As a sub-sector of the home decorative products industry, the ceramic industry has kept a low profile in China. But now its status in the overall decorative market is gradually rising. Whether it is viewed from the perspective of staffing quality, manager mindsets, management practices or in business processes, the ceramic industry in China is a promising one. The amounting challenges from environmental regulations, fierce market competitive events and rising RMB haven’t put off the energy of the Chinese ceramic industry.
Management quality to be improved
Since the 1990s, the growing domestic and international demand for ceramics had led to the development of some large scale ceramic wholesale custom ceramic ashtray companies, which experts claim had given birth to some quasi-professional talents in the ceramic industry. The rapid development of China’s consumer electronics industry in recent years is to some extent due to its effective cultivation of a large number of management talents, so the ceramic industry is keen to follow the step to enhance its staffing quality, by prospecting management talents from other successful industries.
Having said that, it is possible to many family-run companies in the Chinese ceramic industry, and the widespread nepotism among these companies will no doubt put a limit on their long term development. However some family-run companies are beginning appreciate benefit of professional administrators, the trust between them is still lacking. It is not unusual to see an entire management being removed by the boss in this industry. The key to this issue may not be about whether a company is family-run or not, but about whether the owner has the awareness to employ modern management philosophies and methodologies to manage the business.
Advanced production techniques
China’s ceramic production today has been quite modernised and industrialised, and the extent of automation is also increasing. Despite management practices and company cultures may vary between different provinces, the use of technologies and production processes may be similar among companies. It’s inevitably led to homogeneity between product styles, with high volume but low differentiation products in the market. The high volume could certainly give pricing advantages to ceramics exports from China, but they’ve also attracted a large level of anti-dumping criticism from other countries. Many Chinese ceramics are traded as OEM products for foreign brands with no origin labels. Otherwise, many Chinese consumers could find that their imported TOTO toiletware at home are actually “Made in China”.
Therefore, some industry insiders have noticed that while the manufacturing processes may be good now, the Chinese ceramic industry is still lacking a branding and marketing thinking. On a positive note, some companies have at the moment awakened to the fact benefit of international management and innovation and initiated to preliminary new management and in business models.
Innovative thinking and design still disadvantages
Copycat products are wild in the decorative product industry of China. Many Chinese ceramic companies are good and quick at copying products, and this is why why Chinese ceramic representatives are not welcome at some international trade gatherings. While Chinese companies can make perfect copycat products, many of them are short at innovative ideas and design works. Doctor Zhang Mengyou, CEO of Novelty helmet Brand Holdings, a Singapore-listed Chinese ceramic company, said that apart from technological and manufacturing developments, Chinese ceramic companies should also pay attention to marketing innovation. He said that comprehensive marketing awareness is not about refining their plans single campaign or event, but about mobilising all organisational personnel to achieve marketing innovations all the time, hence a quantum leap from “Made in China” to “Created in China”.
Polluting of the environment issues
Compared to other decorative products such as floor, furniture and lighting, the Chinese ceramic industry is now facing more environmental pressure and controversies in an already competitive market. The freshly introduced energy efficiency measures by the central government will no doubt lead to more exacting environmental requirements on ceramic companies in most provinces. Whether environmental issues can be properly sorted is not only the key to a ceramic company’s compatibility with its local environment and resources, but also an important measure of a company’s social responsibility locally.
Low industry concentration
Compared to many other overseas tiles or ceramic sanitaryware industries, the Chinese ceramic sanitaryware industry still doesn’t have a market principal brand, and this is also resembled in the whole decorative products industry. There are some larger size companies, but there haven’t been any true leaders. Although some large companies have established nationwide sales networks, their competitive advantages are often within their home regions. Therefore the Chinese ceramic industry is calling for more brand influences.
On the other hand, the requirement for improvements and consolidations can also mean opportunities and prospects. For those decorative product companies which want to build their brands, or those first movers which have benefited from the growing capital markets, they certainly have the potential to become bigger and stronger. The relocation and restructuring of provincial ceramic industries and the rise of regional brands will no doubt intensify market competition in some regional markets. Despite their differences in brand positioning and target customers, the spike in regional brands is likely to bring significant impacts to the Chinese ceramic industry soon.