Sinn & Co. Connects Ashtabula Rubber Company
With Right Partner in China
Proves small manufacturers are ready for China Trade

History
As president and CEO of Ashtabula Rubber Company (ARC) in Ashtabula, Ohio, Nick Jammal knows what it takes to keep a relatively small, family-owned company competitive in a global market. His company produces rubber components for major manufacturers. But, for the past decade ARC has been facing fierce competition from offshore sources.

ARC had built a reputation for great service and products, but the global marketplace showed Jammal the need for two strategies: 1. Implement Lean Manufacturing to improve efficiency and reduce costs and 2. Leverage technical expertise for new cost-saving designs, materials, and formulations. Domestic operations could provide a portion of the cost cutting and technical muscle. But by the late 1990’s, Jammal knew he needed to add a third strategy: Implement a China strategy better and faster than his competitors.

William Sinn's Strategy
In early 2004 William Sinn began working with ARC to establish sourcing relationships in China. Sinn’s background in engineering enabled him to tackle technical issues fast. From the outset William was much more than just a trading company.

“One of reasons we picked William Sinn was that he’s an all-around business person. William is very knowledgeable in engineering and technical subjects related to manufacturing. He quickly develops an understanding of new technical subjects, and this adds a lot to the quality of discussion with a potential Chinese supplier or partner,” Jammal said.

Right out of the gate Sinn began training Jammal’s people to do the work. “We wanted to learn to work with China directly,” Jammal added. "There are other consultants who can develop offshore sourcing, but if you have multiple people between you and your manufacturing source that just adds to cost."

In May 2004, Sinn organized his signature China Tour, an investigative and assessment tool for introducing his clients to Chinese business contacts and culture. Jammal accompanied Sinn to China for over two weeks, touring 16 rubber factories and four supporting factories, and meeting with dozens of manufacturing and economic development professionals. They interviewed three potential partners Sinn had identified as liaisons for scheduling and quality issues. Jammal said the trip was a valuable reality check.

“Assumptions may be correct or incorrect. The areas of China I visited were impressively modern, and gave me more confidence that there are many soundly run businesses there. You can get the kinds of products and the quality you need. William helped us find the right partners and communicate effectively.”

Sinn narrowed the field to one partner to act as intermediary and six factories optimal for sourcing. Jammal is currently working with Sinn to plan a second trip to China, establish closer relationships and further improve on factory operations.

The Results
Since making initial China connections, ARC has placed initial trial orders, which were very successfully received. “We are making the first parts there only six months after my involvement,” Sinn said. ARC’s first customer orders and parts shipments are on target for delivery.

ARC’s reputation was that of a company strong in customer service that can take a problem and engineer a technical solution. Today, through China partnership, they’ve also established a reputation for competitive pricing. “We have to supply products at world market prices. Sometimes that is best done by manufacturing domestically. But sometimes, especially for more mature products, this is best done offshore. Without our China connection, once a product reached commodity status, we were out of the picture. Now we’re back in the ball game,” said Jammal.

ARC’s quality issues are being met, thanks to good communication. William Sinn’s skill in both US and China business operations gave Jammal a clear picture of how their Chinese partners think and do business and gave the Chinese managers the same knowledge of U.S. practices. The result has been an impressive flow of ideas, priorities and processes between the international partners.

“William is pushing us at this early stage to become proficient in working with China," said Jammal. "We’re developing a new core competency through the engineering of new applications and prototypes, even while continuing our domestic manufacturing through lean manufacturing to reduce costs and improve margins. As we partner with Chinese producers our customers are getting low-cost commodities but with back-up domestic manufacturing as needed. It truly is the best of both worlds.”

Sinn & Company is located at 23 Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122. For more information contact William Sinn at 216-292-4880, or visit www.sinn-co.com.