Chin Lin, founder of West River:
«For nearly fifteen years I worked with a chemical company being engaged in supply of adhesives and additives for corrugated cardboard enterprises.
Naturally, during this time many of my clients have become my close friends and I was deeply immersed in their production problems.
Over the years, I also witnessed a revolutionary change in the technology of gluing corrugated cardboard.
Additives to the starch crush its molecules and enable the effect of modified starch
The modified starch began to seize the market as the fibers in the paper and cardboard were getting shorter and the manufacturers of liner and fluting added more and more chemicals to keep them together. Regular starch with its large fractions no longer could percolate into the paper.
Thus began the era of modified starch in the corrugated cardboard industry.
But prices for modified starch grew every year, and manufacturers began to look for a solution. Additives have become a solution. Additives to the starch during the preparation of the glue made it possible to crush the starch molecules and achieve the effect of modified starch.
Each type of paper requires its own recipe of glue
I was constantly at work with my friends, I could actively experiment with additives in search of the best recipes.
You see, each type of paper requires its own recipe. Therefore, the work of a glue kitchen operator is much more difficult than managing an inline. You, as a chef, ask each client: what do you like?, and prepare a unique solution to each one. And the kitchen is just your tool. It’s like a knife in the hands of a cook.
Naturally, by that time, companies developed technologies letting you modify the starch in the glue kitchen itself. But the cooking process took about 10 hours.
I began to add caustic soda, enriching the starch with oxygen. Then the starch molecules are quickly ground and easily penetrate into the fibers of modern paper, which is stuffed with chemicals.
West River is a river in southern Taiwan in Kaohsiung, where I was born and raised
Then I came to my boss and said:
«Our additives to corrugated board are like flogging a dead horse. We fool our clients. We need to go back to starch modification. I figured out how to quickly modify starch in the kitchen. We will give customers an opportunity to save 20% on glue!»
«Chin, we will not do that. We need to sell additives.»
It was his choice. I left the company and sailed into the open ocean. That was about eight years ago. I called my company West River. This is a river in southern Taiwan in Kaohsiung, where I was born and raised.
Now I remember with horror how imperfect was my first glue kitchen that I supplied to my friend
We are located in the center of a high-tech industrial area, so it was easy for me to find contractors for the manufacture of my first kitchen. They were my neighbors.
In the first year, I spent all my money and made a first kitchen that I installed at the factory of my friend in Malaysia. This was a big enterprise.
Now I remember with horror how imperfect it was. People just agreed to be my guinea pigs.
Only this year I replaced their old kitchen with a new, modern one. I was able to do this for him practically free of charge, in gratitude for his help in the most difficult times. Today he has four of my kitchens.
When a European supplier hears no problems about his equipment, he is asking to go and find them
“Chin, do you know the difference between Taiwanese and European suppliers?”, one of my Australian clients once asked.
“No, I don’t,” I replied.
“When a Taiwanese calls me and asks how things are going, how machines work, he wants to hear, “everything is fine”. When a European calls and hears my phrase “No problem”, he says to me: “Steve, a machine cannot work without problems, please tell me what the problems are, even the smallest ones!”
I adopted this principle. Sometimes a client comes across so minor problems that he does not even want to talk about them. But if you do not fix these problems, they will grow into bigger ones.
I don’t take money when I’ve got a lesson
Once my client calls me and says that he has problems with glue. I begin to ask him, and it turns out that the air pump had broken down on the car, he changed it and did not say anything to me.
When I took the broken pump and showed it to the supplier, he gasped: it was covered by oil. Turned out that the client had rich vapours of oil in the air which caused the pump’s failure.
“Tell me, do you have a more powerful pump that can solve this problem?”
I bought a pump for $1,500 and sent it to the client. I told him: “Install this pump. You don’t have to pay anything to me because you gave me a valuable expertise.” After this, I began to equip a new modification of my kitchen with these pumps.
I preferred a 2% business credit instead of my friends’ investments
One client complained that it takes him a while to unscrew a lead when he wants to fix a node. In the next model, we removed bolts and put the lid on the hinges, making it open by one motion.
Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me to install him a glue kitchen. He had a three-ply corrugator line, and he could not reach a stable quality of gluing.
“Wait with the kitchen,” I said. “Do you use wheat starch?”
“Then it’s difficult for you to achieve stability even with additives. You should not buy my kitchen, because you can not pay for it in two years on a single wall corrugated board. Let me try to get you a recipe.”
I took samples of his raw materials and made him a glue recipe. I was very happy because we managed to solve his problem. And only two years later, when he installed the second corrugated press, he ordered a new kitchen from me.
All components of highest quality are produced next door. We just design and assemble glue kitchens
At the beginning, when I had spent all my money, my friends suggested to chip in with their shares. But I preferred to take a business loan at 2%. I currently have 8 people.
Taiwanese enterprises are not as large as Russians, where, due to large distances, all production loops are usually closed.
I only have the most qualified development engineers on my staff. All necessary components of a highest quality are produced next door. We just design and assemble glue kitchens.
When your glue kitchen is installed at some enterprise, it’s your free exhibit
Here is another important point: you saw glue kitchens at factories. Not always they have an attractive look, don’t they? With the mountains of starch around.
You see, when the kitchen is at the enterprise, it’s like a free exhibition. Its appearance should not get spoiled either in three or in ten years.
Guests come to the factory, see your equipment and ask: what is it?
The machine should always look and work flawlessly. I now use only Teflon for air ducts and stainless steel. All drives and pumps are Siemens and Schneider.
Glue kitchen’s operator must have a talent of a chef
Lots of time takes the operators’ training. How fast can you prepare a chef? He must have a talent. He asks his customers: how do you like it? Do you want it more fried? Make it spicier? Each bonding material requires its own glue recipe.
For five years we have built about 50 glue kitchens, eight of them for Russian enterprises. When I was going to make the first two kitchens for Dima Vorobyev, I told him:
— Dima, I will make you these kitchens, but I need a 100% prepayment.
I had hard times.
— Ok, Chin, only for you, — Dima said.
Oh, this crazy Dima! I love him. We consider him half Taiwanese…
At Russian Proletary plant our glue kitchen serves a BHS 2800 corrugator
Today, our most recent project is an installation at the Proletary plant in Surazh, where the West River kitchen is cooking the glue for the most powerful five-ply corrugator line in Russia, BHS 2800.
Every day this corrugator can produce about a million square meters of corrugated cardboard!
We recently spoke with Zhenya Polozhentsev (head of the Proletary corrugated production).
I asked: “Zhenya, how’s the kitchen?”. He said: “No problem!”.
I said: “The machine cannot work without problems. Go and find them, please. And I’ll call you back…”