From left: Giovanni Casadei, General Manager, SCM Group China Trading; Frank Shen, chairman of Tona Bathroom Furniture; Marco Rampichini, APAC regional Manager, SCM Group; Peter Liu, Chief Marketing Officer, SCM Group
Like most astute businessmen, Frank Shen is not one to pass up on a golden opportunity when he sees it. It took him a mere 30 minutes—from the first contact to final purchase—to say ‘yes’ to the Stefani Solution, a new edgebander offered by the SCM Group that can create ‘J’, ‘L’, and 45-degree-angle profiles.
There was no hesitation. The chairman of Tona Bathroom Furniture saw samples brought to his Taizhou City office and immediately liked the machine behind it. He hadn’t even seen the real thing.
“Whatever it could do, I knew this was what I was looking for,” said Mr Shen, probably Asia’s first buyer of the Stefani Solution. “The discussion after that was more about after-sales support.”
Tona’s bathroom furniture
Tona’s bathroom furniture
The need for speed
Shopping for ideas at the Milan furniture fair last year, Mr Shen discovered that handle-less door panels were currently trending in furniture and interior design in Europe. Since then he had been on the move, looking for a realistic solution to reproduce this look for his range of bathroom cabinets, which are mostly exported to Europe.
The Stefani Solution achieves exactly this. ‘J’, ‘L’, or 45-degree-angle profiles can be done in one fell swoop, eliminating laborious procedures of cutting, routing and manual spraying. In doing so, the process not only saves time and labour, it also reduces harmful emissions from paint spray. Common edgebanders on the market can only process flat edges.
The machine can also work easily on particleboard, a material more stable and water-resistant, especially suited for the bathroom environment. It arrived in late March and was installed by two engineers from Italy who took the chance to train and certify another 4 engineers from China, Tona will have a 24-hour remote assistance support guaranteed by the Chinese team at the Shenzhen service centre during the day and backed by the Italian team during the night shift”.
A different type of ambition
At 44, Mr Shen is a rare breed of bosses in China—where price is often the deal breaker when it comes to finalising a sale. But to him, money isn’t everything.
“There is so much potential in this investment,” he said. “I’m one step ahead of everyone in the industry, that’s an advantage isn’t it?”
Furthermore, the second Stefani Solution will take five months to deliver to the next buyer in Asia. In that amount of time, Tona will be far ahead of its peers in securing orders and delivering them within said time added Mr Shen.
Tona, founded in 2002, is one of the market leaders in China’s industrial cluster for bathroom furniture manufacturing. The region comprises Taizhou, Xiaoshang and Pinhu in Zhejiang province.
By 2007 the company had fixed its vision on design-based, high-end bathroom furniture for the North American and European markets. In December last year, a new e-commerce channel was launched to tap into the domestic market. Its target audience is young families as well as the millennial generation of young, trendy consumers in pursuit of taste and style.
In 2015, Tona’s total sales reached RMB 173 million yuan (US$26.8 million). This year’s target is set to increase 30%.
“I dream to be listed on the stock exchange one day,” said Mr Shen. 420 workers (including 12 designers) on Tona’s payroll are constantly working towards this goal. A lot also depends on equipment that can transform good design into reality whilst achieving better yield and efficiency. To this end, the Stefani Solution is one of the investments that will take this ambition forward.
Since the demand for handle-less doors panels is expected to accelerate, Mr Shen has already planned to buy another machine down the road.
He said, “Handle-less doors are going to trickle down to Asia, it won’t go out of fashion so soon. Anyway, if the design changes, the Stefani Solution can revert back to ordinary functions.
“It is certainly a revolutionary machine. There will be no other, at least for the next six months.”
This article first appeared in Panels & Furniture Asia (May/June Issue)