2021 is a landmark year for the Chinese corrugated packaging equipment manufacturer, DongFang Precision Group, as it celebrates 25 years of manufacturing equipment for the corrugated industry. We sit down with Qiu Yezhi, President and look back on the company’s progress and development.
A report by Daniel Brunton.
Sitting down – virtually – with Qiu Yezhi, I realised that DongFang Precision is a name that has been in the industry for almost as long as I have been reporting on it! My first exposure to the industry was the Corrugated ’94 expo in Paris and a mere 18 months later, the industry saw the start-up of a Chinese equipment manufacturer which we now know as DongFang.
Founded in 1996 by the current Chairman, Tang Zhuolin, in Foshan, Guangdong Province, the company operated from a small factory, employing a little over a dozen people. One of those employees was Qiu Yezhi, who has been with the company since day one. “In those days, we were making very basic machines for the domestic Chinese market,” she explains. “such as printer slotters and rotary die-cutters. Most of the machines we sold were fitted with two or three flexo print units.”
She continues, “In late 1997, we built and sold our first four colour printer slotter with rotary die-cut unit – this was a top printing machine. Then, in 1998, we developed our four colour printer slotter with rotary die-cutter as well as lead edge feeder, vacuum transfer printer and the automatic grinder technology from Sun Automation, but in bottom printing. We grew quite quickly in the early days.”
As has always been the case with innovative Chinese equipment manufacturers, there were several European companies who visited China and attended the early Sino-Corrugated events - and it was at one of these shows that DongFang started discussions about the marketing and support of equipment for the European market.
邱总介绍：“我们知道随着自身发展，欧美地区将成为我们的重要市场，我们很幸运能和一些非常优秀的代理商合作，例如英国的M&K Trading就是其中一家。到2001年，我们在欧洲建立了研发中心和销售网络。几年之后，到2007年，我们已经与欧洲众多长期战略合作伙伴建立了紧密的合作关系，并在北美与我们的重要战略合作伙伴Haire Group开展在北美市场的合作。在这些重要地区，我们的市场渗透已经十分牢固，得益于遍布全球的完善的销售网络，我们现在向欧洲、北美和亚洲及世界其他地区的客户销售机器。当然，欧洲和美国都生产、销售和服务于当地市场。”
She continues, “Today, our machines are running in over 40 countries around the world and with a series of acquisitions over the last few years, we are now one of very few companies that can supply a complete factory, from corrugator to converting, from automatic handling to a totally ‘intelligent’ operating system.”
DongFang Precision took the bold move to list on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2011. With the IPO completed, DongFang Precision embarked on the acquisition of several leading companies who had been active in the industry for many generations.
“We were well established in flexo converting and we had a good range of ancilliary solutions for these flexo lines,” explains Qiu Yezhi. “However, we knew that we wanted to add corrugated board production equipment to our portfolio and we started to evaluate the market for possible acquisitions.”
她继续说道：“通过尽职调查，我们的其中一项收购是意大利瓦楞纸板生产线制造企业佛斯伯集团，在2014年成功完成60%的股权的收购，在2017年完成剩余40%股权的收购。为了进一步扩大市场，我们在2019年又收购了Tiruna。之后在2020年通过意大利佛斯伯我们收购了BP Agnati的多数股权，这家企业现已更名为Quantum Corrugated。
She continues, “Following due diligence, one of our acquisitions was the Italian corrugator manufacturer, Fosber Group;60% of its shares was successfully acquired in 2014 and the rest 40% of shares was acquired in 2017. Looking to further increase our market, we then acquired Tiruna in 2019 and in 2020 – through Fosber – we acquired a majority shareholding in the previous BP Agnati, which has now been renamed Quantum Corrugated.”
Looking to the Future
With the rapid developments and the roll-out of Industry 4.0 across many sectors, it comes as no surprise the digitalisation and AI are at the core of DongFang’s ongoing development. “For us, ‘Smart Factory’ is a key component to the R&D we are undertaking, ensuring we develop machines that will help box plants all around the world in decreasing waste, improving overall quality and enhancing output. For us, AI and machine-learning are core components of our solutions and with a considerable portfolio of machine offerings, we can help supply turnkey solutions to customers all around the world,” continues Qiu Yezhi.
在公司的下一个五年计划中还包括了更多的收购、新品研发和工业 4.0 ，完全没有一点安于现状的迹象！东方精工不断研磨和完善其产品，近年来一直专注于为世界各地的纸箱工厂提供有针对性的解决方案——这显然不是保持着一种“放之四海皆准”的心态。“例如，您看Fosber集团，他们是为欧洲和美国提供瓦楞设备的解决方案；而 Fosber Asia 品牌是为亚洲、非洲和新兴市场提供略有不同的瓦楞设备型号，但是在这些市场中的其中一个共通点就是他们都由“产量”和“速度”所驱动，”邱总解释道。“也正因如此，我们在欧洲针对不同客户需求推出了上印固定式和下印固定式共6款柔性印刷线，它们都是伺服驱动的，并且在过去几年里，我们还为市场提供能够一次完成内印与外印的柔性印刷设备。得益于电商行业的快速发展，尤其在欧洲和美国，我们现在已经售出几十套下印式双面印刷机，这可能比世界上任何其它瓦楞包装设备生产商都多。”她总结道。
With its next five year plan that includes more acquisitions, new product development and Industry 4.0, there are no signs of sitting on their laurels! DongFang continues to hone and refine its offerings and over recent years, has focussed on developing specific solutions for box makers in different regions of the world – it is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. “For example, if you look at Fosber Group, they manufacture corrugator solutions for Europe and America, while the Fosber Asia brand develops slightly different models for Asia, Africa and emerging markets where despite the market differences, output and speed are also the driving factors in these markets,” explains Qiu Yezhi. “That is also why we have developed upper flexo printing and bottom flexo printing lines in total six different models to meet different needs of customers in Europe all of which are servo driven and for the last few years, we have also offered flexo printing equipment that is capable of printing inside and outside of the sheet in one pass. Thanks to the rapidly evolving e-commerce sector, particularly in Europe and America, we have now sold dozens of sets of inside-outside printing machines, which is probably more than any other corrugated packaging equipment manufacturers anywhere in the world,” she concludes.
With 25 years now under their belt, DongFang Precision has a strong foundation to now set its sights on the next 25 years!