REGIONAL REPORT: CHINA the company’s integrated sales department, while also overseeing business and operations in Qingdao, located in Shandong Province on the country’s east coast. “With Irene Tan, we can expand our competence in this region and strengthen our position in the market, moving closer to our customers will enable us to act even more quickly and more flexibly,” said Hiller at the time of the announcement. Recaro is also moving ahead with an executive with deep experience in the region and a wealth of airline experience. Before joining Recaro, Tan was Regional Director of Marketing and Product Strategy at Panasonic Avionics Corporation. Before that, she held executive positions at Singapore Airlines, Dragonair and Cathay Pacific Airways. Much of her work with the airlines involved passenger experience. “In my previous position, I learned the significance of providing passengers with a seamless flight experience,” she said, at the time of the announcement. PAX International caught up with Irene Tan just before this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo. She will be our first multi-language Industry Q and A. PAX International: Recaro’s factory in Qingdao opened near the end of 2013. Since then what has been the yearly seating production and what is projected for the year ahead? Irene Tan: The yearly seating production has been doubling each year. It started with 5,000, then it achieved 10,000 and, going ahead, it is projected at 20,000 pax. PAX: What seats in the Recaro line are made at the factory? Tan: At our factory in Qingdao, we manufacture economy class seats for single-aisle aircraft. PAX: From start to finish, how long does it take to produce an airline seat for Economy, Business and First class? Could we get a general step-by-step description? Tan: Recaro Aircraft Seating produces economy and business class seats for Airbus and Boeing aircraft. We are very focused and want to be the best in what we are doing. Our site at Qingdao specializes in producing Economy class seats. The time required to produce an aircraft seat varies tremendously depending on the seat model, as well as on the level of customization requirements specified by the airline. It isn’t really possible for us to give a step-by-step description since the seats for each customer are always different. PAX: How much does Recaro work with subcontractors on seating? Tan: At first glance, it may appear that all seats within the cabin are identical, but in fact there is a variety of the same seat type in one aircraft. Due to the low quantities, Recaro also produces parts. We do seat customization as well as the final assembly entirely on our own. However, we also assemble components from local suppliers and from our worldwide supplier network. PAX: The facility was designed to meet the seating needs of airlines in China. The country has been going through some economic ups and downs in recent years. What sort of demand from China for airline seating are you seeing in the immediate future? Tan: As mentioned previously, our seating production capacity has doubled each year, and these numbers are driven by the demand from Chinese airline carriers. As you may have read, Boeing has projected 15,130 new aircraft to be delivered to the Asia-Pacific 14 | PAX INTERNATIONAL | MARCH/APRIL 2017
region by 2035 and this number equals the total demand from America and Europe. More than half of these aircraft will be delivered to China. Since the traveling population is increasing, there remains a strong demand for new aircraft and therefore, demand for new seats will continue. We see tremendous growth in China and remain optimistic about the Chinese market. PAX: A description of the facility mentions “state-of-the-art” lean production methods. What are some examples, and how much of the manufacturing processes are automated? Tan: Due to the wide range of different seats within the cabin, aircraft seat manufacturing is more of a manual process than an automated one. However, we are very lean-focused in our operations and our results speak for themselves — we have been given the best rating in terms of our on-time delivery. Since we began operations at our site, we have achieved 100% on-time seat delivery as well as high ratings for our quality output from the original equipment manufacturer. With shop floor management, we have developed a culture of consistent improvements in terms of management performance and communication: thanks to regular information exchange, problems can be recognized at an early stage, we can immediately react to variations and solutions can be introduced quickly. PAX: At the beginning, workers were trained extensively in Germany and Poland. What is the training process now? Is there more taking place in-house? Tan: We focus very much on continuous staff training and qualification. Training is generally conducted in-house as well as within our global network. We also focus on best practices that are shared further within our global network group. PAX: What have you learned about running manufacturing operations in China? What’s essential for a company that may be considering a similar move? Tan: Setting up a manufacturing plant in China is essentially the same as in all other countries. Establishing clear processes and paying attention to staff training and qualification are high priority. Putting clear processes and the right people in place are the fundamentals leading to quality output. I believe that maintaining a stable and capable team along with clear communication is essential. This also plays an important role in ensuring success.