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Mar 9

Interview with Michael Schneider, General Manager of WAREMA Shanghai

R+T: Firstly, Welcome to R+T Asia, this is the first time, when WAREMA exhibits at R+T Asia. What prompted you to exhibit at our platform?

WAREMA: There are several factors that made us join this exhibition. We have been attending the R+T in Germany for many years and it is one of our most successful participated exhibitions. We did also recognize an increasing numbers of Chinese and Asian customers that visited our booth in Germany. Our products are exported to Asia and we want to be also present on this show in Shanghai for our Asian customers.

Secondly, we have received more and more inquiries for the retail market. Owners of villas or apartments start to understand the importance and benefits from our sun shading solutions. Not only you save energy, but you also increase your living comfort by managing the sun light that comes into your house. There are basically three measures how you can save energy; insulation of the building, multilayered glass windows and external Venetian blinds.

Thirdly, we have an increasing number of Chinese clients who invest in office buildings. They understand the energy saving effect and the increased level of working comfort in the office building and therefore decide, to invest in our products long term. We have one customer in Shanghai, whose office building has been rented out completely long-term at an over average rental price vs another office building near the bund, which has no Venetian blinds and the building is only rented out 50%. That clearly shows that tenants appreciate not only the energy saving aspect but especially the comfortable working environment.

R+T: As the global leader in sun protection systems, WAREMA entered Chinese market many years ago, could you share with us your observations on the change of Chinese market in these years?

WAREMA: Our first project that we realized in China was in Shanghai near Jing An temple, Cross Ocean.

In 2006 when we entered the market, it was difficult to find people who understand what we are doing. At that time, we hold seminars with architects, general contractors, façade consultants, project management companies, façade companies and explain them our products and functions. At that time, energy saving was just a buzz word but not really taken seriously. We had more business with foreign manufacturing companies than Chinese companies. This has changed over the time. Now our business is 60% with Chinese companies e.g. Huawei, CNPC, NDB, Beijing Jiaming. But of course also many German companies, e.g. Bosch, Siemens, Brose, GMP….

R+T: In the past 10 years, the government of China introduced some policies regarding to green building and energy-saving products, promoting especially applications of sun protection. Did your company benefit from these policies?

WAREMA: Yes indeed. We benefited from those policies. Especially in Beijing/Shanghai many new office buildings use our products successfully. External sun shading products reduces 90% of the radiation and prevents the inside from heating up, whereas inside sun shading about 50%. Our sun shading system does not only consist of the Venetian blind itself, but also an intelligent control system tracking the sun and position the slats accordingly, to provide an optimum of brightness and heat protection at all time. The combination of both is what sun light management means.

It is however not always understood what effective sun shading really is, e.g. in many buildings, roller blinds are used for sun shading, with the assumption, that this has an energy effect. However it is the opposite. The fabric of a roller blind in a window will be heated up by the sun and slowly release the heat into the room. It is the same if you have a hot cup of coffee. After a while the coffee and the mug is cold because the heat was released into the environment. Roller blinds are very useful when talking about light reflection, light transmission, noise reduction and fire behavior in offices.

It is however also a matter of investment, that the investor has to consider and therefore cheaper solutions are considered, which however in long term are more expensive (no energy saving). When talking about sustainability then this is the wrong choice. 

R+T: We know that WAREMA’s products are imported from the European market. Chinese market is different, because of its particularities. How did you adapt your products to Chinese market requirements and how did you match them with Chinese customers?

WAREMA: We are not importing our products but only some raw materials. This is because we are not getting the same quality locally and we promise our customers “WAREMA standard”. But we also have some of our products sourced locally. We have to differentiate here our 2 main products:

Venetian blinds: We import some raw material and our control units

Roller blinds: Components are sourced locally according our design and quality standard

The adaption is more on the product usage. Whereas in Europe, more outside Venetian blinds are being used, because of lesser high rise buildings. In China more inside venetian blind products are being used since most of our customers invest high rise office buildings.

R+T: Visiting R+T Stuttgart in 2015, we noticed, that European companies are more mature, both in regards to their scale and their products. Chinese companies are often not that developed. What – in your opinion – are the main differences between Chinese and European companies in Sun Protection industry?

WAREMA: Sun protection is a big topic since many years and growing in Europe. It is a standard that buildings, either private or commercial, need to be energy efficient. As such, building insulation, multilayered glass windows and sun protection are paid high attention.

The government bank KfW (Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau) e.g., supports low energy buildings with special low interest loans. This encourages companies like WAREMA to provide the necessary products. Furthermore all architects understand and automatically use those products in the design phase already. There is no question about whether to use them or not, but just what product/brand. In China many architects are already aware and have the knowledge but it will be only implemented halfhearted by the investor who is looking for a fast ROI.

In the private sectors we see some window manufacturers who sell premium windows that are comparable to European standard and their business is growing. This is an indicator that private consumers understand the benefit. Next step will be that they discover the benefit of sun protection.

R+T: With regards to exterior sun protection industry and its products, the companies mainly focus on engineering market and retailer market. How does your company distribute these 2 markets?

WAREMA: We differentiate between project business and retail market. We cater the project business through our own network of partners. These large scale projects will need our direct support and applications know-how to provide a tailor made solution for the needs of our customers.

The retail business is now in the infant stage. We have cooperation with some premium window manufacturers who have their retail network across China. Those retail networks will offer our products to their customers. But we are still in the early stage of the development. To bring the knowledge and application to the retail market requires intensive training and understanding of the sales person. It is also important that the sales person can explain the function and benefits to our customers.

There is a clear trend towards using our products as inquiries for private customers have picked up.