Sorry, you're not Chinese?
Of all the questions I get during business trips to the Far East, that’s number one. The other three are “You’re not Korean?”, “You’re not Japanese?” and “You’re not from Thailand?” I don´t blame them, I can´t tell the difference between the different Scandinavian people either.
But… these questions don´t bother me at all! It´s actually quite the opposite. I think it´s fun and it makes for a great conversation starter.
Surely all of Asia is the same... isn’t it?
My first thought when I took on the role of Regional Manager for the Far Eastern market is that “all these countries will have more or less the same business culture – I´m from Asia, it won’t be a problem to learn and adapt”. Well – was I ever wrong!! There are quite a few differences in meeting etiquette and communication.
Let’s talk about meeting etiquette. In some of the countries of the Far East, don´t be surprised if some of the attendees in a meeting fall asleep (!!) or are delayed to a meeting for hours, or even cancel an appointment at the last minute. With regards to communication, No means “mostly” no but not necessarily “completely” no, but “Yes” doesn´t necessarily mean yes; instead, in my experience, it usually means maybe. English language knowledge also varies greatly difference between countries in the Far East.
Even so, they do have some things in common!
One is business relationships, and this can be a very positive one once you have connected with the right people. Things go much more smoothly once you have created a healthy relationship with your customers, particularly if you know someone that knows someone.
Another thing they have in common- a negative one, unfortunately- is the poor safety thinking in industrial environments. I would say Japan is far ahead of their counterparts in this area compared with other Far Eastern countries.
Hospital bills or machine guarding?
During one of my first customer visits, this statement really shocked me – “It´s much cheaper to pay the hospital bills than invest in safe machine guarding”. I was shocked! I froze for a few seconds and gave an abrupt and annoyed reply
"What if the injured person were you or someone you care about?"
We continued to argue in a professional way and as a result, he was much more interested in having Troax safety fence installed. We quoted and lost against a different kind of fence- a garden fence! Yes, many companies in the Far East still use simple garden fences in industrial process environments.
Get a good return on your investments
Price is very important in the Far East- in fact, it’s all everyone talks about and highlights. Hardly anyone thinks about cost when it comes to safe machine guarding. There are so many projects where customers have to come back to us needing to replace the “local fencing solution” with our machine guarding. Actually, it doesn’t surprise me at all, and here are three explanations:
Machine guarding is very durable.It´s designed to be in a tough environment, particularly because of how the items are welded and installed as a total safety solution. Local fence solutions don’t last as long, not necessarily because of the panel itself but because of how the installation hardware and the whole solution is designed.
Companies grow and manufacturing lines are always changing. With local fences, there is a minimum of opportunities to re-use the old fencing, which you can do with Troax machine guarding under nearly any circumstance. When re-purposing and re-configuring manufacturing lines, make sure you’ll get a future-proof machine guarding solution.
- Brand equity
Lastly, when companies grow, the image is everything. The image of a modern manufacturing company plays a bigger role in the overall decision-making process. New and innovative robots combined with poor garden fences isn’t a great investment and certainly doesn’t provide a very good corporate image. Due to local relations and pricing, however, it still happens, and then we are back to the first and second statements above.
Positive impact from Europe
Safety thinking and machine safety standards and regulations in Europe are having a very positive impact in the Far East. Western companies want to create safe workplaces for their projects in the Far East, which has a strong impact on the integrators; this ultimately leads to the use of Troax machine guarding.
Safety is simply not a primary concern in the Far East, but this is changing for the better. For instance, in China safety awareness is progressing rapidly; for many years a yellow line was enough to protect the employees.
Now, however, according to Chinese customers, the demand for safe workplaces is increasing dramatically and it is expected to continue to increase.
I strongly believe that in the near future the Far East- especially China- safety thinking will be Westernized in a positive way.
Awareness of a safer world!
This is a global trend and the world now has a higher awareness of what a safer world requires.
We care about what we eat and where our food comes from, we care about the air we breathe, we care about how we transport goods from A to B and we care about the environment and the impact that all of the above can have on the global ecosystem as a whole.
And – most importantly - we care about a safe workplace, and the Far East is already half-way there!
Sorry, you’re not Chinese?
No, I´m from Sweden but born in Vietnam.