On the 12th of December, a group of eight CITO members and one NCTU student (and former exchange student at Chalmers) visited Höganäs AB’s sales office in Taipei. We were welcomed by Ola Litström, Country Manager Taiwan and South East Asia & Application Development Manager Region Asia, who hosted the visit.
After greetings and some informal talking, we were given a presentation about Höganäs’ history, their products and markets. Höganäs started with coal mining 1979 in the town of Höganäs in southern Sweden. The coal mining was soon supplemented with manufacturing salt glazed ceramics, before Höganäs turned into their present focus; powder metal (PM) production, a field where they today can claim to be the world’s leading manufacturer. Today Höganäs has 1800 employees, more than 1500 products and customers in 75 countries.
So, what is the market for PM? PM can be used in a wide array of applications, from the creation of components to mineral fortification in food. Höganäs both produce the powders, but also educates their customers in how to produce high quality components and informs users later in the value chain about the benefits of choosing component produced from PM, and how they can adapt the design to maximize profits. As an example of the benefits, in component production the powder can be put into a mold where close to the final shape is created from the start, and hence the material loss is very low. Höganäs products are also used in additive manufacturing (3D printing), as fillers for brazing, for surface coatings, like wear resistance for excavators in mines and in filters such as for water treatment. The innovation level is high and new business areas constantly arise.
When the presentation was over the conversation turned more towards cultural differences and how it is to live as a Swedish expat in Taiwan. Mr. Litström spoke about a Taiwanese strength to always want to be the best, in contrast with a Swedish strength to focus on social aspects, teamwork and solving a problem together. We spoke about how words and values can be interpreted differently in different countries, such as respect, which in a Swedish company implies mutual respect across hierarchies while it in South East Asian cultures is stronger up than down hierarchies and implies to follow orders from your boss and fulfill commitments. In general it was a very rewarding discussion about the social and commercial implications of a flat versus a very hierarchical system.
The study visit was very fruitful, and we learnt many new things, both about a technology we hardly knew existed, but also about to do business in South East Asia and how the life is as a Swedish expat in Taiwan. From CITO we would like to send a thanks to Höganäs for hosting us, and a special thanks to Ola for so open-heartedly sharing your experiences.