On the eve of the much anticipated IG China 2009 exhibition, gasworld catches up with exhibitor and leading technology company Servomex Asia Pacific.

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

The originator and leader in paramagnetic sensing technology and with a healthy reputation in the development of zirconia, photometric, thick-film and plasma technologies, Servomex provides a 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.

Servomex has long had an interest in the Asia Pacific region, gasworld understands, but the past ten 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 three regional business centres around the world for Servomex.

On the eve of the prestigious IG China 2009 exhibition, gasworld took the opportunity of an exclusive interview with exhibitor and gas analysis solutions expert Servomex Asia Pacific.

Frank Zhu, General Manager of Asia Pacific, Servomex, oversees the company’s business operations and was only too happy to answer our questions – giving an interesting insight into the region’s dynamic business & equipment market.

Q: What operations does the company run throughout the Asia-Pacific?

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. While China is undoubtedly a major focus, both because of its size and the radical economic growth of the country, we are available to any customer that wishes to work with us, wherever they are.

Shanghai works well for us, for not only is it a major focus for industrial production, but also is an international travel hub for all other countries in the region.

Q: How has business performed in the Asia-Pacific region? We understand that the region is relatively buoyant and if anything, is 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 has been extremely pleasing for us. In part this is due to the increase of our focus and resources to the region which help us grow the shares in the market, but this has obviously been stimulated by continued demand.

As a result, we have doubled our sales in 2009 against those of 2007.

Q: What are the main industries or applications served by Servomex Asia Pacific?

Our target industries and applications are within hydrocarbon processing, industrial gas production and also supply of our sensors to the OEM sector through the new Hummingbird Sensing Technology brand.

Q: Indications suggest that equipment sales have fallen dramatically. How have you seen equipment demand perform during the past year, a difficult year for us all?

While we have enjoyed nothing but continued growth for our products over the past year, we are very aware that budgets remain constrained. However, as the use of analyser products is a mandatory part of any new process or plant build, enquiry for product is dependent on the ‘go-ahead’ for new projects – so we don’t see ‘demand drop’ so much.

However, the responsibility is still on us to demonstrate that our products will deliver efficiency and safety advantages and potential cost advantages over our rivals. And while we don’t see ‘demand drop’ so dramatically, it is equally important to make sure that users of our product continue to undertake regular service programmes to ensure products operate to full capacity, rather than cut costs in that area.

Q: What’s driving growth in the Asia-Pacific equipment market at the moment?

There’s no doubt that China is driving growth within the region, with the sheer expansion of the country’s economy, manufacturing base and infrastructure driving growth for industrial gases and hydrocarbons. Given the scale, the nearest competitor in this respect is unsurprisingly India – but we do see growth throughout the region as domestic and manufacturing growth continues.

While we must be cautious about the future – if nothing else, the last two years must teach us that we cannot depend on permanent growth – the fundamental shift of the global economy towards this region will provide positive growth across all industries for some years yet.

Q: What projects or product launches 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.

In addition, Servomex has now launched its Hummingbird Sensing Technology as a stand-alone brand, offering the company’s core sensor technologies direct to OEM customers.

As if that wasn’t enough, the importance of the China market has been recognised by Servomex with investment in the launch of a Chinese language website. This belief in the importance of the Chinese market is supported by the fact that our Shanghai facility has a full system build capability, so it can supply not just analysers but complete systems.

Q: 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.

Q: Will you be launching any products exclusively at the IG China event this month?

We will be launching our new product SERVOPRO FID (K1000) at this event, which will further enhance our leading position in IG market to extend our product offering to our customers.

Q: What are the company’s priorities right now and what of its ambitions for 2010 and beyond?

I think as a company our priorities are like any other global business: to get through the worst of the downturn and to look ahead. However that doesn’t happen by itself.

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 over the past year. 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, 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.

About Frank Zhu
With a strong educational background in Material Science and Engineering from Tongji University in Shanghai, China in the early 1990s, Frank Zhu is currently the General Manager of Asia Pacific, Servomex.

The 40 year-old Mr Zhu joined Servomex in 2007, having previously represented GE Consumer & Industrial.

Away from the office, Mr Zhu enjoys family time together which provides relaxation after the intensity of work responsibilities, as well as other leisurely pursuits such as reading, traveling and swimming.