Monthly Archives: March 2012

Educational Program (2012.03)


Date: March 28th, 2012 (Wed.)14:00~17:00p.m.
Venue: Blue Conference Room (3rdFloor), Footwear & Recreation Technology Research Institute- No.11, Gongyequ 8th Rd., Xitun Dist., Taichung City 407, Taiwan
Lecturer: Mr. Sam Liu

Dyaco at TaiSPO (2012.03)

Keep the heart beat – Dyaco at TaiSPO 2012!


“A heartbeat is a lot more revealing than you might think,” says Brian Murray, product director at Dyaco, the fitness maker from Taichung. “We’ve come up with a medical application for fitness machines to study your heartbeat, which will measure your general health condition and suggest adjusted exercise programs.”

 The patent application runs up to six hundred pages, using complex mathematical and medical formulas developed in t partnership with National Taiwan University. However, the product is very easy for consumers to use; after entering their age and gender into the console all they have to do is wear wireless chest strap, which will transmit information to their treadmill. The console will then come up with exercising suggestions, based on their health profile.

           The calculations are chiefly based on heart rate variability (HRV), a factor already used by companies like Polar. It not only measures the heart rate per minute but also catches any deviations in the frequency of the heartbeats, and figures out what is happening in between.

           Tested on 400 employees at Dyaco, the quick and easy health assessment system accurately detected such issues as high blood pressure and cholesterol – all with just one minute of heart rate monitoring. A demonstration area at the Dyaco booth shows exactly how easy it is to use the system, and what sort of information and suggestions it delivers. Dyaco stresses that the system does not replace medical investigations and advice, but it is a most promising tool to help consumers exercise more usefully. “Once people get motivated, they often work too hard, then they get discouraged and go back to the couch,” says Murray. “Our system will help them to set goals easily and it could even alert them to physical issues before they get started. At another level, it will be very useful tool to train professional athletes.”

           Furthermore, the system will be integrated into the medical range launched by Dyaco, targeted at older people and those with physical weaknesses.

Perspectives from TSMA President (2012.03)

‘You can’t ignore difficulties’

New TSMA president promises active response to global market upheavals


Catherin Wang, one of the general managers of the Yuan Chi group, a manufacturer specialized in inflatables, was elected president of the Taiwan Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (TSMA) last year (2011), at a time of uncertainty for the industry. Rapidly immersing herself in the issues facing the market, she has already deployed many contacts and projects to support Taiwanese manufacturers.


           With cheerful entertainment and lively conversations, Taiwan Night has become one of the most popular evenings at ISPO Munich, the trade fair for the international sports industry, held in Munich. It has turned into a tradition, held since 1999 and again attended by scores of prominent guests at this year’s edition a few weeks ago. “One of our strengths is that many people in the industry like to do business with Taiwanese manufacturers,” remarks Catherine Wang. “Such events are an opportunity for us to deepen our contacts in the international sports market, and to provide support to the Taiwanese industry.”

           Since she was elected for a three-year term last March, succeeding George Wood, Wang has spent part of her time learning about the different parts of the industry. She discovered categories like fitness and related sports equipment but found that Taiwanese manufacturers in different categories were often moving in the same direction, becoming traders as well as manufacturers to expand their business.

           The development of the Yuan Chi group itself partly reflects the trend of the last years: while based in Taiwan, it runs factories in Thailand and China, and is selling balls under its own brand name, Vega. It also produces balls for Spalding, the well-known basketball brand, and has an agreement to sell Spalding products in Taiwan and China.


Build on exposure

           For Wang, trade fairs should remain the focus of the TSMA’s actions, to help Taiwanese manufacturers develop further. “With such fairs, our manufacturers gain more exposure as well as more insights,” she said. “Our relationship with the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) is also a key factor in this respect, because it enables us to attend crucial meetings and to bring more customers to Taiwan. It all gives our manufacturers more business opportunities.”

           The TSMA’s budget for last year also enabled it to upgrade its computer system, to capitalize on the exposure of Taiwanese manufacturers at trade fairs. The association’s website has become quicker, so that users may upload information on Taiwanese manufacturers more easily.

           Among the longer-term issues faced by many of the TSMA’s members is the fierce competition from Chinese manufacturers. “The first step is that you can’t ignore these difficulties. You have to face them,” said Wang. “But it’s important to realize that we have manufacturers of different sizes and levels, which requires different approaches. Some of the companies that already deliver a high level of research and quality are mostly interested in developing their own branded business, while others could do with more investment in their research.”

           For a start, just after Wang was elected, a bold project was launched by leading Taiwanese manufacturers of fitness equipment, to share information and implement best practices in order to improve the entire supply chain. The S-Team was initiated by Peter Lo, president of Johnson Health Tech and strongly supported by the TSMA. “We had to visit many factories in Taichung to explain the concept,” said Wang. “It’s not easy for companies to open up their factories to competitors, so we want to be a good bridge to help the industry to understand the benefits.”


Payment issues

           While this initiative will take several years to yield strong results, some Taiwanese manufacturers have also been confronted with the sluggishness of the European and American economies, sometimes leading to payment problems. Several Taiwanese companies have gone out of business because brands and retailers failed to pay their invoices or paid them with a delay, which made it harder to pre-finance production.

           “Many people are worried about this issue. It is causing fear, which is not positive for the development of our industry,” said Wang.

           Among the solutions that she is exploring is a system applied in Germany, where fund providers may deal directly with the purchasers of sporting goods.

           “The factoring system of our Taiwanese banks is that the banks pay the invoice, but the manufacturer has to pay a relatively high insurance fee and the banks’ conditions are sometimes a little strict, so we are looking into alternatives,” said Wang.

           “For example, there is German system whereby the fund provider will act as the buyer of the products and the actual buyer pays for the financing fee, even though the costs end up being share as part of the negotiations between the manufacturer and the buyer.”


Constructive partnerships

           The progress of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the trade agreement signed by China and Taiwan in June 2010, is of particular importance for Taiwanese sporting goods makers. Wang said that import and export duties for trade with mainland China on golf balls, most fitness equipment and some other sports-related products should already be reduced this year as part of the agreement that aims to reduce or eliminate duties on bilateral trade.

           Wang said the import duties for fitness equipment exported from Taiwan to China reached 6% in 2011. The agreement reduces the duty to 3% in 2012 and to zero in 2013.

          The outcome of the presidential elections in Taiwan, in January, also has helped stabilize the nation’s relationship with mainland China.  We are not politicians, but steady conditions are important for us to conduct our business,” Wang said.

          Meanwhile, Wang urges Taiwanese manufacturers to strike constructive partnership in more categories of sporting goods production, along the same lines as the S-Team.

           “We are facing growing competition not only from mainland China but also from manufacturers in other countries that are becoming increasingly aggressive in their own efforts to gain customers, such India and Vietnam,” said Wang. “I think that sharing is one of the most important ways for the industry to move forward and to take market share.”

Johnson at TaiSPO (2012.03)

JOHNSON at 2012 TaiSPO

 Virtual products, real sales – Johnson accelerates its pace 

At the touch of a button, you could be running on a little mountain trail in Italy. Or if you prefer, you could be jogging along the beach in California or on a dusty trail in the Grand Canyon. 

These are some of the destinations include in the Virtual Active by Matrix equipment. The treadmill reproduces the on-screen terrain. If the user slows down, so does the film. If the trail veers sharply uphill, the treadmill gradient changes to simulate the incline. Complete with surround sound, the Virtual Active program enable treadmill users to feel as if they were actually outdoors on one of these spectacular runs.

           The partnership between Johnson Health Tech, the Taiwanese owner of the Matrix brand, and Virtual Active, which develops the programs for the treadmills, began two years ago. It is entering a new dimension this year with more destinations and sophisticated applications. The equipments is found in an increasing number of gyms, and Johnson regards Virtual Active as exactly the sort of interactive services that will enable it to continue making a difference in the gym equipment market.

           “We are bringing pretty extreme experiences right into the gym and the living room,” said Daniel Clayton, vice-president of global development at Johnson. “This is one of the many extras we have been working on in the last years, so that the equipment contains more interactive options. It also enables us to cover more price points, because the price range will be built up with options, along the same limes as cars. This is particularly important at a time when gyms are diversifying from the emergence of low-cost gyms to the more service-oriented health clubs.”

           All of Johnson’s brands are moving in a similar direction. For example, Horizon, the group’s quality home equipment brand, offers the Innovation Passport, featuring a wireless connection to a television. The user can view the machines’ readout on the TV instead of on the treadmill screen.

“It is a major trend to have a technology platform on the fitness equipment,” Clayton said. “There are already many interactive ways to find out more about the impact of your fitness activity, for example with a heart rate monitor. However, we would like to make the technology platform all-encompassing, so that different tools speak to each other.”

           Johnson also wants to widen the use of interactive entertainment devices on fitness equipment. At the higher end of the price range, fitness equipment may already be connected with iPods and iPads, but Johnson wants to open up its applications to non-Apple electronics.

           Johnson’s partnership with Lance Armstrong’s foundation, Livestrong, is succeeding. The Livestrong line by Matrix chiefly consists of spinning bikes for gym use, while a separate line focuses on home use. A portion of sales go to the Livestrong Foundation, which helps cancer patients.

Johnson achieved a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent in the five years through 2011. The company describes itself as the third-largest fitness equipment maker in the world and the largest in Asia, with brands including Matrix, Vision Fitness, Horizon and the Livestrong license. Employing just over 5000 people, it ended the year with sales of $467 million, up by 27%.

           Sales continue to shift from home to commercial equipment. Only two years ago, about 45% of Johnson’s turnover came from gym equipment, compared with 55% for home use equipment. However, this ratio has been reversed, with 55% of sales in 2011 coming from gym equipment, which yields higher margins. Last year, commercial sales grew faster than the company’s entire turnover with an increase of 37%

           Clayton wants the company to continue moving in this direction. “Our target is to treble the size of our commercial fitness equipment business in the five-year period until 0215. Our growth in this market is stimulated by the diversification of the gyms, which gives us opportunities to cater for more categories of products,” he said. Johnson points to the emergence of low-cost gyms, in which members pay as they go to pay only for very basic services. Popular in the U.S. and emerging markets, such gyms have tight budgets and require products that allow intensive use and easy maintenance.

           About half of Johnson’s sales come from North America, but other markets are growing, particularly in Asia. Of its 257 stores worldwide, 143 are in China. Another growth market is Brazil, where Johnson has had a subsidiary for the last three years and runs 11 stores.

           The company operates three factories covering more than 3 million square feet. Two plants in China produce all of the company’s home fitness equipment and commercial strength machines. Cardio equipment for gym is made in Taichung. The company also owns a components factory in Shanghai so that its production is entirely integrated. The integrated production has enable Johnson to safeguard the quality of its products and keep a handle on the cost of its maintenance.

Dream team, Taiwanese fitness firms join forces (2012.03)


Dream Team – Taiwan fitness firms join forces

Fourteen leading Taiwanese fitness equipment manufacturers have teamed up in a bold move to improve the supply chain and efficiency of the entire industry.

They have formed the S-Team, along the same lines as the tie-up between bicycle manufacturers that formed the A-Team a few years ago.

The initiative was launched last year by Peter Lo, president of Johnson Health Tech. He convinced four other large-scale manufacturers and nine of their components suppliers to join the S-Team and to exchange ideas in the next years, as a means of sharing best practices and raising the competitiveness of Taiwanese fitness equipment makers.

“The international competition means that we have to restructure our supply chain, which still mostly consists of small-to-medium-sized companies,” explained Giant Chang, a specialist adviser behind the S-Team. “This is particularly important since some companies have moved part of their operations to mainland China, so that the supply chain in Taiwan is no longer complete. We recognized that we had to team up to rebuild an efficient supply chain, reduce costs and shorten lead times.”

Johnson has partly solved the issue by setting up its own plant to manufacture components in Taiwan, so that is production is entirely integrated and efficient. However, few fitness equipment companies have the resources to do the same.

The S-Team initiative is managed by the Corporate Synergy Development Center (CSD), Giant Chang’s company, the Footwear & Recreation Technology Research Institute (FRD), another advisory organization; and the Taiwan Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (TSMA).

Open and transparent

For a start, the 14 companies have launched internal audits to measure their performances, which will enable them to compare their practices. By the end of the year, the members will meet and share the results of their audits with all the others.

“They have agreed to share everything, and to be entirely open and transparent amongst each other, which is brave and completely unprecedented,” Chang said.

The S-Team has established three standards of quality and productivity for the fitness equipment industry and the members will all strive to progress toward the highest standard in the coming years.

The S-Team managers estimate that it will take about seven years for each of the members to reach that stage. The stamp of excellence delivered by the S-Team is also meant to serve as a proof of quality for customers.

Judging from the results of similar initiatives in other industries, the move could bring about very significant improvements in the supply chain of the fitness industry.

For example, the bicycle industry’s A-Team has achieved a strong increase in average prices.

Before the launch of the A-Team, Chang said, the average FOB price of the bicycles sold by members was between $150 and $200, but on the strength of the A-Team’s actions, this has since increased to between $550 and $600.

After six years, the members of the M-Team in the machinery industry have sharply reduced lead times from an average of 45 days to as little as eight hours.

“In the fitness industry, the S-Team could help some of the manufacturers move from the production of home equipment to commercial equipment,” Chang said. “There’s no other choice for the Taiwanese fitness industry, otherwise it could become much weaker.”

Cost reduction

Another way to improve the supply chain and to reduce costs is to standardize some components that are not distinctive from each of the companies and their brands.

For example, he said, equipment manufacturers could agree on the horsepower of the engines in their treadmills, so they could order them in bulk and reduce the unit price.

Furthermore, the S-Team also aims to agree on some standard spare parts, which would make maintenance cheaper and more efficient.

The partnership could also help manufacturers cut the number of components again with the objective of reducing costs.

But at the same time, Chang emphasizes that the products should retain their distinctive design and innovation.

The S-Team is chaired by Peter Lo, the driving force behind the initiative. For the time being, the manufacturers of components who are members of the ST-Team are all suppliers to the equipment makers who are also members.

In the coming years, however, the S-Team’s management hopes that the group and its standards will be widely recognized which will encourage more companies to join and make initiative even more efficient.