Challenges into Opportunities:
Market-driven Approach for Machinery in Digital Age

Chien  0:05  
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Spark Your Vision where we invite business leaders from various industries to share with us their insights and experience on current trending topics that's shaping the business world. So before we begin, let me introduce the team. My name is Chien, and I will be the host for today's show. And along with my two talented co-hosts, Alice and Wen please say hi to everyone.

Alice  0:34  
Hi everyone. I'm Alice.

Wen  0:36  
Hello everyone, I'm Wen.

Chien  0:38  
So without further ado, let me introduce our special guest for today - Joseph Lin, the executive assistant to chairman at SOCO machinery. Joseph Lin, please introduce yourself as well what your company does.

Joseph  0:55  
Hello everybody, I'm Joseph Lin from SOCO machinery if you now live in Taiwan you might find my job title the executive assistant to Chairman quite interesting. It's actually mean that my father is the boss of this company. Let me briefly introduce SOCO. SOCO is a machinery company that made metal tube fabrication equipment like tube cutting machine to bending machine to chamber machine and laser cutting machine. All this machine is used to make metal tube into products that use in our daily life. Like in automotive, you have your cars if you need you need your muffler, you have a case pipe, you have your air conditioner pipe, and you have a car seat. And like in bicycle, the whole frame of the bicycle is made by tubes. And like in furniture, like in sports equipment, or some medical aids like that, or some wheelchair, all the things in your life is made by metal tubes. So we are the equipment maker that help people building their life better.

Chien  1:59  
Well, essentially without SOCO machinery, our life wouldn't be able to live as the way it is right now. Before we begin the program, I always like to sort of start out on a personal side, I took a look at your background, your education background and your working experience from the very beginning in education, you were along the way undergrad, graduate school, it was all very technical background. However, as a second generation business leader, which currently also in the process of hopefully one day succeeding the position did you have to overcome that and maybe your pure technical background sometimes, in some ways learn about the non technical side of the business.

Joseph  2:40  
I will say that like the biggest challenge is how to handle people. In the first few years I joined SOCO, I'm purely working in the engineering field, like I am mainly dealing with computers, machines, and physics. And I can do a lot of experiments without even talking to people for whole day. It's pure logic. Yeah, and but when I gradually move into more management job, I work in sales department and operations department for like three years. And I find out that I need to communicate with people to coordinate with people more. People is hard to convince by pure logic. Computer is like it will do whatever you tell it to do.

Chien  2:47  

Joseph  2:52  
But people you have to convince them, you have to persuade them, you have to guide them,

Chien  3:26  

Joseph  3:27  
Or misguid them. And so people have emotion, they have desire, they have their own ambitions. Everybody wants different things, so I have to act accordingly to make connection with them and to understand them and have more new way to do things. But I think that's the more trickier part of these processes is that 250 peoples in our company right now in Taichung, it is impossible to keep track of everybody's names. So it's very hard to use your personal charisma to interact with people. Right now what I'm doing are companies that I tried to build our company culture, the culture is like a big word, but it's actually just people's habits. Culture is a very good tool to guide people, or to align people to do something to achieve the common goal. And even if these people are not very related, they don't know each other that much, but they can work for the same goal.

Chien  4:23  
No, I think what you mentioned on the later that's with people, with culture, I think those are not the stuff that you learn in engineering department. Another thing I was quite interesting, because I understand you're one of the founding members of G2, which is one of the largest second generation business platforms here in Taiwan. And so you not only witnessed the start of the organization, but also at the same time, you've also experienced aside where maybe due to the pandemic, you guys were not able to fully engage face-to-face. A couple years ago in 2020, you were the acting president of the association. And early 2022, I think that was slowly coming back. And we were opening up a little bit. And so when you were the acting president of G2, how did you sort of brought the members back again onto the platform and encourage sort of the member engagement among themselves as well as the external.

Joseph  5:19  
Absolutely that's a really difficult time for G2 and for myself. When I first became president, I had actually prepare a very big event there's about 120 or 130 people registered to attend. But just before the event, there is a major outbreak in Taipei, we have to decide either to cancel the event or change it to online and we make a change to online within two days. That's what we are pretty proud of ourselves. But this kind of things keep happening during 2020 and 21. Our plan is keep disrupting. If it's the things like this total close down, you don't have to worry, you just stay home, you just have all the online meetings, that's okay. But the challenge is you don't know if it's opened up or this you have to close down in your home. So...

Chien  6:01  
The uncertainties, right?

Joseph  6:02  
The uncertainty is the problem. At that time, we come up with the idea that we call small and big G2. The small part is that we divided G2 into smaller groups. Each group consists of like 16 to 18 people, each group will have his own group leader. And we encourage this group leader to hold their small gathering like a study group, or like field trip to our members' factory, our members' company, or even just a small dinner party that everybody can share. For the big part is that we still held big online gathering does everybody in the G2 can join. Besides the seminar, and besides the speakers that we invited, we also show photos and videos. And we ask the group leaders to share what have they been doing with this smaller event. We want to create a sense of shared experience and memories, which can help us build a stronger sense of community. And in 2021, this strategy, pretty much worked out. And we have successfully held around 60 to 70 this little event. So if you ask me that, does this epidemic is the downtime for G2? Well, I will say no, is actually giving us more active vibe to the whole platform.

Chien  7:21  
So by having these smart groups, you're almost diversifying risks as well, right? Having them you know, sort of operate on its own, but however, at the same time still be able to encourage that the member, the member engagement. In fact, this process, it looks like it will continue on even after the pandemic into the New Normal. And hopefully with this new process, with or without the pandemic, it will thrive on its own, I think, yeah, speaking of pandemic, we have to sort of talk about that a little bit, because it's something that none of us was expecting, but it was a black swan, right? Yeah, no one was expecting it, but it just happened. And so I heard somewhere. I mean, here in Asia, we're usually sort of late on digital transformation, one of the common things for digital transformation is digital marketing, right? So because during those two or three years, we don't have the face-to-face opportunity. So we have to maybe utilize digital marketing to engage our customers. And I was looking at your YouTube channels and some of the contents that you guys are putting out there. It's quite interesting. I mean, it's not your typical traditional B2B hard on my product and that and all that stuff. But you really focus on the storytelling aspect of it. Also sharing the application, the people. I mean, what's the reasoning behind that?

Joseph  8:39  
As you said that because of the pandemic, before the pandemic, we have around, like 30 to 40 exhibition show every year all around the world.

Chien  8:48  
Wow. Okay. That's a lot.

Joseph  8:49  
And so, because of the pandemic, we kind of save a lot of money.

Chien  8:55  
That's one of the...one of the few benefits of the pandemic.

Joseph  9:00  
At the beginning of the pandemic, we starts with thinking about how we are going to use this budget. Yeah, because we still need this business. Yeah. And we start to research on YouTube and to see what's interesting. Actually, people are more interested in things that happen around people. They are not interested only like product introduction, for example, like, let me ask you a question. Assuming you were to have a sandwich for lunch what would be the reason for you to choose this sandwich? Is it because the sandwich delicious or because it is cheap?

Chien  9:33  
That's a good question. I think for me I will look at, you know what time of the day. I mean, if it's just something where I'm just on a go you know, working I don't have time to enjoy it too much then I probably want to go with the cheaper option. But if I am you know spending time with friends, you know, like you if we're having lunch? Yeah, we want to enjoy ourselves then. Delicious might be important as well. Right? So it really depends on the situation. But like I said, I think deliciousness to me is important. Yeah.

Joseph  9:59  
Yeah. An excellent This is a trick question.

Chien  10:02  
Trick question.

Joseph  10:02  
Because the answer is neither of that the most important reason for me to choose this sandwich is that I'm hungry. So people buying things not because of the things is good. They don't buy things because this product is good, is cheap, is effective for anything, they buy these things because they have needs then they want to buy things to fulfill that needs. People buy machines from us, because they want to make things, they want to make money, not because my machine is the best, most advanced or fastest in the market, or cheapest in the market. So we want to share this by real example of how we work with our customer, how we discovered their needs, and how we work out a solution to fulfill that need. And with our engineering team and with our service team, that we not only provide the product, or provide a solution and provide the whole service afterwards to success and to growth with our customer together.

Chien  10:59  
Okay. Okay. So it really starts with a need, right? And how can you solve their problem? And it helped them make money.

Joseph  11:05  

Chien  11:06  
I think that's the key, right?

Joseph  11:07  
Yes. And these things, I think it's very important, especially in digital marketing, because you don't have human contact. Yeah. So it's hard to convince people. Yeah, you can have many, many big words, you have many very fancy terms, but they won't believe you. Yeah, unless they can contact with you. They have real feeling with you. Instead, we use these kinds of videos and articles, Facebook posts, we have real example, have real story explained what we are thinking so people will get more engaged in this process, and they will start to believe in us.

Chien  11:38  
No, I think those are great advices especially coming from a machinery traditional industry. I think a lot of the businesses sometimes forget that, you know, in marketing, I think it is not just sell, sell, sell, but it's almost about educating. It's about storytelling. And you know, with the pandemic, WHF was a hashtag you saw everywhere on Facebook, during the pandemic, I think, especially in a traditional manufacturing setting, sometimes working from home is difficult, because you know, you still need someone to attend to the machine. You had to be there. And then you got to configure the settings. And then you got to see, do testing all that stuff. How were you you able to sort of overcome that?

Joseph  12:15  
Sure, we still live in the real world. We're not in the metaverse, and traditionally, before this pandemic, lots of these preparations actually doing on the shop floor right now we can utilize the new technology, especially our software capability that we make lots software, and new tools to help people to prepare their work, take our tube bending machine, for example, user can use our software to directly convert a 3D model of their product into a machine instruction that was quite difficult before. Now people you need to hire an engineer to spend hours to convert in all this data into machine understandable format. And right now we can have the software just few seconds, you can convert all these things together with the tooling database and material database, we can find the best fit toolings. And we can calculate the right parameters for the productions. And after we prepare all this. We don't have to go to shop floor to try out. Well, not anymore. Yeah, we have 3D simulation software, and we can test the bending program in this virtual world

Chien  13:19  
In a very future, I think in the shop floor, there'll be no one there, right? Like everyone's doing. Hopefully, I don't know, this might be you know, virtual or meta space. Okay. You know, as we all know, ESG is definitely one of the hottest trending topics nowadays in business. Right. And usually, before we get into this ESG section, we like to share some trends. Some statistics with our audience, Wen.

Wen  13:41  
A survey conducted by PwC says that about 83% of consumers saying company should be actively shaping ESG predicts. For business leaders, 31% believe their company has a responsibility to act issue. For employees, 86% prefer to work for companies that care about the same issues. Okay, about SOCO can you share with the audience? What's your view of the current ESG trend and how has SOCO incorporate necessary measures in machine development process?

Joseph  14:13  
Okay, first, I want to mention that ESG is not a new idea. It's actually from the beginning of our company that we are trying very hard to be responsible to our shareholder to be responsible to the society to our employees, and also trying very hard to do good things to our environment. Like in our factory, our HQ right now in Taichung when we build it around 2006, we have already think of building in solar panels and we have rainwater recycled system. Along the way. We also implement ISO 14000 standards, that is to be more sustainable, to save energy consumptions and to maintain the environmental healthness. All these thing are not required by our customer. We are not driven by our customers or there's no government regulation to our industry to make us do this. Because SOCO is a company that we treat our employees, suppliers and our customer as our family. We think that to be family, we have to do more things to be responsible for the society and the environment. I think the most important things in ESG is actually the G part, you have to be responsible for your shareholders. The reason that they take money to invest in you because they want to make money so making money is actually the biggest responsibility of any company. If anybody is saying that you have to put more money into social responsibility, and into environmental responsibility that lead to not become more profitable, or become more sustainable, is not the responsible way to be ESG. I think it's because the environmental crisis that we are facing right now. So the E part is much more important mentioned in all the articles but SOCO do in this field is that we think of actually making the machine tools itself did not cost a lot of energy, and did not incur much environmental burden. But using our machine to make products might incur a lot of energy consumption and material waste. So that's the choices that we put in our efforts to reduce this harm.

Alice 16:28  
Okay. We have also another data that in the US, manufacturing accounted for 23% of direct carbon emissions. According to an API survey, smart factory can have a significant improvement in - 1. energy consumption, 2. factory utilization, and 3. machine efficiency. So manufacturers have a huge opportunity to decrease their environmental impact from within. So we understand that SOCO has already started a process from the product production perspective, according to you previous said. So but we want to take a step further to think about the customer-end. What do you think are their roles in the carbon emission process?

Joseph  17:14  
As I already said, that people using our machine to produce products is actually producing more waste, consume more energy than we do, but we have to think for them, so we have to design the machine according to that. During this production, the most important thing is that we make sure that everything that has been made is useful. So you know, produce defective part. So the quality and the stability of the machine itself is very, very important. And then the machine itself has consumed, the less the energy, the better. So in our design, that we have been changing all the energy hogging devices, such as hydraulic systems, we have changed that into electrical motor with servomotors to save energy that we only use energy when the machine needs to. And also we have multiple patents how to save scrap, like in our vending machine, we combine cutting and bending on the same machine. So that's how we attack this problem. But in the end, I think the most important thing is still that you are making products that people need. The most important thing is not in the production-side, design, the product-side. It is actually in the marketing in the sales-side.

Chien  18:22  
Yeah. So Joseph, thanks for sharing that part. I think it's very insightful in a way that you know, a lot of times we think of carbon emission, we only think of it at our immediate-end, right, you know, okay, that's awesome. That's great, you know, in your space. I mean, there is a lot of competitors, right? Obviously just named for one Germans are very good in part one of the leaders in your industry. And furthermore, there's a lot of upcoming rivals in other parts of the world as well including China and Southeast Asia, right? So how does SOCO maintain its innovation and technology be a leader of it in moving forward?

Joseph  18:55  
Well, I would not say that we want to be the leader people are not looking for the best machine like Germany we know that Germany is very good at machinery but the problem is that there are too far to the market right now. The manufacturing center is right here in Asia we are much more closer to these places. And we have this tradition that we are close to the customer work very hard to understand our customer to get their requirements so our machine may not be the most advanced the fastest but I can assure that we put in the most effort that to make sure our machines suit our customers needs and also I think the special in Taiwanese we are trustable after that we said okay, then we will whatever effort we put in we will make it I think that is the most important things that we can competitive advantage sharing our parts.

Chien  19:44  
Yeah, no, so it's a good thing we're a Taiwanese you know I understand SOCO. We are going to be exhibiting at TIMTOS. The event is just around the corner. And so can you give us a sneak peek of what potentially they can see at your booth?

Joseph  19:57  
Yeah, we will show our famous SP32 left right bending machine with a robotic arm and showcasing special application. We will also showcase how to customize this kind of automation on the site and the laser cutting area. We will be showing our latest SLT155 fiber laser tube cutting system. And this machine not only improved stability and ease of use, but also have significantly advanced in terms of power and speed. We are also be showing our latest center alignment system for this machine. We are also showing our latest sheetmetal cutting machine solars 3015. plus. This machine has incorporated latest technologies such as linear motor, an optical skill, and carbon fiber technology. And along with the machine, we're also showing a compact space saving automatic loading or unloading system. In addition to the machine that we show on the exhibition hall, we also have arranged free shuttle bus to our HQ every day.

Chien  21:03  
Oh, wow.

Joseph  21:04  
So you can take the bus and go to our HQ to see the machine that we are not showing on the site.

Chien  21:09  
No, I think it's just based on some of the things you just mentioned that you will be exhibiting at the show from your booth. I think so you're bringing the future to them right? To see it in front of their eyes. That is wonderful. So right here today on the show. Would you like to maybe send out a shout out maybe a welcome message couraging them to your booth at TIMTOS 2023.

Joseph  21:29  
Okay, I would say "Long time no see, welcome to TIMTOS 2023. After four years of pandemic, we are so excited to finally have our friends all over the world to visit us to experience the best of SOCO hospitality. Our goal is to help you to find the right solution for your problems. So we're looking forward to seeing you in TWTC Exhibition Hall One, booth DO628, DO628. That's where we show in."

Chien  21:58  
Yeah, so everyone makes sure definitely have that on your bucket list to make sure to visit SOCO booth and do check out the future of machinery right before your eyes. Before we end the show, I always like to sort of go back to a little on the softer side, I understand one of your life models is "Premature optimization is the root of all evil." Can you share with us? I mean, your definition of premature optimization.

Joseph  22:24  
This is a quote from a famous computer scientist.

Chien  22:28  

Joseph  22:28  
His name is Donald Knuth and is describing that when you're writing programs, and you always want to make the program run faster, the premature means that before the optimization is done, you have to check if the optimization is it really necessary or without knowing either the optimization will be have like a significant impact on overall performance of the system, you shouldn't do it the personal experience. Actually, before I work in SOCO, I was working with a lot of startups.

Chien  22:59  

Joseph  23:00  
I have witnessed a lot of successful story and some failures story, some of these failure is because they put too much resources in tech knowledge part

Chien  23:11  

Joseph  23:12  
They are improving the product, but actually the product is not needed by anybody. I will say that like communism, like planned economies, exactly the premature optimization. People want to foresee what will be happening, they are conjure up some economical decision based on their imagination. But the plan is to perfect they cannot give up. So they force everybody putting every resources to make something that nobody needs. It's not just waste of resources. It really do harms people.

Chien  23:44  
Yeah, no, thanks for that reminding, and I hopefully the audience today can take that away as well. Joseph, thanks for coming on the show today. That's all for today's show. And thanks for listening. And make sure to subscribe to the podcast channel for more trending insights from business leaders all around the world. And also do leave your comments and feedback. And if you like our show, don't forget to give us a five star rating and you can always follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest episodes as well as the special podcast teasers. Okay, thank you everyone. Hope you guys learn just as much as I have today from Joseph and looking forward to seeing the advanced exhibition technology machinery at TIMTOS 2023. Thank you very much.

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