First Published In The Music & Sound Retailer’s March 2007 Issue

Do you think China automatically equals sweatshop? If so, check out the Eurotec Electronics factory in Shongshan in the Guangdong Province. A tour of the southern China factory, home to scores of Behringer products, as well as the adjacent Behringer City, was on the docket hours before Eurotec celebrated its fifth anniversary on Feb. 2.

As for the factory, which Eurotec moved into on May 7, the first thing that immediately popped in your mind was its cleanliness. This factory is where the West meets Asia. “One thing you’ll notice is there’s little WIP (work in progress) out there,” said Behringer CEO Michael Deeb. “When we start something, it gets finished. Our level of integration and supply chain sets us apart.”

Deeb also stressed the importance of compliance and safety. “In building tests for quality, safety, and compliance, we have test procedures, test labs, and test facilities inside the factory itself, which is very unique.”

Also unique in the factory was the research and development unit. “We’ve actually built the R&D into a 90-person unit at the factory,” said Stephen Fraser, Behringer’s chief operating officer. “They are a point of presence for the handover between the point of conception, design, and feasibility. Although those might take place outside of China, the systems engineers are there so that if there are any problems with the transitions or reproduction challenges, it’s [fixed] at that point.”

Working conditions easily met Western standards at Eurotec. Chinese employees work eight-hour shifts, with the company operating on a two-shift daily schedule. But why do employees want to work at Eurotec? To start, employees receive room and board. They are housed in apartments right next to the factory and have a choice of two canteens to choose from when eating three meals a day. Behringer City, which is the name for the campus that houses the factory, apartments, canteens, and more, also offers entertainment. Sitting in between the factory and the apartments is a full basketball court where company tournaments are held. (Chinese native and Houston Rockets 7´ 6” center Yao Ming has clearly had a huge influence on the country. Basketball courts were practically everywhere). Televisions, telephones, a “DVD room,” a ping-pong table, a library, and an infirmary are also housed on campus. Oh, and by the way, work gets done. The Chinese plant has a 30,000 monthly guitar capacity and produces about 60,000 speakers a month. (Employees were finishing the final touches on El Toro guitars while we were there).

“Putting the operational assets in one place makes a great deal of sense when it comes to logistics, warehousing, and manufacturing,” said Deeb of the idea for Behringer City. “As for the environment and the employees, No.1, it’s closer to work, and No. 2, you can control and improve the environment they live in. That helps with staff retention. Staff retention helps with the overall quality of control aspect. And there’s the security factor as well.”

“Employees enjoy working here,” added Fraser. “There’s truly a passion about the company. That’s nice to see.”

Continuing on that topic, company founder Uli Behringer said he plans to distribute shares to long-time employees as a way to “share the wealth and thank them for their hard work.” Behringer certainly gave back to its employees during the four-hour anniversary celebration via lotteries. Several of the nearly 3,000 Chinese employees in attendance took home cash prizes.

There’s no question a happy worker is a productive worker. And there’s no doubt living right next door to the workplace improves productivity. “Traffic was a killer,” or “My car broke down,” are obviously not phrases you will ever hear from employees.

But even more important, according to Deeb and Fraser, is the employees are a perfect fit for the company’s goals. But why was Zhongshan a perfect fit for them? Did they consider other locations for Behringer City in China and other countries? “That was a tough decision, because of course, you have to cut costs,” said Deeb. “We had to look at the whole supply chain. We also had to look at which ports are close by to ship from. Are they shuttle ports or are they deep ports? In other words, do they have to go through barges and then through another deep sea port? Would we have to find new staff and train them or could we retain current employees? We went through all of that. We considered many places. We got the deal we wanted here. This location helps us to keep the costs low as well as keep the quality high.”

As an addendum to the previous comment, Zhongshan is within about a half-hour drive of a ferry port. From there, you can get to Hong Kong International Airport in one hour and 10 minutes and Hong Kong’s Kowloon province in one hour and 30 minutes.

Happy Anniversary

Let’s get back to the key highlight for the employees, Eurotec’s four-hour anniversary party. The party took five months of planning. According to Deeb, “This was a way to say to our employees, ‘Hey guys, you’ve really done well. This is a milestone. You should be proud.’ We also wanted to share this with our customers and the world. That’s why we invited the press.”

Before media and dealers even walked into the catering hall, guests were serenaded by a band. Dealers and members of the media walked into the catering hall in a procession style. They were greeted by a standing ovation from the Eurotec employees.

When the party started, there were speeches by Behringer and Deeb, translated from English to Chinese of course, and then out pranced dancers, singers, a fashion show, and even a “Mr. and Mrs. Eurotec” contest. That was combined with a traditional Chinese feast of Miso soup, lamb, duck, beer, etc.

Even the night before the fifth anniversary featured a party, although it was on a smaller scale. But the outdoor dinner started and ended with a bang. Before entering the restaurant, Behringer and Deeb ignited a three-story high firecracker. After the audio/visual display ended, several car alarms hilariously chirped in the parking lot as a response. The dinner ended with a fireworks display. In between was Chinese bamboo pole dancing, where one has to jump back and forth from inside and outside of two bamboo poles constantly moved by two volunteers.

After both nights of parties concluded, Eurotec employees didn’t have much time to relax. Behringer has an aggressive goal of launching 200 products this year. Eighty debuted at NAMM. But how will the company be able to release 120 more products this calendar year? “You have to look at product families. You have to look at platform designs…So in other words, when you design amplifiers, don’t design them individually. Design them around subassemblies,” said Deeb. “This way, you can roll out a lot of new designs very quickly. But very importantly, you also minimize downtime and potential problems because you have the components instead of samples.”

Travel Back

No more articles