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Asahi quickly shifts focus to quality over quantity

Published March 4, 2014
Asahi workers painting a carbon frame in its factory in Tainan City

TAINAN CITY, Taiwan—Asahi’s factory in Tainan City at the southern end of Taiwan has the capacity to paint and assemble up to 200,000 units annually, but the company is currently turning out just 30,000 a year.

Three years ago, Asahi shifted its focus from mass-market to high-end products in order stay competitive as an increasing number of manufacturers left Taiwan and moved to Southeast Asia and China.

With the addition of a state-of-the-art painting facility in 2008, a pro wheel building department in 2009 and carbon painting capabilities in 2010, Asahi took its first steps toward serving smaller customers who might purchase 2,000 or fewer units annually. Its average selling price jumped from $150 to nearly $800 in three model years.

“We have invested heavily in our facility here in order to produce a high-end product,” said Tommy Chen, CEO at Asahi since 2010. “I’m proud to say that the turnaround took under two years.”

The company hired staff from around the world with various specialties to help take Asahi to the next level. Chen said a key part of the changeover was training existing staff on new techniques.

“It took a lot of work to teach and train everyone, but I have to say that our hard workers here in Tainan deserve all the credit for making the changes possible,” he said.

Asahi has around 120 employees working in its factory, which has operated out of the same location since the company started in 1972, around the same time as Giant and Merida. In the 1970s and ’80s, Asahi’s major export business was to the U.S. market for Marin Bikes and Montgomery Ward. It later produced bikes for various European brands and was one of the first Taiwanese manufacturers to venture into that market. In 1998, Asahi became ISO certified.

Asahi sources frames and paints and assembles complete bikes on-site. With its low-dust carbon fiber painting facility, Asahi can meet demand for quality carbon finishing, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

The company also builds high-end road wheels and strings carbon fiber rims by hand. Its ultimate goal is to be a full-service, start-to-finish factory, with capacity to perform in-house testing, supply chain sourcing, product design and development, and color and graphics development. Moving forward, Chen said that Asahi hopes to be producing for new and upcoming brands.

“We will continue to make the best bikes in the world,” he said. “We have plenty of room for growth and our factory has the capacity to produce more units as demand grows. Right now, we are using just a fraction of our capabilities, and I’d like to see that change.”

Asahi is part of the Chen Group, a public company traded on the Taiwan stock exchange. It owns two hotels, Quintain Steel Co. and a stock trading company.

Topics associated with this article: Taipei Cycle Show

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