Rosti Group, the global plastic injection molder and contract manufacturer, is using 3D printing to deliver prototype products to clients in Malaysia within three days thanks to its digital innovation lab in China. That’s a sign of how technology transfers go both ways now between China and Europe.
“3D printing has been around for a while, but we applied such technique to printing injection mold cores and cavities and allowing prototype parts to be manufactured in design intent material, which offers invaluable service for our customers and their new designs,” Patrick Williams, senior vice president of Rosti’s Asia operations, said in a recent interview with Yicai Global.
Williams, who has spent the last 20 years of his 33 years working for Malmö, Sweden-based Rosti in Asia, is still amazed at the acceleration of innovation that has taken place. “It has been the single-biggest game changer for our business,” he said.
“When we first came to China at the request of our then-largest customer in Europe, we were very much a manufacturing operation largely dependent on our established manufacturing technologies in Europe,” he said. “It’s now a two-way street.
“We have now gone full circle and are successfully transferring cutting-edge manufacturing technologies from China back to Europe, at the same time as integrating the best technologies from Europe into our Asian operations.”
From China to Malaysia
Rosti Malaysia, based in Johor, was set up in 2012 to support an existing customer’s manufacturing needs in the region. Rosti had operated in China for 12 years then, and had to transfer some products made in North Asia to Malaysia with changes in the customer’s manufacturing strategy.
The task was to simplify the supply chain through localization. With the joint efforts of the Malaysian and Chinese teams, Rosti was able to localize the supply chain’s full ecosystem in Southeast Asia.
It took Rosti five months from getting the business license in March to producing the first parts in August. It was a big challenge due to the speed needed to hit key milestones for its customers as well as maintaining the high standards of customer service that Rosti had set in China.
“We are a customer-driven organization and customer service is at the center of everything we do,” said Williams. “We call it ‘the Rosti Way,’ which both Rosti China and the Malaysian facility follow.” Though Rosti China is bigger and more diverse, all operations and working practices are identical at every Rosti site.
The success of the Malaysia startup is the recruitment of key personnel in the early days. “Our Malaysia management team were placed in our China facility to learn the Rosti Way and spend time in the technical and operational academy,” said Williams. “Upon successful completion of this inception process the Malaysia team were ready, willing and able to contribute to the development of Rosti Malaysia.”
Fast forward eight years and Williams reflects on the success of the Rosti international localization process. “I think this is a testimony to the success of that development. If you look at the key members of the management team in Malaysia today, they were all with us back when we started,” he said.
Innovation despite Covid-19
Like other businesses, the firm faced unprecedented challenges when Covid-19 broke out. But Rosti’s diverse market segments give it a natural hedge against a more significant fall-off in demand experienced by many businesses as a result of the impact of Covid-19 and associated containment measures.
“Rosti has had to adapt and has implemented a range of measures that allowed us to keep each of our eight facilities around the world operational,” said Williams. The “safety of our 3,200 employees globally has always been our top priority.”
Though the nature of this crisis means that future market conditions are far from certain, Rosti seems well positioned to take advantage of any end-market growth opportunities which may arise.
Rosti Malaysia’s 3D-printing services enable firms to prototype and build essential products and cost-effectively, reducing the delivery time from four weeks to three days. Rosti state-of-the-art Digital Technovation lab opened in Suzhou, China last year, and is the key in this process and has totally changed what Rosti can offer to customers in terms of product development and how in the firm’s 76-year history.
“The one thing Covid-19 has not been able to do is to break our spirit,” Williams added. “Our innovation centers are still busy bringing our customers products to life. For our customers, we are big enough to cope internationally, financially stable in the face of setbacks, and are small enough to care locally.”