As I let my mind range over the happenings of the past couple of months or so, my overall impression is of a great deal of movement. Certainly, for some time we have all been aware of the shift of manufacturing from Europe and the US to China and south east Asia. Now we are seeing a positive reaction from those companies and organisations who do not wish to be left behind.

Practically every major company you can think of has a Chinese venture. BASF Colorants and Chemicals (BACC) Shanghai are a 100% subsidiary of BASF. They greatly expanded their manufacturing capacity for synthetic and dispersing agents when a new production line and spray drying tower for products in powder form came on line at the start of 2004. Shanghai is the main leather chemicals manufacturing point for BASF in the Greater China area and is also the Asia-Pacific regional technical centre.

The LANXESS Wuxi Chemicals Co Ltd site is also well established but in February new buildings were opened to allow a significant increase in the site’s production capacity. The company were originally founded as a joint venture with Wuxi Dyestuff Factory and have been manufacturing leather chemicals since 1998.

In recent months, we have run a number of news stories including TFL’s new facility in the main Tongxiang City tannery cluster which is the most recent in a series of operations within China since TFL first established the Chinese joint venture QTFL in early 1996.

In December, Clariant opened their new technical service centre in the Caohejing High Tech Park in Shanghai. More recently CTC France reinforced their presence in Shanghai by opening a Chinese subsidiary company, CTC Shanghai, and Trumpler announced that production was about to commence on schedule at their daughter company Trumpler Dyes (Jiaxing) which is located midway between Shanghai and Haining.

Then came news of Stahl’s groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a manufacturing facility in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, which is located between Nanjing and Shanghai. This follows the formation of Stahl Coatings and Fine Chemicals (Suzhou) Co Ltd.

And it isn’t only in China where international companies are setting up operations. LANXESS KK, the Japanese subsidiary, inaugurated new headquarters in Tokyo this year, and TFL have acquired a company in Sri Lanka which is renamed TFL Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and will offer support for beamhouse, wet-end and finishing in countries in south Asia, mainly Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

UK footwear company Clarks have shut their last factory in the UK and are setting up offices all around Asia, in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, with the regional head offices in Malaysia. And Ecco recently opened their first footwear factory in China in Xiamen, the first phase phase of an ambitious project. They have also applied for permission to build a tannery.

Italian furniture maker Nicoletti have bought out their joint venture partner and now own their Chinese factory outright. It was only opened last July. Nicoletti also have plans to open 40 brand name stores in China. And China is not the only destination.Natuzzi, who have been producing in China for four years, are to open a tannery next year in Brazil where they already have two production plants.The LANXESS Group Leather Business Unit have expanded their applications development department in São Leopoldo, near Porto Alegre, and TFL do Brasil Industria Química, São Leopoldo, inaugurated their centre for development and technology on April 18 for an investment of €2 million. Nor does it end there, but I have run out of space……