For the past 12 years, Kaohsiung Monomer Company Ltd (KMC), part of Lucite International, has been successfully stimulating interest in the Acrylics market in Taiwan with their Acrylic Design Competition initiative. Peter Ho, Downstream Business Manager tells us more about KMC’s success story.
The Taiwanese acrylic industry began in the 1960s when Chi Mei Corporation introduced cast sheet from Japan and began production. Later in the 1970s, the company started to focus on PMMA and extruded sheet production and closed its cast sheet and fabrication operations. Some of the entrepreneurial-spirited people, who were laid off at the time, decided to invest their own money into continuing that part of the business and as a result, the market for acrylics began to expand in southern Taiwan. These cast sheet manufacturers, as well as, Chi Mei have become the most loyal of KMC’s customers since it began MMA production in 1978.
In 2000, as competition with China and Southeast Asia became more intense, General Manager of KMC, Gregory Liou, recognised the need for the acrylics industry to significantly ‘raise its game’. This meant establishing Taiwan as the main supplier of high-quality acrylic sheet and fabricated products; opening up new markets in both developed and developing countries, building quality and brand awareness, supplying and promoting special sheet materials, developing new applications, and forging a strong alliance through the entire supply chain. And as part of the process, KMC introduced a number of practices, all to benefit customers and to grow the market for acrylics.
Traditionally, acrylic sheet manufacturers based production on past experience and techniques passed down from one master worker to another apprentice worker. There were no scientific facts, which meant quality was variable, sales prices were low and it was difficult to compete in developed countries. So, KMC put together a customer service team to collect, analyse, and solve problems related to quality. By using scientific theories, such as the effect of weather conditions, the team has successfully identified and solved many quality related problems, helping the cast sheet manufacturer customers to improve the consistency and quality of their products.
As the manufacture of general grade acrylic sheet grew, competition increased and sales margins fell. Looking for opportunities to stand out and maintain leadership, KMC established its Colour Centre in 2007.
The facility continues to be led by HC Chen and focuses on the development of new, on-trend acrylic sheet offerings, such as transparent and ice effect coloured sheet. The company also launched an Acrylic Sheet Color Selector system on www.acrylicap.com, which allows architects, product designers and interior designers to choose colours for their work. At the same time, a new research and development unit led by Dr WJ Liang was formed to explore the possibilities of adding special functionality to existing acrylic sheet. So far, inventions such as flame-resistant acrylic sheet and infrared protective acrylic for roofing have been developed.
Today, KMC is looking to the future; acrylic materials touch many aspects of our lives and the potential for new applications is growing. As the global drive for energy saving gathers pace, LED lighting presents a real opportunity. The Internet has also been key to KMC’s growth over the past decade and in 2001, KMC established www.acrylicap.com as a dedicated resource for those involved and interested in acrylic. The site has attracted potential customers from all over the world. Increasingly enquiries come from global, blue chip businesses, where brand communication is a key part of marketing spend.
The most recent approach to KMC came from one of the world’s most prestigious technology brands. It was searching for a supplier that could produce display shelves with a dimension tolerance of +/-0.1mm, and sheet thickness tolerance of +/- 5% (usually +/- 10%). Recognising the huge opportunity this presented, Peter Ho coordinated a task force that involved close collaboration with fabricators to raise standards in order the meet the stringent specifications set by the customer. Successful sampling led to the order KMC and its partners were looking for. Working on this project has helped the acrylic fabricators understand that great quality and precision can result in orders from major brands that provide higher sales margins; something that a few years ago they would not have dreamed possible.
Find out more at http://www.acrylicap.com