The white goods sector in Europe is largely saturated, putting manufacturers under increasing pressure. AWECO, which was founded in Neukirch in 1960, has not been immune to the challenges of the marketplace.
“Since the 1960s, the company has continuously expanded its product range, adding components for dishwashers, washing machines and refrigeration equipment successively to the product portfolio,” explains Managing Director Gerhard Teschl. “We also expanded through acquisitions such as the takeover in 1998 of Bleckmann, an Austrian company specializing in heating elements for white goods and coffee machines and which is the market leader in this segment.”
Growth continued throughout the first decade of the new millennium, culminating in the establishment of a production site in Mexico, allowing AWECO to better serve its customers in the American market. Despite generating annual turnover of 200 million EUR, the financial crisis and especially the weakness of the US economy, forced the closure of the plant in 2011.
“Since 2011, production has taken place at a plant in Poland, where lower manufacturing costs have helped us ride out the crisis,” says Mr. Teschl. “At the end of last year, we were taken over by Sanhua in China, which has given us the opportunity to invest in the development of new products that will secure our future over the long term.”
All products produced by the new company will continue to be sold under the AWECA brand, which is now well-established and well-respected in the market.
“Many of our product innovations have been patented, which is also a reason why Sanhua was interested in buying up the company,” explains Mr. Teschl. “These patents and our ongoing ability to innovate give us a technological and also cost advantage over our competitors.”
New projects currently in the pipeline include a new active drying system based on lithium chloride which is poised to revolutionize the sector. “We want to increase our investment in heat pump systems and focus on launching a number of innovative new products within the next three years,” outlines Mr. Teschl. “New product development forms the core of our strategy, whose ultimate aim is to ensure we remain the supplier of choice for the top ten global manufacturers of white goods.”
In addition to heat pump systems, AWECO also makes plastic components such as dosing trays for descaling tablets using injection moulding technology, as well as pump housings. These are produced in Poland and also at a smaller manufacturing site in Amtzell in Germany. Production is certified to ISO 9001 quality standards, and the Polish factory is right now under TS 16949 certification, a standard required for suppliers to the automotive industry.
Since 2013, the factory has also supplied plastic components for the car industry. The group employs a total of 1,000 people, over 300 in Germany and Austria, 600 at the AWECO plant in Tichy, Poland, and 100 employees in the newly opened plant in China.
The company is active primarily as an OEM supplier to the major white goods manufacturers. “Our development engineers are in close contact with the research and development departments of our clients so that we are always on the same page when it comes to product modifications and advances,” explains Mr. Teschl. “We are also regularly invited to technology seminars, where we can present our new innovations and synchronize our work with the product development cycles of our customers.”
SANHUA AWECO’s ability to innovate is what sets it apart from its competitors, which is why research and development forms such a major part of its activities. The main thrust of new developments is improving the energy efficiency of household appliances.
“All domestic goods are rated according to their energy efficiency so that consumers can actively choose an appliance that is cheaper to run and kinder to the environment,” says Mr. Teschl. “However, the initial outlay for the most efficient machines is still substantially more than for the appliances rated in the lower categories. Bringing these costs down is a key goal of the appliance manufacturers, and this pressure is passed on to their suppliers – in other words, us.”
The managing director expects that this pressure to cut costs combined with other economic pressures such as the rising cost of raw materials, energy and transport will lead to further consolidation in the market. This in turn will increase its dependence on major manufacturers, who can only win from this development.
“Our future is secured with the Hacking of Sanhua, but we must also look for new markets for our products and expertise,” insists Mr. Teschl. “We will gincreasingly be targeting the automotive sector in the future while at the same time working to double our turnover in the white goods sector.”