Heshan Blanke Ltd. – successful
proximity to the Asian market
Located in Heshan
City, Guangdong Province, China, Heshan Blanke Textile Ltd. is
the joint venture of Fritz Blanke GmbH & Co. KG. At the newly
founded plant, Heshan Blanke employs dyeing equipments from
Fong's National Engineering Co., Ltd. and THEN Maschinen GmbH.
We are pleased to publish an indepth report of Heshan Blanke
Textile Ltd and an interview of Andreas Blanke, the owner of
Fritz Blanke GmbH & Co. KG (D), with special emphasis on the
major business activities of Heshan Blanke and their
co-operation with Fong's Group in the past few years.
In the light of today’s global goods flows, market proximity is one of the most
important prerequisites for business success, a fact clearly demonstrated by
retail chains operating worldwide. Nonetheless, a textile finisher who adopts
such a strategy must possess a special brand of entrepreneurial courage and the
right people. These characteristics and a classic example of how this approach
can succeed are evidenced by the history of Heshan Blanke Textile Ltd., which
employs dyeing equipment from Fong’s National Engineering Co. Ltd. (HK) and the
Then Maschinen GmbH (D) management systems at its plant in China.
The parent company was founded in Bielefeld, a traditional textile industry
location, during 1948 by Fritz Blanke. His new company was versatile, dyeing
military greatcoats and upgrading sisal yarns for carpets and artificial silk
knits for stockings. The knits were finished as required by the business
situation. In 1949, the first wood winch vats went into operation and one of the
first tiered stenters in Western Germany was built in-house and used as a drying
At the turn of 1952/53, the company moved into the premises of a former dyeing
shop in Bad Salzuflen. A mere five years later, these facilities are once again
too small. Consequently, Fritz Blanke purchased a plot of land and in 1957 a new
building was completed. By 1959, two new stenters were in operation as knitted
shirt materials had become fashionable. These fabrics required high-temperature
beam dyeing systems and soon five stenters were running. In 1962, following the
death of the company founder, Fritz Blanke, Friedrich Blanke assumed the
management of the company and was joined in the firm by Ernst-August Blanke.
Today, a workforce of 200 produces 1,600 t, or 12 million metres, of material in
an area of 30,000 m². The Blanke company upgrades, laminates, coats and prints
virtually every type of fabric, weave, knit and nonwovens for the automotive,
medical, underwear/corset, deco/home and technical textile segments. Natural and
synthetic fibre fabrics and knits, along with special weaves using technical
yarns made of Kevlar or Nomex fibres are all upgraded.
Production meets the requirements of the Eco-Tex 100 standard. Blanke guarantees
top quality, environmentally compatible production, which has been tested with
regard to pollutant substances and meets the demands of the market. The company
possesses DIN EN ISO 9001: 2000 accreditation for the textile finishing,
printing and laminating areas.
As far as environmental protection is concerned, a three-pronged strategy of
prevention, preparation and disposal is pursued in every area of the company.
Modern wastewater treatment technology ensures that the water employed in the
production processes is cleaned using a chemical-physical end process. Special
attention is paid to the prevention of ecological impact and through the
balancing of the contents of the wastewater emanating from the upgrading
processes, it is possible to adopt measures prior to the use of critical
The route to China
For Europeans, the ambition of establishing a company production facility in
China represents a very special challenge. Johann Wilhelm Birkenhauer (JWB) acts
as an on-site, authorised project manager at Heshan Blanke Textile Ltd. A
textile engineering graduate, he has been in the industry for the past 35 years
and shares a long-term friendship with Andreas Blanke. This formed the basis for
their co-operation, which commenced with a part-time management appointment.
Johann then headed the entire project in China, right up to the beginning of
production. In the final completion phase leading to operational maturity,
Johann was supported by company engineers from Germany and the parent company in
Bad Salzuflen and this assistance has continued up to today.
How did everything begin?
JWB. “Blanke has been working for the German company, Julius Boos jr. GmbH & Co.
KG in Goch and Wuppertal as a commission finisher for the past twenty years. In
particular, the high-quality products were then made-up in Asia. The changed
markets and the desire for customer proximity led to the idea of establishing a
company production facility in China.”
Once the decision had been taken to start manufacturing in China, the production
technology direction had to be established and it was decided to opt for the
highest possible degree of automation and first class standards. In line with
the Blanke philosophy, the greatest possible congruity had to be found between
suppliers, products, machinery and technology. For Johann Wilhelm Birkenhauer,
the competence of the workforce was also of major significance.
The new machines
JWB.“The first container with machinery arrived on September 26, 2005, when the
production halls were still partly under construction. However, by February
2006, we were already making the first test dyeing runs.”
And what was the attraction of assuming such a task?
JWB. “The challenge of participating in something entirely new and the
friendship with Andreas Blanke, who within his company brings people and
technology together in a very special manner. This means that the profit motive
is not the single predominate cooncern, but also that company staff should enjoy
job satisfaction. Accordingly, we wish to create a basis for the provision of
quality personnel with suitably attractive employment, as this is the only way
that one can work in an optimum manner and ensure that technology and the
related know-how stay in the company. People must be provided with perspectives
so that they remain within the company. This is precisely what we do as such an
orientation is part of Blank corporate culture.”
This spirit is tangible throughout the entire company as JWB designates the
cultural differences between China and Germany as constituting the greatest
obstacle on the road to production in China. Moreover, the influence of the
authorities is even greater in China than it is in Germany and this is a
Why did you select machinery from Fong’s National and the Then Maschinen GmbH
integrated management system?
JWB. “Initial contacts regarding this purchase took place as early as February
2005 and following an extended evaluation phase, we decided to buy the Fong’s
National equipment and the Then management systems.
Subsequently, two Fong’s National machines, consisting of an ECO 88-1T-T50 with
one tube and an ECO 88-1T-T50 with four tubes, were brought to our plant in
Germany and integrated into standard production. The aim was to find out if we
could manufacture the products that we wanted with these machines. The answer
was affirmative and together with Fong’s, we brought the equipment up to
As I mentioned previously, the objective was to achieve a high degree of
automation. Therefore, in addition to the Fong’s machinery, we bought an
automatic dispensing system from its German sister company, Then Maschinen GmbH,
Schwäbisch Hall, which is also part of the Fong’s Industries Group. As a
consequence, we can attain an excellent level of automation right up to the
fully finished product.”
The machine pool has a classic layout. Three ECO 88-1T-T50 operate in
production, with two in tandem, along with four ALLFIT dyeing machines for
medium-sized batches and two CBS beam dyeing machines.
The integrated TDS management system from Then undertakes the administration and
organisation of the dyehouse. The system integrates company and third party
products, as well as PC control systems and hosts to form an integrated dyehouse
system. Among the tasks handled are order supply, disposition, recipe systems
and calculation programs for the optimisation of dyeing processes. The entire
software is fully object-oriented and programmes with the very latest
linkage of the individual components in the dyehouse guarantees an optimum data
flow and a clearly structured and flexible production sequence.
Below a uniform operator interface, the TDS communicates the process programs to
the controls of the dyeing machines in accordance with the selected sequence.
Accordingly, production recipes are sent to the weighing station, the ADS
solvent station, or the CHD chemical dosing unit. Set and actual values, all
types of statistics and faults are reported by the dyeing machines to the
control system and then stored.
European environmental standards
It the aim of the management to use the best possible, environmentally
compatible technology even in China. Johann Wilhelm Birkenhauer, “We went to
China to work in a serious manner and also to set a positive example with regard
to the environment, which is a special concern of Andreas Blanke. As a result we
have invested a considerable amount in this area in Heshan City. Wastewater is
cleaned using advanced technology and when it leaves the cleaning system, the
water is considerably purer than during feeding. Indeed, the pre-treatment of
the water also requires considerable expense and effort.”
Blanke is regarded as a leading finisher in the highly elastic knits and warp
knitted goods area. In order to market the company’s production in Asia, a joint
venture, BBF Boos Blanke Fabric Ltd., was founded as a sales company in Hong
Kong by Blanke and the knits manufacturer, Boos. Johann Wilhelm Birkenhauer says
that as a result of the teamwork with the raw materials producer, everything
from the yarn to the final finishing is on a one-stop shopping basis and this
creates Blanke’s market position. Within this context, product development is a
major issue with further advances constantly being made in the warp knitting
shop on the basis of existing items. Equally, certain products are being
finished using nano-technology such as silver ions.
View of the advanced wastewater plant
technology employed by Heshan Blanke Ltd., which in any
comparison exceeds the highest European standards.
And what are current market demands with regard to products from Heshan?
JWB. “First and foremost, assured product quality and absolute reliability as a
supplier. Of equal importance are the use of physiologically harmless dyes and
additives, as the products are often worn in direct contact with the skin.”
What then are the major advantages of the plant?
JWB.“Via the Fong’s-Then system we know exactly what is going on at any one
moment, have a precise overview and thus everything under control. Our high
standard products require total quality assurance at all times.”
The plant has been operative since February 2006 and saleable products were
manufactured from the outset. How was that possible?
JWB “The human-machine-technology interface is of special importance and in our
case functions perfectly. One needs the right people for this purpose and we
have them. Our experience up to now has been positive and our expectations have
been largely fulfilled. Then and Fong’s have a clearly defined service
orientation, which is exactly in line with our needs. Should we occasionally
have a problem, competent service engineers are always on the spot immediately.”
Johann Willhelm Birkenhauer envisages massive challenges in the coming years,
“All the partners in the production chain must work together. We have reached a
phase in which large markets are shrinking and small markets are growing. It is
here that we have to make our presence felt. I would also like to see even
closer co-operation between machinery producers and users in the development
area, as this would help to achieve greater mastery of the problems of the
JWB regards the current market situation as positive. The customers can see that
the price/performance ratio is in order, “Today, quality has gained a different
meaning that also applies in China. The markets are slowly departing from the
throwaway society and one is ready to pay for a certain value added. This is
seen as being a multiple in times of resource shortages. Naturally, the extreme
price pressure causes us headaches, but with the right, top quality products at
the correct price we are in line with customer needs. Moreover, the next season
always comes around and then we must, and will, hold our own.”
Teijin polyester-based textile
fabric for Shinkansen bullet train
Teijin Fibers Limited, the core company within Teijin
Group's polyester fibers business, announced that its
lightweight, high-performance ELK polyester cushion
materials are being used in the new advanced "N700 Series"
shinkansen bullet train.
ELK is a polyester elastic fibrous
material that has found growing application as an
alternative to traditional foamed polyurethane. Teijin
Fibers' ELK is lightweight, air-permeable and recyclable,
and exhibits significant elasticity and durability.
At a time when Japanese railway
companies are seeking ways to deliver passenger trains
that are lighter, more energy-efficient, and recyclable,
demand is on the rise for materials with ELK's
characteristics. In fact, 20% of the approximately 50,000
passenger cars operated by Japan Railways Group and
private Japanese railway companies feature seats made of
ELK. The ratio is highest for commuter trains operated in
high-volume metropolitan areas.
The first N700 Series shinkansen
entered service on July 1, 2007, featuring seat backrests
made of ELK. All told, Teijin Fibers expects to supply
materials for about 60,000 N700 Series seats. Teijin
Chemicals Ltd., a specialty plastics company in the Teijin
Group, is meanwhile supplying highly durable Panlite
polycarbonate resin for N700 Series windows under a deal
announced on June 28 in this year.
Building on the momentum generated by
its use in Japan's next-generation shinkansen, Teijin
Fibers will attend an international exhibition for train
interior materials being held this November in Koln,
Germany for the purpose of introducing ELK to the European
Union. The company also hopes to expand sales of ELK for
application to the automobile, aircraft and furniture