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
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.
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.