We talked to Arne Weber on how faytech relies on German Engineering standards and combines that with attractive priced Asian Manufacturing and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arne Weber: We are ok. In Shenzhen/China, the COVID-19 is under control, and since April 2020, we are back to normal life in China. Masks are worn in public places, but that is not an issue. We do miss travelling, which is something we did at least once a year before, and of course, the children miss their German grandparents. But overall, we shall be thankful for our situation and not complain.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded faytech.
Arne Weber: Besides my bachelor study, which was a dual-study in which I worked half of the time and studied the other half, I always worked for myself. I opened my first small computer store at the age of 18 and started installing computer networks locally. At 23, I started my first “real” company focusing on All-In-One-Media-Centers in the living room. We developed quite well and had at our peak around 40 employees. During that time, I also founded the largest digitalizing company in Europe, but in the end, it was a fight against windmills: Back then, the technology changed completely every half year (from video to HDTV, from DVD to Blu-Ray, from DVB-S to DVB-S2, etc.), and thus the customers’ expectations were changing too and made it impossible to develop a system which integrates all these changes into one device, withing the time-frame, while staying affordable. That led us to give up in 2006, and I started all over from my living room – distributing touchscreens imported from China. Personally, I was not in favor of this, as I always strived to add value for the customers instead of simply selling products – however, besides other projects, this was what financed our lives, so my wife and myself decided to move to China in 2008 to “just” improve the quality of our suppliers and have more influence on the projects and product development. And that was how we opened together our own assembly line in 2010 in Shenzhen under the brand faytech… It is the typical start-up story, a hand full of people in an empty hall, everyone sitting at the production line once the order came in.
How does faytech innovate?
Arne Weber: In the past few years, we have invested significantly in new and high-tech machinery, ensuring our ability to do most production processes in-house.
This will ensure we steadily improve and integrate newer processes or methods to keep us at the forefront of innovation.
Some examples of our processes are the cell & backlight design, touch panel production and optical bonding, all of which have designated teams specifically focused on that process.
Additionally to these processes, we have Research & Development teams in both Germany and China that keep us focusing on new technology and improvements of current products. At faytech, we dedicate ourselves to finding improvements also – we are good at combining the best of the world in which we operate, taking the strengths of local teams and combining them into greater success.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Arne Weber: At the beginning of the pandemic, there were regulations set in place (for a good reason), which caught us off guard. However, due to quick response and action, we managed to open our factories in China again shortly after, ensuring all the government requirements are met during operation.
This did cause us to lack behind on the orders we currently had outstanding and perhaps even lost some projects, due to not being able to deliver in time. Also, the prices for our components are continuously getting more and more expensive in the past months due to shortage, which forces us to increase the prices to our clients as well. Overall, this is not a huge issue, as most if not all companies and competitors are also facing this issue.
Anyhow, our business finances are still positive, and the coronavirus did not affect it too much, as we found other opportunities to increase business in other fields (e.g. hygienic stations and antimicrobial coating technology). However, with the lessons learned, we plan and organize enough liquidity in order to be prepared for anything that might disrupt our standard business.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Arne Weber: In General, we have not had too many difficulties with the human resources, as we set up plans with employees doing home-office and split shifts at the start of the pandemic. Luckily, we did not require to lay anyone off, as we had sufficient resources and stock to keep the business going through the tough times. Before this, we already had quite a lot of home office workers, as we work globally and used to remote work, and thus we were totally prepared for the pandemic situation in this regard.
Anyhow, we currently still have some issues with finding the right employees in Shenzhen due to many new positions popping up due to our fast growth. So, should any technical related people read this article now and also be interested in working for a fast-growing tech company – feel free to send us an application; we are always looking for more engineers!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Arne Weber: It is a very important point for us to keep our relationship with our partners and clients strong, especially with price increases, delays or ‘bad news’ we might have to share.
Therefore, we always make sure to have one of our sales professionals be the contact point for all communication (of a certain customer), as sort of a ‘project manager’, who ensures that internally all the requests are being followed-up on the different departments. Also, there should always be a replacement available, just in case. Over time, this has proven to be the solution that works best for us.
We are using our NAV ERP system in both Germany and China now, which ensures all the information and data can be easily accessed and worked on by the different teams across the offices. Besides this, we use the general communication and meeting tools nowadays – WeChat in China, WhatsApp in the western world and Skype, Teams and Zoom for global communications and meetings.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Arne Weber: Even though the beginning of the pandemic was tough for everybody, we did not require any special grants to keep the business going. However, during this time, the government did provide general supports for business in China during the pandemic, but those were available for most businesses.
Your final thoughts?
Arne Weber: These days, I am frustrated by how inappropriate the Western governments react to the pandemic. I am really surprised that, for example, the German government was not able to develop a real plan within nearly 1.5 years on how to work against the pandemic. In China, within 2 weeks, there was a clear plan and guidance on how we were allowed to open up our business again. And the owners of the factories had to sign with their personal guarantee that these plans are followed, or otherwise, the factory was not allowed to reopen. Other countries also showed how to successfully manage the pandemic… I also do not understand why governments did not manage to organize production licenses for everyone for the vaccine (especially in third world countries). I feel people are dying every day because companies wish to maximize profits. In such a situation, this should not be accepted – and still, the western governments could easily pay enough licenses, ensuring enough profit is made with the vaccine. Generally, I am quite annoyed and worried when seeing the rise in tension between countries, especially between the US and China. All while the European Chamber talks about decoupling tendencies. However, I believe that the best way the world can develop is a world of cooperation and communication. We are all humans, and we are all the same. We are just different from the experiences we make, the culture we grow up in, and the education we receive. In the end, we all just want to have a safe, happy life with a fair future. That is probably something somebody should think about when talking about other countries… Governments should support that on a global basis, not on a local basis, while trying to maximize their own influence. I expect the pandemic will put a lot of stress on a lot of countries and people already, and I am sure there will be a lot of countries that will struggle in the near future – so in my opinion, we do not need further issues from global fights between countries.
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