The development of the rail industry has undergone a hyperbolic acceleration in China over the past few years. Statistics show that more wagons for high-speed trains are produced in China than anywhere else in the world and that China has the highest number of kilometres of high-speed railroads. This, of course, is good news for operators in the field, provided that one is organised to take these opportunities. This is not an operation that is taken for granted because the railway industry is run either directly or indirectly by the Chinese State and not all suppliers are admitted.
Sessa Klein Spa based in Castronno in the province of Varese designs and produces furnishing systems in light alloys for the railway industry and has decided to take on this challenge and try to enter the difficult and competitive Chinese market considering its high technological and quality level. These are characteristics that are not easy to find and that could be appreciated by the customers in China.
"So after a laborious search, Sessa Klein Italia concluded negotiations in September 2008 to set up a joint venture called Sessa Klein Shenfei Ltd, of which it holds 51%, with the Chinese partner, Shenfei Vehicle Windows Manufacturer Co., ltd. (SCE). The Chinese partner is not a competitor and, moreover, has contributed with its knowledge of the Chinese market from a commercial viewpoint. The results to date appear to be very positive. Sessa Klein Shenfei supplies two of the three high-speed train manufacturers in China with windows and other furnishings" says Alfredo Novelli, President of Sessa Klein Spa and Guido Cardullo, Operations Manager of Sessa Klein Shenfei Ltd.
To give an idea of the quantity one of the manufactures out of the three mentioned, manages to make eight complete trains with eight wagons per month. That is 64 wagons. The production plans are based on a 4-5 year forecast and in the meantime, important railroads are being completed, such as the Beijing-Shanghai line which will come into operation in 2012. The conditional form in China for these projects does not exist.
"The choice of a local partner was imperative as without there is no chance of getting into these companies. In our case, we are delighted with the level of cooperation that has been achieved considering that we are complementary and necessary to one another". Explains Alfredo Novelli to highlight how the JV was necessary and useful.
"The current output of the Chinese unit exceeds the Italian production of windows" continues Guido Cardullo. "To guarantee the same quality level of the products, the Chinese JV has focused on production and quality standards."
All the main processes are carried out internally, such as welding and bending of the aluminium profiles for train windows, likewise the final bonding. The quality controls are carried out both during the manufacturing process as well as at final testing (resistance and fatigue tests). The company is ISO9000-2000, EN15085 certified for aluminium welding in the rail industry and, moreover, has adopted the International Railways Industry Standard (IRIS) quality system that is specific for the railway industry.
"The aluminium profiles are procured locally and we bend them on a BLM 863VGP machine that was supplied with all the equipment. This was a key production strategy that lead us to chose such a machine to guarantee the results that we needed. Moreover, having to bend extruded profile is not as easy as bending pipes and it was necessary to adapt and customise the machine to meet our requirements" explains Guido Cardullo. "The technical and commercial support is supplied directly from the BLM GROUP in Shanghai with Chinese staff, which is less than two hours away. It is very useful for us to be able to train our operators directly in China so a to avoid any misunderstanding as much as possible".
Production has now reached full capacity with the use of plants over three shifts to guarantee the agreed delivery times and prospects are good. A very encouraging start for a choice that was not easy and predictable at the beginning. This is an excellent example of how by choosing the right partner; success can be achieved even in markets that are apparently very difficult.