We caught up with James Murphy of HLH to get his thoughts on how 2017 has been for HLH, and what we might see in 2018.
James, how did 2017 start out for HLH?
It was another year of ups and downs as I am sure was the case for everyone, whatever their industry.
Manufacturing and China as an element in the supply chain are going through many shocks and changes. 3D printing is really starting to emerge as a viable, affordable, and functional means of both prototyping and production. This has challenged a lot of traditional prototyping in a big way this year. There is also industry 4.0 and automation shaking things up. This is bringing new challenges and opportunities and we have had our fair share of both.
Each time I go to the Factory I notice new equipment in place. Can you tell us more about this?
It is essential we stay ahead of the game and stay relevant for our customers, both new and old. In order to do this, we need to keep adding to our arsenal, replacing the old with new and looking to increase the range of equipment and processes we offer.
We have brought five new 3D printers online this year, 2 SLS machines and 3 SLA’s all running different materials. We have also added to our tool building capabilities with a large dual head CNC sink EDM machine and some new CNCs.
Hopefully, 2018 will allow us to keep adding new equipment and machines so that we can offer an ever-increasing range of services for our clients.
Were there any big challenges this year for HLH? If so, how did you overcome them?
The currency markets were a bit of a challenge this year as we do most of our business in USD for overseas, but all our costs are in RMB at home, so we were hit quite hard when the RMB adjusted against the USD.
Also, 2017 saw an increasing number of small trading companies emerge, passing themselves off as factories and manufacturers. This happens every year but 2017 seemed to have more than before. These companies fight hard for market share, those that can win some business might be around next year, those that fail will disappear. This shakes the market up and keeps us on our toes though, so it is not all bad.
There were also some real game-changing companies from overseas who were disrupting their local markets, this was more a challenge for the established players local to them, but the ease of use of their technologies also impacted upon us. We have thankfully been in a position to observe how the market reacted to these developments and have started on our own twists which will be coming in 2018.
Overall, how would you characterize 2017 for HLH?
It has been a year of change and development. We are increasingly seeing the shift away from traditional processes for a lot of the work we used to do. The falling cost of SLA machines and materials in China has meant the market for machined ABS models has quickly disappeared. This has meant we have had to shift our focus domestically and bring online 3 new SLAs to stay relevant.
Internationally our main business has always been and remains to be the machining of metal parts, machining performance plastics, and rapid injection moldings. The impact of 3D printing on these is not yet as noticeable, but it is coming certainly.
Can you give us a sneak-peek as to what HLH has planned for 2018?
We have some very exciting developments coming in the new year, our automated quotation system for 3D printing, vacuum casting and CNC machining is due to come online with our new website within the first two months.
This will allow our clients to get instant, online prices for their parts. We have also built a system which will allow clients to check on the progress of their projects through our factory at their leisure.
We have firm plans to purchase 3D scanning technologies to improve our QC department. We have a new SLS machine coming online in early 2018 and I am sure we will be adding more.
We will keep trying to improve our service, quality, lead time and prices.
A very Happy Holiday from myself and everyone here at HLH. I hope you have a fantastic 2018, we are certainly looking forward to it.
Thank You – James Murphy