From an agricultural state to an industrialized nation: The pace of change in South Korea’s economy is fast. In order to maintain its competitive edge in the market, the metal processing company Shin Sung S&T relies on the ByStar Fiber and thus on fiber laser technology from Bystronic.
Choi Kwang-young has achieved what only very few people in South Korea have: advancing from a small scale entrepreneur to the owner and CEO of a medium-sized company. In 1984, when Choi Kwang-young founded his company Shin Sung S&T, he had six employees, today there are more than 200. “In the beginning, I used to operate a press brake myself every day,” Choi Kwang-young recollects. “Today, this experience helps me understand the situation of my employees.”
Shin Sung S&T’s success story is closely related to the history of the industrial metropolis Daegu, where Shin Sung S&T is headquartered. South Korea’s fourth largest city is still considered a driver of the national economy. This city’s companies played a significant role in South Korea’s rise from an agricultural country to an industrial hub. This development took a mere two generations: An example: At the beginning of the 1960s, approximately half of South Korea’s working population worked in the agricultural production and processing of rice – in 2010, this proportion had reduced to only three percent. Since then the country’s economic output has increased 150-fold.
The 1980s saw a boom in the textile industry in the Daegu region. For Shin Sung S&T, this was a stroke of luck. The young entrepreneur Choi Kwang-young was able to acquire many textile manufacturers as customers. Subsequently, during the 1988 Olympic Summer Games in Seoul, the whole world’s attention focused on South Korea. A sense of optimism spread throughout the whole country. “I was firmly convinced that we will be able to assert ourselves on the market,” Choi Kwang-young says. His recipe for success: “Constant innovation and hard work”.
The latest innovation in Choi Kwang-young’s factory in Daegu is the ByStar Fiber. The cutting system with a powerful 10-kilowatt fiber laser has massively increased the rate of work in the factory hall. However, in addition to speed, Shin Sung’s decision to purchase the ByStar Fiber was also based on the machine’s qualities as an all-rounder. Be it stainless steel, aluminum, non-ferrous metals, or mild steel: The ByStar Fiber cuts all materials, both in the thin and thick range of sheet thicknesses up to 30 mm. “The ByStar Fiber is our most important cutting system,” says Choi Young-chul, Vice President of Bystronic Korea. “We have already been able to sell numerous ByStar Fiber machines.”
There is a great deal of activity in Shin Sung S&T’s 180 meter long and 30 meter wide factory hall: The staccato of the machines in the background while fork-lift trucks load and unload materials. Lee Dong gun is standing in the middle of this hustle and bustle. “I am a genuine Shin Sung product,” the 46-year old engineer says. He started working for Shin Sung immediately after graduating from university. In the meantime, he has worked his way up to the position of Plant Manager.
During the previous decades, Lee Dong-gun experienced all the technological revolutions in the industry and always stayed on the ball. “Nevertheless, you never quite get rid of the feeling of lagging one step behind,” he says referring to the incredible speed of change in the sheet metal processing industry. The ByStar Fiber means a giant leap forward for the company: “Our previous machine had to be monitored by an employee virtually around the clock. The ByStar Fiber, on the other hand, enables completely automated operation. We can use the time this saves for other tasks,” he explains.
Today, South Korea, the small country between the two economic giants China and Japan, is the world’s twelfth largest economy. In the meantime, the country’s economic rise has considerably increased the labor costs. Hence, over the past decades, many factories have left the region.
In spite of the economic pressure: Shin Sung’s CEO Choi Kwang-young believes in the company’s success. He is so convinced, that he wants to further improve his already good reputation as an employer. He proudly points out that all of his 210 employees have permanent contracts. Shin Sung S&T does not have any temporary employees at all. Choi Kwang-young’s next goal is to shorten the 12-hour shifts to make the working climate more family friendly for his employees. “In addition, we have set a target to hire ten new employees every year.” The city of Daegu has already acknowledged this commitment: In 2015, the city administration awarded a prize to Shin Sung S&T for its exemplary hiring policy.