Shoemakers, customers work out details via video link, 3D printing
Editor’s note: This series of stories looks at local businesses in specialized industries that have a share of global markets.
For decades, shoe manufacturing companies in China have followed tried and true methods of earning a living in global markets: meeting with customers at their factories to arrange order details, showcasing their products at the Import Fair and China Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, and increase spending on cross-border e-commerce platforms to promote sales.
But after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many overseas customers were unable to travel overseas, so Zhu Henglin, who heads the business operations of Juyi Group Co Ltd, a shoe manufacturer in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, and his colleagues have adopted 3D printing equipment to work out details with their international clients.
The Chinese company and its overseas customers each make sample shoe designs with 3D printers, then discuss and edit the details via online video, saving both of them a lot of time and money.
“With this, we no longer need to send sample shoes to customers in developed markets and worry about shipping delays,” said Zhu, who added that many shoe manufacturing companies in Wenzhou had production orders pending until the end of the year.
Driven by growing demand in overseas markets, particularly in the booming tourism and sports sectors, China’s footwear exports soared 31.4 percent year-on-year to 173.7 billion yuan (25, 76 billion dollars) in the first half of 2022, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Since footwear products are one of the tariff concession categories under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the pact, which came into force in January, has further boosted China’s footwear exports and boots, said Wang Daning, an official of the Yiwu branch of Hangzhou. Customs.
Gold Emperor Group, another shoe manufacturer in Wenzhou, recently installed two sets of new equipment for applying glue to the upper and sole of shoes at one of its factories in Wenzhou. With the new equipment in place, the production capacity of each production line was set at 250 pairs per hour, doubling the production of 32 employees.
Footwear has traditionally been a labor-intensive industry and it remains difficult to fully standardize automation. However, in some phases of the works, the replacement of workers by machines reduces production capacity, said Zhu Jianfeng, president of the company.
“The reason why we dared to invest such a large amount of capital in fixed assets at one time is mainly due to the substantial increase in export orders, which has boosted our confidence. International markets for sports shoes have remained strong in recent months,” he said. Zhu added that the company is expected to export 12 million pairs of sports shoes this year.
Chen Wenzhao, director of business development at Gold Emperor Group, said challenges and opportunities coexist for China’s footwear industry this year. Besides footwear products, items such as metal clasps, shoe soles and uppers, and shoelaces have sold well in Southeast Asian countries. He said all the parts and accessories needed for the shoe-making process can be found and purchased in Wenzhou. Even though the resumption of work and production in Southeast Asia has posed challenges for labor-intensive industries like footwear, textile and apparel companies since the start of 2022 , it has also brought these export opportunities, thanks to China’s industrial chain advantage, he said.
Backed by more than 11,000 employees at manufacturing bases in Jiangxi, Henan and Hubei provinces, as well as in Myanmar, the company’s export value of semi-finished products and other materials to the Myanmar rose from 8.45 million yuan in 2021 to 95 million yuan in the first half of the year.
In Fujian Province, another shoe-making base in China, Wu Jiang, an official with the Haicang branch of Xiamen Customs, said companies in Xiamen and surrounding cities exported $2.6 billion worth. yuan of shoemaking materials to Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia between January and June, rising. 40% year over year.
Assembly operations with relatively low technical content are the fastest link in industrial chain transfers. Although the commercial value of finished products is high, their added value is low, said Tu Xinquan, dean of the China Institute of WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics.
“Chinese manufacturers in many sectors have already entered the upstream link of processing trade. As part of the processing trade shifts from China to some member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China’s exports of intermediate products are soaring at a noticeable pace,” said he said, adding that this corresponds to the trend of industrial upgrading and transformation.