All in the family

Shanghai, China - Shanghai Song Ting Mechanical & Electrical Co. Ltd. is a family affair-very much so. This firm, specializing in mechanical manufacturing, started in 1987 as a state-owned company and is now a private $5-million business.

I got to know Chen Yanni, the married daughter of the owner, as we toured the 10,000-m2 plant where she showed me large, 5-meter cubed structures that when 8-10 are connected form a furnace line for the manufacture of LCD and plasma TV tubes. All the stainless steel for the cubes is cut on the company’s TRUMPF 3030 laser cutter, which was installed last year because an older Chinese laser cutter was unable to produce the quality cuts required for these applications.

Ms. Yanni is a very knowledgeable young woman, at ease responding to her employees’ greetings, who is comfortable answering questions about metal fabricating and fully capable of discussing all aspects of this 108-employee business. She pointed out that Japanese TV makers are the company’s major customers, which is great right now as that business is booming-up 100 percent last year. Song Ting does have other customers, including an unnamed Japanese automaker that buys custom furnaces and other smaller companies that contract for special electrical switching cabinets.

Like many job shops, Song Ting would prefer to reduce it’s reliance on the TV tube furnace business and bring more work into the shop especially for the laser cutter, which is now only operating one shift with overtime when needed.

Listening to Ms. Yanni comment on the future I pointed out to her that a growing number of fabricating shops in the U.S. were being run by women. She took me by surprise when she said she would prefer to be doing something else. As a former university employee she enjoyed the academic life and would like to return to a career in art. But as the only child, Chinese policy, she is obliged to run the company if and when her father decides to give up the job.

I drove away from Song Ting with mixed thoughts. Here is a very bright young woman, ready to inherit a sound growing business, talking about her dream to do something else. Only in China, I guess. - DAB

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