ECCO’s Xiamen tannery opens

18 November 2008

Drums, cannons and fireworks signalled the grand opening of ECCO’s Xiamen tannery in the Tong’an Chengnan Industrial Zone on Saturday, September 6. Local dignitaries from the municipal government and district authorities attended along with top representatives of the ECCO group and a great many overseas guests.

The new tannery is impressive and represents ECCO’s biggest investment so far. The tannery is also the biggest one to have been built so far by ECCO. Currently all processing will be from wet-blue but blue-prints do exist for the provision of a beamhouse and a technical development unit when the time is right.
When ECCO acquired the site in 2004, the plan was to build footwear factories and although a tannery was included in the original layout it was never a fore gone conclusion. In the event four footwear units are now up and running, making 15,000 uppers and 3,000 pairs of shoes on a daily basis.
Panos Mytaros has been asked why the company decided to proceed with the project when the tanning industry in China is facing such turbulent times. His response is to remind them that ECCO never only look at short term horizons in any strategic investment. He says: ‘We have one of our top shoe factories here and will also have one of our top tanneries. It makes sense.’
The opening took place less than eleven months after the ground breaking ceremony on October 16, 2007. Mytaros also paid tribute to the group’s founder, the late Karl Toosbuy, whose vision it was for the footwear company to tan their own leather. His daughter, Hanni Toosbuy Kasperzak, the current chairman and owner of the group, was in attendance.
Mike Redwood, British School of Leather Technology, worked for a time for ECCO in Holland. He writes: ‘Xiamen is the cleanest city in China and wins sequential environmental awards. As its deputy mayor told the opening it seeks tourism, logistics and manufacturing inward investment.  Yet it is an expensive place for China, one that excels in knowledge management rather than cheap labour, so efficiency counts. 
‘In the long term the plant is designed to make 50 million feet of bovine shoe leather from raw, although for the moment it will start up shortly working from wet-blue. The plant is not huge in terms of floor space but appears more than adequate since the use of standard pallets and horses with the associated fork lifts has been eliminated. Instead, for the most part, goods will move on specially designed flatbeds running on an extensive rail system. 
‘While the plant is spacious there is limited hiding room, so problem packs of leather need to be very rare and dealt with promptly to allow the system to work.
‘In some areas such as sammying and setting and in finishing, machines are linked in a continuous way using alternate transport, again minimising human intervention. In most instances while the machines are new and top quality the technology being joined together is conventional, as required in a situation where all the companies’ plants are making identical leathers. 
‘Where the technology has not moved on too far in the industry, or where consolidation or closure in Europe has limited choice, Asian machinery has been bought. Yet where the European companies are really leading the way they have been rewarded by the perfect showcase for their products. For example ECCO have clearly been convinced by polypropylene retanning drums, and have installed them with an ultra efficient two floor system.’

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