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Shower Components Supply

Global Newsletter for Shower Manufacturers

China’s Maturing Role in the Global Shower Industry Achieving High-end Bright Aluminium Finishes

Quality Control Procedures for Shower Glass

Reducing Costs for Metal Hardware

New Appointments


Sourcing value together.

About Us Shower Components Supply is published by Roclin Global Sourcing, the China supply chain partner of the world’s leading shower enclosure manufacturers. Roclin is an independent Western-managed sourcing and quality control firm based in China, specialising in shower components. We link shower manufacturers directly and transparently with only the most qualified shower glass, aluminium, and hardware factories in China - the world’s largest and most efficient supplier of each of these parts. With unrivalled experience in sourcing and supplying shower components from China, and local representatives throughout Europe and Australasia, we have proven ability to deliver significant cost savings and verifiable quality improvements through our role as an on-call China Sourcing Office to some of the world’s foremost shower manufacturers.

“The results of our work are tangible and speak for themselves – much higher profit margins, better quality products, and a more efficient and reliable global supply chain.” Nick Rossiter, Managing Director

Products Supplied • Tempered glass • Aluminium extrusions • Metal hardware • Plastic injection mouldings • Plastic extrusions • Shower heads & tapware • Shower trays • Sub-assemblies • Complete OEM showers

Recent Results Delivered by Roclin manufacturer saved • A30%UK onshower their curved tempered glass. of Europe’s largest bathroom • One groups saved over 20% on their glass and aluminium. company had their • AnnewAustralian range of showers prototyped within two months. Scandinavian client achieved • Asignificant savings on their €2,000,000 glass spend.


China’s Maturing Role in the Global Shower Industry As China matures as a supplier, the biggest winners will be those companies that recognise the strategic opportunities beyond just price alone.

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hina’s shower manufacturing industry was born in the early 1990’s when Chinese entrepreneurs in Shanghai and Zhongshan cities saw an opportunity to replace imports with locally-produced shower enclosures at much lower cost. As Chinese bathrooms have traditionally functioned as wet rooms (with bathing accomplished using a shower head or faucet & bucket), the market was small, and supply was limited by the lack of specialised component suppliers. Nevertheless, the Zhongshan company went on to give birth to many suppliers and competitors, making the city (where Roclin located its headquarters nearby) the leading shower production base in China today. The export market, however, didn’t really take off until after 2000 when a number of advances, including the production of curved tempered glass in China, made Chinese showers internationally competitive. Shower manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere understandably viewed the emergence of China as a threat. One of Roclin’s clients in Australia was doing OEM manufacturing for another brand at the time and saw their entire OEM business move to China overnight. In another example, the UK’s largest specialist bathroom retailer moved the

“Isn’t China really a case of the glass half full?” Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of General Electric (GE), and author of “Winning”.

production of all their own-brand showers to China, importing up to 80 containers of showers every month.

BY NICK ROSSITER

However increasingly, the more enlightened view was to see China not just as a competitive threat, but also as an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profitability. In the last couple of years alone, Roclin have assisted European shower manufacturers reduce their component costs by several million Euros. So companies have been looking to China for cost savings for some time, and clients have been calling on Roclin’s services to be sure they are dealing with the most qualified shower component factories in China, and to control the production schedule and assure quality. In aluminium, for example, the trend has already been progressing from ordering just long profiles, to having polishing, anodising, cutting-to-length, fabrication, bending, and even partial assembly with other parts done in China, to fully utilize the growing skill base there and maximise savings. More recently, as China matures, leading Western manufacturers are starting to look beyond price and value alone, to see how they can leverage China more strategically. Shower companies are now looking to China for access to large-scale specialised supply capacity, for quality improvements in areas such as metal finishes and glass defect levels, and for quick prototyping of new products. With China’s more strategic role, clients have increasingly called on Roclin to assist with the management of all risks, from IP protection, to production & logistics throughout the supply chain. As an example of China’s new strategic role, one of Roclin’s European clients is using China as the central production springboard for their strategy of supplying showers globally. Their strategy of maximising returns on their

Nick Rossiter is a founder and the current Managing Director of Roclin. To find out more about how establishing a relationship with Roclin may benefit your shower manufacturing business, call +86(0)756 3210990 or email nick@roclin.com unique shower technology and designs can only be realised by having a competitive location to centralise all of their tooling and component production. Others, including some of Europe’s leading shower companies, are utilising China to transform their business by moving more labour-intensive work and the production of sub-assemblies or even whole standard-sized showers to China. This increases their profit margins, and allows them to focus on higher value-added final assembly (of entire sub-assemblies), and manufacturing of custom-sized showers. In the past the biggest beneficiaries from China were those who saw the opportunity, and not just the competitive threat. As China matures, the biggest winners will be those companies who see the strategic opportunities beyond just price alone.


Achieving High-end Bright Aluminium Finishes M

etal finishes for showers are a matter of fashion, but the classic chrome look is one that seems timeless. In the UK and Ireland, bright polished silver aluminium comprises about 90% of showers sold, while in mainland Europe it varies between markets but remains popular, especially for high-end showers. Bright gold, while more subject to fashion trends, is also popular in older-style residences.

Achieving a high-quality mirror-finish on aluminium requires a combination of specialised production technology, quality control and material handling expertise. This starts with production of the alloy billets, where 6463 generally gives a slightly brighter silver finish than 6063 alloy which is also popular. Next, during extrusion, a press is used to push billets through a die under high (and carefully controlled) temperature and pressure. During this procedure the dies and process must be controlled to prevent any die lines appearing on the exposed surfaces of the aluminium. Following this, mechanical polishing is required to achieve a smooth bright finish. Over the years Roclin has done substantial research in China to assess specialised machinery capable of producing exceptional mirror-polished aluminium for showers. Nevertheless hand polishing also remains popular in China given the relatively low labour cost, but also requires more rigorous quality control, as the result ultimately comes down to the expertise of each polisher. Design-for-production knowledge is also an important factor here, and adding a slight convex curve to the primary exposed surfaces of

the aluminium makes the surface more reflective and can significantly enhance the chrome-like mirror look of the finish after polishing. Also in designing the profile, any channels or other structures immediately behind the primary exposed surfaces should be avoided, as these can lead to visible “rib” or “pressure” lines appearing where the structure connects behind the exposed surface. Following mechanical polishing the aluminium is chemically brightened before being anodised to a thickness of about 5 microns. Too thick an anodising layer results in a duller milky finish, while too thin a layer may allow the anodising to come off and expose the surface to oxidation over time. Thinner anodising is also susceptible to giving a rainbow-like appearance to the aluminium, and this is particularly apparent on very large flat profile surfaces. Following final quality control inspection and testing, the aluminium profiles should be wrapped individually in foam and packed in cardboard boxes for safe transport. Achieving a quality finish also comes down to handling during shower production, where the exposed aluminium faces should generally be covered in an adhesive plastic tape or sheet to prevent scratches. Achieving a bright mirror-like polished finish takes a lot of care and specialist skills and equipment. However, as glass is transparent, the aluminium finish is the most critical factor in the perceived quality of the shower, and the highend look of a shower that closely matches the chrome or gold taps is a very worthwhile achievement.

By David Lam David Lam is a Roclin Account Manager and Sourcing Coordinator, responsible for communicating with clients and organising sourcing of new factories and products. Born and raised in the UK, he is based in Roclin’s China headquarters and speaks fluent English and Chinese (Cantonese). He may be contacted at +86 (0)756 3210990, or at david@roclin.com


Quality Control Procedures for Shower Glass S

howers represent a potentially dangerous environment for the use of glass, and one where not only is the glass visible at close range, but must also interlock closely with other metal and plastic components. This highlights the need for stringent quality control procedures focusing on safety, aesthetic and dimensional aspects. Firstly, the raw float glass should comply with relevant standards (EN572 in Europe), and have sufficient light transmittance and minimal inclusions. During initial processing, the annealed glass should be checked (either automatically or manually) to ensure it is within tolerance (usually +/1mm). Following tempering (toughening), the glass should be checked for a wide range of quality issues, before being packaged. Glass from each furnace is also broken on a regular basis to ensure that the number and weight of particles is within the safety standard specified (EN12150 in Europe). The above represents the minimum quality control requirements, however for our clients Roclin goes beyond this, utilising our own on-site quality technicians to test a sample of all batches using world-standard AQL (Acceptable Quality Level) inspection procedures. This protocol utilises statistics to define the required sample size and batch acceptance level, based on the maximum level of rejects that are considered acceptable (we recommend setting this at around 2%). In our case we test the glass against over 30 different quality parameters (more for curved tempered glass), with both the definition of each parameter and the maximum acceptable rejects agreed with the client beforehand. These parameters cover the gamut from aesthetic issues like scratches and “pitting”, to dimension issues like curvature and torsional accuracy on curved glass. We also breaktest glass from each batch in accordance with EN12150 (or other relevant standards, depending on where the glass will be sold). Panels that pass our QC checking are given a

small removable QC Pass label for auditing and traceability purposes. Any batches with too many rejects (as defined by the AQL), are rejected for the factory to 100% recheck and rework (or replace) the glass as required, before Roclin inspects it again. Our policy is not to allow any glass to be dispatched that has not passed our quality control (without receiving written instructions from the client). Clients have commented on the power of having a detailed crate-by-crate quality report prior to shipment from China, in allowing them to plan their production confidently, to minimise safety-stock holding costs, and to achieve higher savings by moving more production to low-cost China. Through this process we have been able to minimise rejects for clients. In one documented case the client, who produces expensive high-end showers, reduced their glass rejects from over 5% with their former well-known European glass supplier, to under 1% with glass we supply from China (while at the same time cutting their costs dramatically). The message is that, with strict quality control, making cost savings by moving to more efficient production locations certainly does not mean having to sacrifice on quality.

By Mark Winter Mark Winter is Roclin’s European Representative, responsible for the UK and Ireland. He has well over ten years of experience serving many of Europe’s leading shower manufacturers, and has helped a number of clients achieve major cost reductions while simultaneously improving quality levels. He may be contacted on +44(0)7852 231330, or at mark@roclin.com.


Reducing Costs for Metal Hardware

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raditionally shower and bathroom hardware has been made from brass, and most manufacturers are set up to process this metal. In 2008 copper (the main component of brass) was trading as high as US$9,000 per ton. With the drop in demand caused by the global financial crisis, as well as the strengthening of the US dollar, the metal fell to as low as US$3,000. Other metals fell by similar margins, with zinc and aluminium trading at little more than US$1,000 per ton. While the savings may not be as large, even when metals are relatively cheap, there may still be worthwhile savings possible by changing parts from brass to alternative metals. Zinc alloy (also

known as ‘Zamak’) often represents the best opportunity, with a weight only slightly less than brass. However maintaining the quality of zinc parts with chrome or other finishes requires careful control. Some parts, especially those with large flat faces, may not be suitable for production with zinc alloy, and relatively few shower hardware factories in China have the equipment and skills to process zinc. Roclin has therefore invested considerable time in addressing these issues and is successfully supplying zinc alloy shower parts to many clients in Europe and elsewhere, achieving worthwhile cost savings over brass, while ensuring finish quality is maintained.

By John Dykins John Dykins is an Account Manager based in Roclin’s China headquarters. He may be contacted at +86 (0)756 3210990, or at john@roclin.com

New Appointments: Erik Jacobsen Appointed to Represent Roclin in Scandinavia & Germany Roclin is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Erik Jacobsen as European Representative, responsible for Scandinavia and Germany. Erik speaks fluent English, Danish, German, and conversational Swedish. He brings decades of

experience in the glass industry to Roclin, having worked in senior roles at Pilkington and other glass processors, and in particular having served the needs of the shower manufacturing industry for many years.

For further information please complete the form below and fax it back to us on +86 756 3210 991 (China). Name Job Title Company Website

Erik comments: “I am excited to be representing a company that has worked with Europe’s leading shower manufacturers in other countries, and to be able to bring similar cost and quality improvements to the Scandinavian and German markets”.

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Aluminium Profiles Toughened Glass Shower Hardware Shower Heads & Tapware Shower Trays Component Assembly Boxed OEM Showers Other, please specify

China Head Office: Nick Rossiter (Managing Director) Roclin Global Sourcing Suite 710, Ping An Building. 51 Yuanlin Road. Jida, Zhuhai. Guangdong, 519015. China. T: +86 756 3210 990 F: +86 756 3210 991 E: info@roclin.com

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