China has the largest population in the world. When it hosts the Olympic Games in 2008, people around the world will fully realise, that the ‘Middle Kingdom’ is a modern country presenting vast opportunities. Buhler has been active in China for over twenty years, a period during which the Group has established valuable relationships.
Since December 11, 2001, China is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This has made it easier for foreign investors to set up their own companies while retaining full control and employing their own staff. Before joining the WTO, joint ventures with Chinese partners were in most cases the only way to run a foreign business in China – today, joint ventures are still required in strategic areas, e.g. automotive OEMs, but the legal form of a so-called WOFE (Wholly foreign owned enterprise; 100 per cent owned by foreigners) is becoming more and more available and therefore common.
Along with this trend, in 2006 Buhler has converted one of its production joint ventures into a WOFE, bought a competitor in Shenzhen and set up a trading company in Shanghai and a China headquarter in Wuxi as WFOE’s. With more than 1,000 employees, Buhler China generated a turnover of 118 million Swiss francs in 2006. The third-largest manufacturing facility of the entire Buhler Group is located in Wuxi, 130 km northwest of Shanghai.
The factory is a successful joint venture with the State-owned Grain Bureau of Wuxi and among others produces rolls. It is also in the position to recondition the customers’ rolls for all business units – an important service that Buhler customers appreciate.
Over 20,000 tonnes a day
Buhler has implemented grain milling projects in China which are capable of producing over 20,000 metric tons of flour a day, making Buhler the market leader in China in the fields of grain handling and processing. Buhler is also the favourite supplier of many Chinese companies in rice processing and in non-food industries such as PET upgrading or die casting. Buhler’s closeness to customers is ensured by six sales and service branches along the booming east coast from the North(Beijing, Changchun, Jinan) middle (Shanghai, Wuxi) to the South (Shenzhen near Hongkong). A further west expansion is planned to optimally serve all customers across China.
Like the Chinese economy itself, Buhler’s China business is in a growth phase. Buhler wants to achieve stronger and – above all – more sustained growth than its competitors, says Buhler China General Manager Dieter Voegtli. Voegtli identifies potential in all business units. One area which Voegtli will focus on this year is diecasting. Though trained experts are already supporting die casting customers from bases in China, the opportunity of manufacturing high-grade die casting cells is still not fully explored.
Buhler offers these high-tech cells as a total package including peripheral devices and automation system. The same holds true for ‘Sortex’ color sorters, which are in high demand. They enable, say, rice farmers to rid their harvests of dark or discoloured grains in a fast and reliable way.
Based on high-speed cameras testing each individual grain while dashing down a special channel high-speed, high precision air nozzles eject grains with defects in shape or colour.