All entrepreneurs have a great story to tell on how they started. Nelson Ch’ng is no exception. His story started when he co-founded Volcano Name Plate Sdn Bhd (Volcano) on 2 February 1999. Nelson was born in Georgetown, Penang and like many teenagers in the 1970s, he was keen to find a job to support the family after completing his secondary education in 1977. He started his career doing mainly menial work such as operator, technician and craftsman. But he has a dream – to start his own business.
In 1983, Nelson partnered with his friend to start Racingmate, an auto accessories shop. The business was later sold to his partner but he gained valuable experience from the venture. He learned that business is not about buying and selling alone, it is also about customer service, quality, networking and financial management.
In 1989, he ventured into the manufacturing of name plates when he joined Chin-I Name Plate Taiwan Pte Ltd in Taiwan as a Printer and QC Inspector. From a boss back to a worker, he went back to basics to build his foundation, he knew every failure will lead him closer to success and he took the opportunity to learn every aspect of the business especially in a country like Taiwan, which is known to have a highly competitive business environment. During his employment with Chin-I, he was promoted to various management positions such as Printing Supervisor, Marketing Executive, and Marketing, Production and Operations Manager.
In 1991, he was involved in the setting up of a name plate printing factory in Malaysia. Over the years, he has also expanded Chin-I’s manufacturing activities by setting up factories in Bangkok and Shanghai in 1995 and 1996 respectively. In 1999, after the Asia Financial Crisis, Chin-I withdrew its operations from Malaysia and Nelson saw the opportunity to enter the name plate industry. He convinced his two colleagues to set up Volcano. “Symbolic of explosive, unpredictable, temperamental and resistant to limitations, the name represents the challenges that life presents, remind us of the goals we aspire to reach, the journey to reach there, and the value of the climb to the top,” he explained the choice of the name.
Volcano had a humble beginning, starting off as a name plate subcontractor in a small shop house in Butterworth to support local SMEs. This did not stop Nelson from dreaming big. He wanted Volcano to be the leading name plate specialist capable of competing at the international level. He gave Volcano a vision of being ‘the Brand Behind All Brands’, he redefined Volcano’s role to be the Brand Identification Solution Provider. “We don’t see ourselves as just a name plate manufacturer; we are a brand identification solution provider. When we change our perspective, we see things differently, we change the way we serve our customers, we work on customer’s concept rather than drawing, we provide them with brand solutions rather than taking instructions. We set up R&D to explore new technologies, we reengineer processes to ensure our clients get the best value out of their brand.”
But it wasn’t easy at the beginning and the road to servicing the first MNC customer with a ‘shop house’ set up was almost impossible. The team worked day and night to produce a name plate sample that met various stringent requirements set by the MNC. “At that time, we were competing with countries like Japan and Korea, but the clients were amazed when they saw the approved sample came from such a small set up with only a few used machines. I always tell my staff, things may seem difficult for you but not impossible. Impossible only means that you haven’t found the solution yet, keep trying and you will achieve the impossible,” Nelson said.
Consistently innovating through research and development, Volcano is now a total solution centre that specialises in creating branded components for many multinational companies. Understanding the importance of product design and branding, Volcano is continuously coming up with innovative designs, materials and technologies to ensure that it puts the brands of its customers above other brands. The Volcano group not only custom make design and manufactures brand identification but also user interface components and plastic injection parts. It has proven its capabilities to its MNC customers and the recurring orders are testament of the group’s impeccable quality, reliability and service. On top of that, Hewlett Packard, Xirrus and Electrolux have given Volcano various awards in recognition of its excellence in products and services. Its innovative solutions, technology and quality products have given Volcano a sterling reputation, winning it a few prestigious awards, including the Best Innovation Award of The Star Business Award 2012 and one of the top five of 100 outstanding SMEs of the Golden Bull Award in 2012 and 2015.
Attributing its success to its vertically integrated operations, Volcano is able to take the lead in the industry due to its flexibility in catering to the entire value chain of related industries and markets and also its innovation in branding designs for its clients. According to Nelson, it has the capabilities to serve as a total solutions centre for its customers as well as providing competitively priced products and services. “We leverage our capabilities and resources to provide innovative solutions to manufacture the products that best suits our customer’s image, budget and application,” he said.
Volcano understood that product and package designs are the most important parts of brand building for its clients and that is why the group is continuously working with other industry experts and suppliers to ensure that its designs and products are of the highest quality. In the nameplate manufacturing industry, manufacturers that are able to offer the entire range of support services such as Volcano will be the preferred choice. This is because they will be able to improve resource allocation and efficiency, provide integrated technical solutions, reduce risk for customers and deliver improved quality performance.
Volcano provides a wide range of materials, designs, surface textures, tolerance requirements and value-added processes for its customers. Over the years, the group has established a proven track record in the manufacturing of nameplates and plastic injection molded parts. Volcano group now has five companies under it and has acquired four factories in Malaysia and Thailand. The group intends to expand to China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia and the expansion will include upstream and downstream activities of its current core business. The group is also teaming up with European partners to penetrate into the automotive and aerospace industries. Amongst the specialties that the group boasts of are its graphic overlays, panel and membrane with key pad and switches that can be customised to match its customers’ product style and image.
Moving forward, the Volcano group will continue to invest in cutting-edge technology, machines and equipment to ensure quality of its manufactured parts, to reduce wastage and to step up production efficiency. Highly dependent on technology to meet its customers’ demands, the group will continue to place emphasis on innovation, technology and R&D. “We have in place a stringent quality control system so that our products are of high quality and are delivered on time to our customers so that they will have a seamless branding exercise with our products,” Nelson said.
In short, Volcano has the experience and a fully trained and professionally responsive project team that can fulfil customers’ demands to deliver products and services that meet the target market in a cost-effective way.