One of the highlights of the 22nd edition of the All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) in Shanghai was the large shared joint booth of the Chinese Henan Prosper and the Spanish company Colomer. The two had been collaborating since 1994, until in 2009 Henan Prosper acquired the finished leather operations of the 100-year old Spanish enterprise and moved their production facilities to China. Today only the trading operations remain in Spain while research and development as well as production all take place in China.
After a ten year transition period, the new entity feels ready to exhibit under one roof. “Adapting to different work habits and lifestyles as well as standardizing procedures took a while,” admits Henan Prosper’s Vice President, David Zhou. Style wise, Colomer is traditionally more oriented towards natural colors while Henan Prosper used to be rather heavy on pigments. “We realized that Colomer’s products were better adapted to today’s consumers’ demand for natural looks so we adopted their style,” Zhou remarks. The acquisition brought other changes. While ten years ago, Henan Prosper was mostly serving the domestic market, they now sell their products worldwide. With production facilities and tanneries scattered all over the world, the company can “play around”, as Zhou says, the tariff conflict that has been affecting trade for the past months.
So how did visitors react to the bold move and new look? “They were shocked and impressed at the same time by our new image,” proclaims Zhou adding that it is part of the company’s new strategy to focus on branding and image. For the occasion, they launched new products including a new coating technology developed with BASF as well as new Plonge designs.
“I have a dream”
“We are already the world’s largest lamb and sheep skin tanner and manufacturer. My dream is to become the best,” muses Zhou. Indeed, numbers are impressive. Over the past 20 years, Henan Prosper has developed an annual capacity of 40 million skins and produces 8 million pairs of footwear every year. Becoming the best implies maximizing environmental consciousness and responsibility. Recently, the company has invested in a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant with a daily treatment capacity of 40,000 tons, according to Zhou. It will further invest USD 1.5 billionto build a solid waste recycling facility.
Long term cooperation with chemical companies BASF and Stahl has led to the development of methods to apply chemicals safely as well as to solutions to recycle leather waste. Meanwhile, the company is developing strategies to improve the conditions of its more than 10,000 strong workforce.
Ultimately, the aim is to gradually become a tannery 4.0. “We do not claim to have reached the level of the tannery 4.0 but we are getting near thanks to the implementation of monitoring systems by Siemens and ABB,” explains Zhou. “Anyway, ultimately, being a tannery 4.0 is being able to tailor make what customers want,” Zhou concludes.