As part of our China issue, gasworld catches up with gas analysis experts Servomex.

Founded in the UK in 1952, Servomex is one of the world’s longest serving experts in gas analysis and instrumentation.

The originator and self-confessed leader in paramagnetic sensing technology, with a strong reputation in the development of zirconia, photometric, thick-film, laser, plasma and GC technologies, Servomex provides a comprehensive portfolio of dependable, high performance products.

From portable gas analysers to complex process solutions, Servomex delivers complete gas analysis systems to a wide range of industries including hydrocarbon processing, industrial gas and OEM markets.

This is a comprehensive package of products and services that the company has been delivering to the Asia Pacific region for almost a decade now.

Servomex has long had an interest in the Asia Pacific region, gasworld understands, but the past 10 years has really seen the company take this further and establish a ‘solid presence’ in this booming geography.

Having grown a presence in Shanghai (China) and Tokyo (Japan) in 2001 and 2003, a major turning point arrived two years later when Servomex opened a manufacturing facility in Shanghai in 2005. Building on this newly-adopted focus on regional operations, the company consolidated on its Shanghai success by making the site home to its new Asia Pacific business centre in 2007 – one of five regional business centres around the world for Servomex.

As part of our China-focused issue, gasworld took the opportunity of an exclusive interview with Frank Zhu, General Manager, Asia Pacific, who oversees the company’s business operations in China. He was only too happy to answer our questions – giving an interesting insight into the region’s dynamic business & equipment market.

What are the main industries or applications served by Servomex in China?
Servomex’s target industries and applications are within industrial gas production and petrochemical markets, whether delivering individual analyser solutions or complete systems and services.

In addition, demand for world-leading sensor technologies means our sensors are now available directly to the OEM sector through the Hummingbird Sensing Technology brand.

What operations does the company run in China?
It is almost ten years since Servomex established a direct presence in China and our growth reflects the remarkable changes that have happened in that time.

The decision to site a manufacturing facility and then centre our regional operations in Shanghai was simple business sense, for not only has it become the major regional focus for business and industrial production, but also is an international travel hub for all other countries in the region.

The establishment of the Asia Pacific business centre has allowed us to deliver a complete package of operations to countries within our region, including sales, service and support. The facility has a full system build capability, so it can supply not just analysers but complete systems. This not only reinforces the independent capabilities of our operations in China, but ensures we are available to any customer in the Asia Pacific region.

How has business performed in China? Is this buoyant region leading the way to recovery for the industrial gas & equipment companies?
As we are a business with a global focus, we have seen marked differences across our regions over the last few years, especially in the rates of growth against other world regions – and it is true to say that business growth here has been extremely pleasing.

In part this is due to our increased focus of resources in the region, which has helped us to grow our market share. However, our growth has also been stimulated by continued demand.

As an example, in 2003-2007, the gross annual output of China’s gas industry annual gross output grew by 65% against a global rate of 12%. Until 2016, we expect at least 10% growth every year, which are by any measure exceptional levels of growth. In financial terms, this gross output value in 2007 was £50bn with a target of £100bn in 2016.

In that context, we have more than doubled our sales in the past three years, and continue to see healthy expansion of all our business activities – so the opportunities are certainly there for the right companies with the right approach.

What’s driving IG growth in China at present?
There is no doubt that the sheer scale of the expansion of China’s economy, manufacturing base and infrastructure is continuing to drive exceptional growth for the full range of industrial gases.

The requirements of our customers are increasingly diverse and sophisticated, with recent major projects including providing full analyser systems to monitor PTA production at SINOPEC Yanshan in Beijing and Pengwei Petroleum & Chemical Co. Ltd in Chongqing City, and the monitoring of POSM production at Sinopec Zhenhai Refining and Chemical Company’s (ZRCC) facility in Ningbo.

Each and every project requirement requires a different approach, and we increasingly find that we are not simply required to provide analysers, but to advise on the build and installation of full systems – not simply to find an appropriate analyser solution, but to recommend the right system that yields the best result for the long-term.

The fact that customers are looking closely at long-term cost-of-ownership reveals how their mindset is adjusting to long-term investment in their facilities, which reflects the confidence in the economy.

So while we always remain cautious about the future, not least in the context of the recent global downturn, the short-to-medium term prognosis is extremely good as China continues to both modernise its infrastructure and increase production for export.

As for the longer-term, the fundamental shift of the global economy towards Asia is expected to provide positive growth across all industries for some years yet.

This ‘China effect’ can be seen all over South East Asia, with a corresponding jump in domestic and manufacturing growth in our neighbouring countries: to meet this demand, we have just made new appointments of Chee Wee Yap as Regional Sales Manager for South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Jong-Min Lee to the position of Country Manager in Korea.

A little while back, the idea of having a dedicated sales manager for Korea might have seemed a luxury – but today it’s mandatory.

What projects or products do you have underway at the moment?
The most recent focuses for us have been on the new SERVOTOUGH Laser range, a series of high performance gas analysers that use the latest extractive and cross-stack technologies that are ideal for continuous in-situ monitoring, as well following the excellent reception given to the new SERVOTOUGH Oxy analyser, which is delivering industry-leading oxygen analysis at a mid-price point.

To what extent are you dependent on the equipment developments of Servomex’s operations in North America and the UK?
Our new products are launched globally to ensure that our new techniques and technologies are available to any client – and, as many of our clients also operate across the world, they would expect a new product to be available anywhere they needed it.

But while it is true that much of product and sensor development continues to take place from our new technical centre in the UK, it’s just as important that any customer gets exactly the right level of expertise and advice to ensure they receive the optimum system for their requirements – and that’s the principle focus for the Asia Pacific team.

Conversely, our experiences and relationships here are vital for Servomex to understanding customer needs, so we are constantly feeding the ‘voice of the customer’ back to our colleagues.

What are the company’s priorities right now, and what of its ambitions for 2010 & beyond?
Prior to the downturn, we had already started making key structural changes to the businesses, such as the opening of the business centres and strengthening of regional sales teams, which have given us a strong advantage.

In addition, we now offer distinct service and support packages, an integrated solutions division that delivers a total analyser solution for new plants and a dedicated stand-alone sensor division – meaning all our products and skills are presented to the market in a clear, and approachable way.

Finally we have stayed true to our reputation for innovation, by continuing to develop and refine analyser products that meet customer needs and perform to the highest levels.

China – The global view
In addition to the views of the Servomex team right at the heart of the Asia-Pacific, the company’s UK-based team are just as effusive about the prospects ahead for the China market.

Chris Cottrell, Managing Director, describes the rapid pace of development in the China gases & equipment market. He explained to gasworld, “I don’t think there is any global business out there that underestimates the impact China has had on the world economy. Since Servomex established a presence in Shanghai in 2001, we have watched activity in the country grow at an incredible rate: today, our operations in China have become as much of a driving force for us in 15 years, as the established markets in Europe and America have in 50 years.”

“The experiences and views of the China team, under Frank Zhu, feed straight back into and guide our business strategies and outlook.”

“China has not only been the catalyst to change the world economy, but has also been the pioneer for a host of other nations to follow suit. The subsequent rise of India and, most recently, Brazil might not be so pronounced if global business had not learned from China’s development; we have learned how to engage with and support these economic powerhouses on the scale they require as they transform their physical and economic infrastructure.”

“So by showing the way for the rest of the world, China has enabled businesses such as Servomex to become truly global in their reach and influence,” Cottrell concludes.