A Family Tradition in Woodworking - Starmaster


2006-07-30
Whilst there are a number of family-owned Taiwanese woodworking machinery manufacturers now being managed by a second generation, WFD was pleased to recently interview a member of a third-generation - Mr. Dennis Huang, General Manager of Starmaster. Dennis’s grandfather started a small woodworking machinery factory some forty years ago and all of his six sons then, in turn, also opened their own operations. One of those factories, was Starmaster. It was good to meet up with Dennis in their new 650 ping (2,150 m²) factory and office. This was completed in October, 2005 and now the total floor space of Starmaster’s complex is 1,350 pings (4,460 m²). Dennis handles mainly international marketing and his wife manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Important Milestones of the Company Starmaster began its life as a manufacturer supplying mainly small sanders. When asked about important milestones in the history of the company, Dennis explained that, after 1980, the company began looking towards exporting to international markets with a special focus on South-east Asia. The most important moment in the company’s history happened in 1997 when an alliance was formed with the Time Savers company in the U.S. for OEM/ODM manufacturing. It was the first time Time Savers had cooperated with a Taiwanese manufacturer and within a couple of years at least 100 units were being shipping annually. Gradually, the amount grew each year as well as the range of machines manufactured. Now, Starmaster are one of the only companies in Taiwan to be able to produce such a wide range of OEM/ODM models. This has been made possible because of the long-term technological cooperation/transfer with Time Savers including their sending engineers and technicians from the U.S. to spend extended periods of time in Taiwan. This important relationship with Starmaster’s partner in the U.S. continues to be a major focus of the company today. Dennis also pointed out that, without the special relationship with Time Savers, Starmaster would not be the successful company that it is now. On the other hand, Time Savers also would not have such a large market share in the U.S. without Starmaster’s help. International Marketing Because of the special relationship with Time Savers, Starmaster, under their own brand, are not able to participate in many international woodworking machinery exhibitions. However, the company has been active in the Thai and Vietnamese markets and do regularly have booths at exhibitions in those countries. Starmaster has established local agents in Malaysia and Indonesia. The company has not been so active in the market in China because of long-standing banking difficulties of doing business directly with Taiwan. However, Dennis said that they have not completely given up hope of success in that market. Dennis also went on to say that the company forsees a good future in the Vietnamese market. What Lies Ahead? Starmaster plan to continue their strategic alliance with Time Savers with Taiwan continuing to be responsible for manufacturing and the U.S. still handling sales and marketing. With rising raw material and labor costs in Taiwan, the question of whether to invest in a factory in China is always a discussion point. When asked his thoughts about the future of the Taiwanese woodworking machinery industry, Dennis stressed that whilst Taiwanese products are still cheaper than those from Europe, the biggest challenge is from China with prices of 30% ~ 40% lower than Taiwan. “Taiwan is now placed in the mid-price range and so quality engineering is very important”, Dennis said. He also feels that Taiwanese manufacturers should not be concerned about cheaper prices from China and should focus on being more adaptable to different international markets. “Taiwanese companies should respond quickly to varied customer requests”, Dennis pointed out. Additionally, he feels that the actual outward appearance of Taiwanese woodworking machinery has room for improvement.
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