Century: innovative security solutions for retailers - 20/01/2017
When I was a Century customer ten years ago the company was at a crossroads. They wanted to change the organisation from a Chinese manufacturing company into an independent retail partner with its own products. At the time they only produced security materials such as hard tags, labels and alarm systems for other organisations.
Loyal, honest and fast
As a customer I already gladly did business with them. I experienced the company as being open, loyal and honest. As mentioned earlier, they were searching for new ways, more of their own products in order to be able to compete with other major suppliers of EAS. I like the way things work in China, that practical attitude; if they decide to do something, then they will just do it. They just get down to work.
The owner of Century at the time, Lu Nan, and his team developed the MultiGrip, a self-alarming device with 4 wires that made it possible to protect boxes. With this patented MultiGrip, Mr. Lu took an important step for the organisation. Century continued with its original line of business and manufactured some 500 million hard tags and 1 billion labels per year, but many new proprietary products were rapidly introduced. Open display systems for telephones and laptops, but also safers, the plastic boxes for perfumes and razor blades, for example. Bottle caps to prevent people from sneakily drinking from bottles in the supermarket, CanGrips that prevent the theft of expensive baby food or coffee ... all of these products contributed to Century’s growth spurt.
RFID: up to double digit more turnover
Retailers are always looking for new applications. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding. You want to be able to try on, hold or test a product. Without obstacles. You want to be able to order an article of clothing online and immediately go and pick it up at the counter of your store. Century’s RFID aims to make this as easy as possible for both the retailer and the end user. Ysing these thin and durable stickers, the retailer knows exactly how much stock – and which sizes and colours – is still on the shelf, in the box and in the warehouse. One quick scan and you have a clear picture of your stock. You see the fast movers and any possible stock errors. In other words, with RFID you can quickly take stock every day. At present, many retailers’ stock management has an approximate accuracy level of less than 90%. But according to the users this rises to 95-99% when using RFID. And they see a strong, sometimes double digit increase in sales.. It’s nice that such a small label can offer so much value, right?
Healthcare as growth market
But RFID also allows you to offer solutions in other industries. By incorporating labels into hotel or hospital linen you know exactly how many sheets and towels you have, what has already been sent off to the laundry and when the linen must be changed.
Another step further: here in China we are already working with RFID in healthcare. For example, with medication management or checking medical data. With an RFID-equipped wristband you can make sure a signal is sent out when mother and baby are too far apart in hospital. You can make sure that people do not stray in institutions. So I certainly also see opportunities for us in the healthcare industry.
The third largest party worldwide
Century is the world’s third largest manufacturer of EAS security products. Our current market value of 1.6 billion USD is proof of our success. Of course I am very satisfied with this result. But working with our people to further develop the company is something I am particularly proud of. I am General Manager of International Sales and CEO Europe, but I don’t like making a big deal about those titles. I don’t need to be in the spotlight and I certainly don’t want to be a controlling type of boss. I believe that it is important to offer opportunities. People need to be able to develop, and dare to try something themselves. This company has so much knowledge to offer! People here in China still need to get used to having that space. I often hear: “You decide, Henny, you’re the boss.” My response: “So what?” At Century Europe, our European headquarters in the Netherlands, being one’s own director is much more commonplace.
Sales for Europe
My wife and I live in Shanghai, China, six months a year and the other half of the year we spend in the Dutch town of Goor. Since 2016, the European headquarters of Century is located there as well, as it was relocated from Sweden to the Netherlands last year. We wanted to organise the sales for Europe differently and establish a more central position in Europe. All materials arrive in Rotterdam and are distributed throughout Europe from the warehouse of our partner ‘Broekman Warehousing’. Therefore, relocating the European headquarters to the Netherlands was a very logical choice. We opted for an office in the east of the country. It is located within a 1.5-hour drive of 7 airports. And by roadfreight or truck our products are in Paris or Germany in no time at all.
The move from Sweden to the Netherlands was turbulent. The provision of information was poor; we had virtually nothing when we started here. Yet within 1 year the employees managed to generate profit again. That says so much about the team’s dedication. Century is proud of these smart, enthusiastic and driven people - in both Europe and China. We can rightly say: together we have grown from a manufacturing company into a development and sales driven organisation!