy to prepare an extra pair of chopsticks. In other words, you can always come back home and there will be an extra place at the table set for you. Something interesting we learned: Hong Kong and Taiwan are politically a part of China; however, financially they are considered foreigners.
After lunch, we took a tour of the THU campus were we learned about THU history. In 1955, THU was founded by the United Board for Higher Education in New York and most people involved were Christians that were affiliated other Christian schools that were torn down by communist rule in China. Previous US President Nixon did a ground breaking ceremony for the school. Originally the school had 400 students and now it has 17,000 students and 7 colleges.There is a daycare on campus, kindergarten through high school on campus as well. Basically you can start school as a young child and stay through your PhD. You need a very high score on the national placement exam in order to attend this school. As one of the top schools, THU is chosen by students because it is considered to be more international, a liberal arts type university, and away from the big city. The campus is huge and is located on about 345 acres of land. There are shuttle buses to get around since students are not allowed to have cars or motorbikes on campus. The school also has a Chapel that doubles as THU’s logo that they use on products and publications such as milk and yogurt cartons as wells as pamphlets. A fun fact about the school: undergraduate students can take a labor class where they are assigned specific areas of the campus and times in which they clean and collectively keep the campus tidy. Of course they get course credit.
After the tour we were able to have dinner and conversation with a group of THU students (both graduate and undergraduate). To end the day the majority of us went to visit the local night market.
Today we ate breakfast at the hotel then we took a bus to Jinguashi. We were accompanied by a group of NTNU students the whole day. During our ride our tour guide explained the geography of Taiwan as we traveled over a few of the 250 mountains of Taiwan. There were breathtaking views that would have been a lot better if it was not as cloudy. We first toured the Gold Ecological Park where we saw the beautiful gardens of the Prince’s Chalet. Next, we all were given hard hats and sent in to the mine where we saw how the gold was original mined. The final stop in the Gold Ecological Park was the museum. There was old mining equipment on display and more history to read about. The highlight of the museum was being able to touch the 220 kg gold nugget.
Following the gold park tour we took the bus to Jiufen Old Town, which was like the night market. The narrow passage ways were filled with people as we walked to the restaurant for lunch. Everyone was served either a veggie hot pot, curry chicken or chicken with oyster sauces. After lunch everyone was free to roam the town and shop for about an hour.
From there we were back on the bus for a long ride to Shifen. In Shifen everyone was able to create their own sky lantern by painting their wishes on all 4 sides then lighting them to let them go. The sky lantern experience was an awesome experience and extremely fun. Where we let the lanterns go is actually on train tracks. About every 20 minutes whistles would blow indicating that a train was coming and everyone would have to move to the side. After lighting the lanterns we explored the small city then headed back to our hotel by bus.
We began the day listening in the lecture hall inside NTNU with a case study on eHarmony. The lecture was about brand management and how eHarmony has been a leader in the industry through their expertise in relationships guided by Dr. Neil Warren Clark. Their business model already adjusts knowing that the two parties will sooner or later quit, which is an interesting fact.
The next stop on our agenda was the Taiwan Stock Exchange. It really seemed that the business model of the Taiwan Stock Exchange will be the future of stock exchanges. I like the fact that they are trying to attract companies that are 100% foreign owned. This aspect alone is foreign to US markets where there are sometimes strict requirements to get listen under the NASDAQ or DIJA. Furthermore, the exchange is only open for 4.5 hours due to the fact that most of the population trading stocks are the housewives and the house work must get done by 1:30, which is when they close. Keeping the stock exchange open for longer is a sensitive and political issue to the Taiwanese people. 40% of Taiwan’s population are active in the markets trading. Day trading is actually encouraged, as a negative view back at home is expressed towards day traders. More over all companies we have been visiting like KPMG, ASUS, HOTC and ect are all young companies that don’t seem to have much experience like US corporate businesses which have been along for a very long time. The all seem to have learned from the mistakes of other businesses which keeps them competing in the global market.
After we had lunch in downtown Taipei, we headed to Franz to sit in on a discussion of how their business model allows them to stay competitive in their niche market. Franz makes porcelain pottery and it gets very creative. The company was founded with German roots. Franz is a very interesting company that doesn’t use TV advertising to get their product out. Another aspect I found very efficient is that a team of employees directly talks to the President, Vice president or ect instead of management to management transfer. They call this the round table management and it is very effective. This idea is more efficient and will be adopted by most businesses in the future.
After the Franz visit, we left to go to McDonalds to host an appreciation dinner. Our Taiwan friends joined us for this occasion as we honored them for their hospitality and thank them for everything they’ve done for us thus far. My Taiwan friend spent a lot of time on my gifts which made me feel thankful and honored that someone could be such a great host to a foreign culture. I was speechless at the way we’ve been treated. From time to time there are cultural disconnects, but the overall experience is priceless. I thank everyone that I have spent time with and conversed with as I will never forget any of the people I met this week.