Keeping a finger on the pulse of global opportunities, RPO staff members Clint Braine, Director of Business Development (Life Sciences) and Ray Schmitt, Director of Supply Chain, attended the China International Optoelectronic Exposition (CIOE) to explore further international applications for the company’s high-volume optics manufacturing products in addition to new vendors and supply sources in the region concurrent with RPO’s Continuing Customer Value initiatives and Precision Optics Trading Company (POTC) branch in Shanghai.
Below, Clint and Ray share some of their experiences from the show:
Why was it important that RPO attend this Chinese exhibit?
Clint: Our customers come from every corner of the globe. China and the Chinese market are an integral part of our global growth strategy. Attending the CIOE exhibition provided an excellent opportunity to meet with a number of our existing and potential Chinese customers in their region. We want to take every opportunity to meet face-to-face and listen to our customers to better understand their needs, applications and challenges. We want to enable every RPO customer to be successful in their particular market.
Ray: When you have the opportunity to attend an optoelectronic show with over 1,600 exhibitors displaying the latest materials and cutting-edge technologies, it is must-see regardless of location. The fact that it is held in China is fantastic given a large percentage of the exhibitors' manufacturing facilities are located throughout the country. It is always important to understand what is available in the optics market at any given time along with personal meetings with suppliers. RPO has relationships with many of the exhibitors, and this is a great way to collaborate with many in one trip.
What is the nature of RPO’s business in China?
Clint: China is the largest single market on the planet with over 1.3 billion people. The applications that lend themselves to RPO’s core competencies in molded glass aspheres and injection molded plastic optics, along with their respective optical assemblies, are significant. Applications include optics for consumer electronics, optics for non-invasive surgical instrumentation, optics for hand-held food safety analyzers and more. If an optical application can use molded optics in the visible or infrared, we can partner with them to find the best solution.
Ray: With Precision Optics Trading Company located in Shanghai, China, we are able to manage optical supply chain for Asian partners whereby RPO supplies optics and materials for RPO’s commercial and industrial markets. POTC is a 100% invested subsidiary by RPO in Asia, handling most of the purchasing from China and other Asian countries. POTC is also focused on supplying optics from top tier manufacturers and providing in-house test and metrology. Having POTC located in China ensures we can eliminate some of the time differences that arise, along with our Quality Engineer having direct access to the supplier's manufacturing facility.
What did you learn about the Chinese optics market in contrast to the US market?
Clint: There are actually more similarities than differences between our markets in terms of growth applications. However, the US market and suppliers continue to appear more technically advanced in terms of design expertise, automation and quality systems.
Ray: Depending on what you are trying to source, each market can present challenges. The concern any organization should be aware of is that sourcing from China requires significant attention to detail, quality control measures and of course planning due to the time zone changes. Experience in sourcing overseas can guide you through the best option.
How are companies best positioned for success in this market?
Clint: I think RPO is a perfect example of how a US-based company can be successful in China. We leverage our depth of optical engineering expertise to find customized and fully-optimized solutions that remain a strategic technical advantage to the US market. RPO, in particular, has automated systems that provide quality and productivity advantages, making RPO very competitive when compared to many of their local suppliers. Continuously, economists are noting that the desire for advanced design and superior quality is causing a market shift whereby Chinese manufacturers are increasingly looking to US and European suppliers.
Ray: Looking at it from a optical supply chain standpoint, understanding how to get from inception to high-volume optics production with Chinese manufacturing is critical. Having experience in this process is essential to minimizing delays; this is where having POTC located in China expedites this process for RPO's customers. Having someone physically there representing RPO has avoided several potential issues. Understanding the capabilities of Asian manufacturers is crucial for any organization.
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