Day 17 – Last day of the official programm

After 17 days of packed program, the final day has arrived. We met a little before 9a.m. to head out for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Before the class caught the train to the campus, Professor Rüttimann informed us about the importance and challenge at the same time to build partnerships with other universities all over the globe. Especially in a more and more international perspective of studying, keeping up a good reputation by seeking contact to other institutions of knowledge is crucial. It is a long way down the road to establish these kinds of connections but on a long term perspective a rewarding effort for the school, as well for the students. Continue reading

Day 16 – Crossing borders: Last day on Chinese soil

Just before departing for some final miles on the road of the People´s Republic of China, a bakery just around the corner of our hotel was discovered. While loading the bus, everybody got their supply of breakfast and coffee and on time, we headed out strengthened to pick up Professor Rüttimann and prepare for the next company visit.

On the way to Lenovo, Professor Rüttimann informed the class about the circumstances of the visit. We were made aware of the fact, that Lenovo will not let us into the factory due to the rising competition with the kind of products manufactured in the computer-branch. Esspecially in an industry like the computer industry, products experience a very short life-cycle and therefore information has to be kept as much inside the company as possible. Continue reading

Day 15 – Slowly southwards

Today we travelled several hours by bus to get from Guangzhou (Canton) to Shenzhen on the road we made stops in both, Heshan (Green Mountain) and Dongguan.

Approx. Routing – calculated from


We met at 7.20 am to get on the bus at 7.45, and then we proceeded to Heshan, where we visited a Swiss Company called FRANKE.



produces kitchen supplies, industrial coffee machines, bathroom utilities and fast-food kitchen, mainly for McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Our visit focused on the ladder products, after a brief introduction from mr. Gao, senior regional operations director, we saw the production line. It was built as every manufacturing process textbook would suggest (see our figure). The Japanese 5-S (seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke in English sorting, set in order, systematic cleaning, standardising, and sustaining) was present; every team had a board where the actual state of accomplishment was shown.


                                Production site – lean-management

Graphic Display of the Production – no detours

Afterwards, two other members of the board, Ms. Wong – Regional Sales Director Asia – and Mr. White – Regional Project Execution Director joined for an exercise, in which the student-groups answered certain business case questions. These answers were checked by the three directors. During lunchtime we could continue the discussion.


After visiting FRANKE we left Dongguan to visit the South China Mall, the largest shopping centre in the World, total constructing cost reached about CHF 500 million.  However, as the shopping centre was a) too big b) badly accessible (no highway, subway or train station) and c) built in a rather poor area no one rented out shops. This impressingly showed that building without prior market research can have disastrous consequences. 99% of the shopping space is vacant since its opening or using other words: 43 Shops out of 2.300 possible ones are busy.

             “New South China Mall” – cover for a construction site demolishing parts of the Mall

Subsequently we boarded the bus again and after a convenient two-hour bus ride we arrived in Shenzhen. Prior to this we were given some facts about Shenzhen, like  its policy of being a modern and sustainable city that had an amazing growth from a small town to one of the major cities in the World due to the opening reform of chairman Deng. However, our hotel could somehow withstand this governmental policy of being modern and sustainable, it has that charming ten-years-ago “made in China”-atmosphere and is well suitable for field trip students with a major in zoology.

Written by the following members of group 4:

Florian Maier & Lukas Bühler



Day – 14 Arriving in Guangzhou

This morning we arrived at the train station of Guangzhou, we spent the all night on the train. Some were lucky and got soft sleeper class, whereas others had to be satisfied with the hard sleeper class. Nevertheless we had to be splitted, we all really appreciated this journey.


Jack, our tour guide, picked us up and lead the group to the Guang Yong Lido Hotel. Unfortunately, our organisation team had to sort out certain problems during check in, but finally everything has been solved on time. Then we had the chance to fresh up and rush for breakfast.


At noon the group shortly met up, afterwards we transfered to SGS by bus. It is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. The service has been developed in the last couple of years to a wide range of sectors and industries. SGS helps its customer reaching the required quality in many business areas. We were allowed to visit the inspection and testing laboratories. A very fascinating part of the tour has been the testing procedures for high quality soccer balls.




After the informative and interesting visit at SGS, we departed for the Sun Yat-Sen University. There we met Prof. Dr. Christian Staehlin who is Professor of Molecular Biology and Principle Investigator at the School of Life Sciences since 2005. Christian Staehelin is heading a research team interested in the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. After a short introduction of his work and research, some of his students showed us their laboratories, work places and the botanical garden, which is located on the roof of the research building.


Heading to a typically chinese restaurant with our new friends, we enjoyed an interesting evening full of enrichments. The dinner gave us further possibilities to talk about the daily life and sum up this instructive day.

Day 13 – Tea Plantage and Brasport

Today we started our day with a short introduction and a Chinese crash course by our new guide Mrs Wong (English name: Phoebe). She sang us a song about a girl, which represents the Yan-Minority. The interesting thing about this story is, that 80% of the women wear their hair about one meter and they only cut it ones in their lifetime at the age of 18. She also informed us that Guilin has over 33 Mio visitors per year although Guilin has only 5 Mio habitants. 20’000 of these habitants are tour guides for tourists. Imagine that – 0.4% of the habitants are working as tour guides for the tourists.

After this interesting presentation we arrived at a Tea-Plantation. After a few photos of the Tea Plantage itself, we had the chance to experience a traditional tea preparation and we also had the possibility to taste four different flavours of tea. To finally round up this tea experience we went to the showroom where we could buy all the teas we tried and also all other flavours they are offering.



After a short lunch – which was arranged on short notice, because our train was cancelled and we, therefore, had to book an earlier one. Continuously, we went to the company Brasport which produces leather goods and 95% of them are leather straps for watches. Their clients are well-known Swiss watch companies. Pascal, CEO of Brasport China, informed us that they produce goods at very low costs but in the end the main client sell them for the price of 5 times or higher. This is a very high margin compared to other branches. Nevertheless, they produce in average 1.5 Mio straps per year. Additionally, they import their resources exceptionally from Europe.
Brasport company logo
Brasport production
Pascal furthermore told us, that when he came to China a few years ago, he was confronted with several cultural and economical challenges. However, he started to solve those issues with good ideas and converted the old production line step-by-step (which is named Kaizen) into a Lean-Production. Not only we could see the production, but also we learned that in China you face a few problems which you can solve by logically thoughts.
Leather straps

At 6 pm it was time to board the train to Guangzhou. Because of the shortage of space our group was separated into two groups. One had soft beds and the other one hard beds for sleeping. It was very interesting to see the different standards and how the differented classes are treated. Anyway, before going to bed we had a great time together in the train.


Written by Stefan Ackeret, Sarah Ehrensperger, Dominic Hasler, Melani Zadro

Day 10 – Geberit Visit and a very long night

A new day in shanghai before we leave to our next destination. Our group met at 7.40 am in the lobby and headed towards the subway station to transfer to the company Geberit. Geberit is a manufacturer for sanitary technology with global presence and was founded in 1874 in Switzerland. The CEO of Asia Pacific and the head of Product in Asia Pacific welcomed us to the factory and briefly introduced us to challanges in the local market. Their main goal is to increase market share by steadily improvements. Learning by doing is geberit’s approach to make the chinese market more profitable.

Continue reading

Day 9 – The day of superb surprises!

This morning Prof. Dr. Rüttimann surprised us with a visit to the cashmere production company – Artwell.


Artwell is one of the biggest suppliers of cashmere products for companies like Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Globus and Grieder. After a warmly welcome by the CEO of Artwell, Mr. Alfred Lee, followed an introduction about the company which is located in the Zhejiang Province. Moreover, they gave us the great opportunity to see the whole production line. Now we understand the processes from dyeing, carding, spinning to the sweater workshop. Those processes showed us how they turned wool from the cashmere goats which are living in the Inner Mongolia to real cashmere pullovers, pillows, scarves and so on. We learned that for one pullover four goats are needed and that they are sheared in April and May. The animal feels no pain in this process. It was impressive to see that every step is supported by machinery. We had the chance to feel the material after every step. Depending on the process stage the wool was softer and thinner or thicker.

This company was a good example for a successful vertical integration of a production, which means, that they are flexible in their processes. Moreover, Artwell is able to control every step and therefore to provide a high quality product.

Group picture in front of the company Artwell

Visiting the production site


The second surprise after lunch was a tour through the Venice of the east – Wuzhen. Similar to the original Italian city, some houses of Wuzhen are only accessible by boats or gondolas. The town is 2km long and has 12’000 permanent residents and it is located next to the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The town has not only lovely sceneris, but also a great history, which was important for China’s history too.



There we visited the footbinding museum, which displays 825 pairs of footbinding shoes from various places of China as well as many pictures and footbinding tools with detailed explanations. People today cannot imagine that, hundreds of years ago, the Chinese women believed that the most beautiful thing for a woman were the smallest feet instead of a beautiful face or a well filled-out figure.Footbinding


At the evening everybody had time to enjoy the impressive city Shanghai.


Ackeret, Ehrensperger, Hasler, Zadro

Day 8 – Three Chinese SME’s

Our second day in Shanghai started already at 7.15AM as we had planned a tight schedule for the day. The focus on today’s program was laid on leather.


A 2.5-hour bus ride took us to Hangzhou. There we met Mr. Bi and Mr. Frank Chan who accompanied us throughout the day, which consisted of three visits of Chinese SME’s. The three companies are all part of a leather cluster within each company covers multiple steps along the value chain.


Lili Leather Goods

The first company we visited, Lili Leather Goods, is specialized in the production of leather garments, mainly jackets. After a short introduction by Mr. Wang of the company, which was founded in 1984, we were invited to take a look at the sample products in the showroom. Lili Leather Goods produces leather garments for about 20 different brands among which are household names such as H&M, s’Oliver, Esprit, Charles Vögele or Chevignon. About half of the products are exported either to Europe or the United States. The other half is distributed on the domestic market.

After that we took a tour  the production facilities where we were impressed by the good working conditions of the employees. Almost all the steps within the leather jacket production are still done by hand. An average leather jacket requires four hours of labor, meaning an average employee produces two jackets per day.


The morning program ended with a delicious chinese lunch at a hotel closeby.


NICELINK Home Furnishings

The second visit of the day led us to a company called NICELINK Home Furnishings. The company was founded in 1997 and produces a wide range of leather sofas and chairs. Their products are almost exported almost entirely to the United States, Europe or the Middle East. Ms. Jenny Cao, Mr. Raank Cao and the production leader Roger led us through the different production sites. Every task within the production process is attributed to specific workshops which again are closely interlinked. The processes range from the cutting of the leather, assembly of the wooden frame to the preparation of the foam cushion, etc. This simple setup allows the roughly 1’300 employees to produce the equivalent of 450 shipping containers full of furniture per month and it serves as a good example of a well-integrated value chain.




Zhejiang Fubang Leather Co Ltd.

To close the business visits of the day we were brought to a tannery to see where the leather for the aforementioned companies and products come from. Zhejiang Fubang Leather Co Ltd. is the tannery of the leather cluster above. We were shown around the facilities and had a look at the tanning wheels and also got to know the distinctive smell of a tannery.  Mr. Chan also led us to their research center, where a set of small tannery wheels are installed for testing and research purposes.


The three visits of the day gave us impressing insights into the different stages and processes involved in the production of leather garments. From an economic point of view it showed us an example of a successful process integration along the value chain. For most of us it was also the first time to ever see and especially smell a tannery, which might have affected the buying behavior of some when it comes to leather garments.


The bus finally brought us back to Shanghai where we had some time to explore this great city on our own.


Written by C. Chevalier, P. Kull, G. Walser, F. Röllin