Last year, Pump Engineer had the honor of visiting Tycon Alloy’s new plant in Zhongshan, China. Although Tycon had not yet completed its relocation, the facility’s potential spoke for itself. As of January 2021, all of Tycon Alloy’s assets were successfully transferred to the new facility and are now completely operational. Recognizing the success of the move, Michael Lo, General Manager of Tycon Alloy, expressed how beneficial the larger production capacity and environmentally friendly facility
Pump Engineer had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Lo to discuss Tycon’s current coping strategy for overseas markets in the post-pandemic era and how it intends to move towards a better 2021. Mr. Lo was joined by Mr. Benny Lu, Regional Business Manager focused on Tycon’s American market, who described some of the experiences he had throughout 2020.
By Xue Guanpu
Making the Best of Remote Technology
Pioneers from every industry are making efforts to develop new business models with the goal of minimizing any negative effects brought on by the pandemic. “The pandemic has reshaped the world,” stated Mr. Lo, “and I believe that most people in this industry share a common hope that one day we will be able to realize business exchanges with clients through the internet.”
Through video conferences and online platforms, Tycon has been able to maintain a smooth technical exchange, and share project updates with their clients, with ease. “We spoke with TUV last year concerning a new set of remote software designs for remote detection applications. One technology that stood out was a pair of built-in 3D glasses,” Mr. Lo explained. “Using the 3D glasses, the authorized personnel from Tycon’s quality assurance department can connect with customers, or the third-party inspectors, through the internet. The technology then allows the Tycon employee to visually check a product’s detailed information, or the process of production, by displaying what the glasses see wherever they go. It is good to see that some new technologies have emerged from the difficult times.”
Remote technology brings technological upgrades not only to manufacturers, but to end users and the third-party testing agency as well. However, mutual trust is the bedrock for everything. “Without it, no improvement can be achieved for anyone. Although there was no on-site contact with our customers in 2020, we feel that we have been able to grow the connections between us,” added Mr. Lo.
Customers are Friends
The casting industry, without doubt, has gone through tremendous changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. Prior to the lockdowns initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Lu travelled between the United States and China on a bi-monthly basis. Throughout 2020, however, he found himself grounded in the U.S. where he was able to witness the industrial sector’s crisis with his own eyes. “At the start of the pandemic, foundries were basically ground to a halt with extremely low supply and demand. It was a few months before the state government announced that some core businesses could go back to work again,” he recalled. Despite the inability to facilitate high levels of production, the providers of high grade engineered casting solutions took steps to ensure that they were there to support their clients, no matter what their needs were.
“At Tycon, we treat our clients as our dearest friends,” stated Mr. Lu. “As I believe that friends should care for and support each other, we strive to have close communication ties with each of them.” To maintain close communication with its clients, online meetings are held one to two times a week to help customers understand the stages of product production and to avoid the supply chain disruption. “In addition to technical dialogues and business talk, we also provide our clients with the comfort and care they have come to expect at Tycon,” explained Mr. Lu. For example, after learning that some of its U.S. customers were short on medical supplies, including masks and hand sanitizer, Tycon immediately arranged for the delivery of the necessary supplies to be sent from China to the clients’ home addresses.
To further help customers get through the difficult times, preferential policies were issued by Tycon. “We fully understand the difficulties our customers are facing in the current geopolitical climate, so we allowed for delayed payments. For those who have difficulty taking over the goods once purchased, we also offer a service to temporarily store the goods in our warehouse, in China, to avoid extra logistical costs,” stated Mr. Lu. “Whether working with customers or colleagues, Tycon values team spirit. Although our production volume had to be reduced due to insufficient orders, not even one employee has been dismissed.”
Service is Always the Core
Having achieved independence from valve or pump factories over a decade ago, Mr. Lo believes that the casting industry will continue to become a more professionalized sector. “The question that Tycon has been asking itself recently is: How should we evolve this traditional industry to face the progressive and everchanging industrial market we see today? Successful industries across the globe are not just simply selling their products. I think the services associated with product sales make up the core that we should constantly invest in.”
The company always tries to understand the difficulties that its customers encounter in their production process, and works together in order to provide a highly interactive service. “In fact, customers come to you if you can always take the initiative to communicate with them because it is just a part of the service they want. The importance of service has gradually become better understood thanks to this pandemic. Customers recognize the time and effort that is put into things like custom engineered solutions, as long as they find what you offer is reasonable,” stated Mr. Lo.
Tycon advocates providing solutions that range from the early product development, and input of technical support, to after-sales service, and well stocked inventory. “If any issues occur, our expert staff, in both of our domestic overseas offices, are sent to the site to mitigate the risk of any new issues and help solve the ones that have occurred. For our customers, purchasing from Tycon is an experience; they are purchasing expertise and value rather than simply spending money on products,” added Mr. Lu.
Improving Anti-Risk Ability
The anti-risk capability of an enterprise is put through a severe test when it is undergoing a crisis; especially for heavy asset manufacturers.
Mr. Lo shared Tycon’s experience with his peers in the casting industry: “First of all, the sustainability of cash flow is the base of everything. After the outbreak, the whole industry worried if cash flow was disrupted. For a whole year, cash flow was high on the agenda for all Tycon staff in 2020.”
“Second, investment should be applied with special care and planning. Not every project should be invested with your funds, even if it is highly intelligent or promising. For a heavy-asset enterprise, any imprudent investment decision might devastate itself in difficult times. Tycon chose to invest on essential sectors; the Zhongshan project has been our largest investment in the past few years.”
“Third, partnerships provide a good support for the stability and development of heavy asset companies. Tycon’s strategy is putti ng strength on our core products and technologies while developing and coordinating with qualified peers from this industry. We can therefore share responsibilities, benefits and risks in many aspects. Aft er all, surviving risks is all that matters.”
Embracing Opportunities Born from Crisis
Despite the hardships brought on by COVID-19, there has been no lack of opportunities emerging from the crisis. In addition to the petrochemical sector that Tycon has been devoted to for over 20 years, new opportunities from hot sectors of the casting industry have presented themselves. “Tycon always looks to embrace the future with more possibilities. We have seen a remarkable growth in health care and food & beverage industries in the U.S. market,” Mr. Lu said.
“In addition to the COVID-19 outbreak, the aging population is a large contributing force affecting the growth of the health care industry. More hospitals and advanced medical equipment are demanded by the elderly. As for the food & beverage industry,” he continued, “restrictions on dining out have accelerated its growth in demand, as more people are inclined to cook at home.”
As these two rising sectors demand more stringent material selection requirements than the petrochemical industry, there has been a new push for high quality solutions. “Stainless steel is the main choice of material for these applications. While stainless steel is also frequently used in the traditional oil and gas sectors, they do not require as fine a finish. The largest difference between these sectors is therefore, that health care and food applications require very smooth surfaces to ensure that there are no defects that might allow for the breeding of bacteria. Overall, they have rather strict requirements on surface treatment,” Mr. Lu explained.
Tycon is excited to continue to expand its footprint in new industrial sectors and strives to embrace the challenges that come with exploring new opportunities. “Although the transition will be challenging, we are not starting from zero. We have gained first-hand experience in these new sectors before and believe we will be able to offer outstanding engineered solutions,” stated Mr. Lo. “Moreover, with our new plant completed, we have the capacity, sufficient funds and manpower to support high volume production orders. Cost optimization, reliability, flexibility of delivery, as well as quality stability are where our strengths are.”
During his 20 years at Tycon, Mr. Lo has explored the development and future of the casting industry. He and Mr. Lu believe that the most important thing is to push this traditional industry forward by adapting to the changing environment. It is important to learn from crises such as COVID-19 and continue to put the customer first by offering high quality one-stop casting solutions.
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