Shanghai Hui Zhong Marble Co., Ltd. opened its factory in the Jiading area of Shanghai, China, in 1999, and production began the following year. And with China becoming a strong contender in the international stone industry, the company has experienced continual growth since its beginning.

The 280,000-square-foot factory in Shanghai actually was developed as the result of the successful operation of its parent company, Horng Yuan, which is based in Hualien City, Taiwan. “I started in the stone business in 1973,” said Billy Liao, president. “I was just trading in Taiwan. I got into manufacturing in 1988. Between 1995 and 1999, we were exporting a lot of slabs from Taiwan to Shanghai. We needed to come be in this market.”

Between the two companies, approximately 750,000 square feet of material is produced per month. The Shanghai factory is equipped with a total of eight gangsaws -- four Gaspari Menotti and four from a Taiwanese manufacturer. Additionally, there are three slab polishing lines -- one made by Gaspari Menotti, a Breton 2000 KG and a Breton 3000 KG that was being installed at the time of Stone World's visit. Three shifts are run on the gangsaws and two on the polishing lines, according to Liao.

“We do things more the Italian way,” said Liao. “We produce good quality. It's an integrated factory, which doesn't need a lot of people to run it.” In total, the Shanghai location employees 60 workers, and the operation in Taiwan is comprised of 65 employees.

The Shanghai branch concentrates mainly on the Chinese market, and the Taiwan factory focuses more on exports. Liao explained that China comprises 90% of the market for Shanghai Hui Zhong, with most of the exports being shipped from the Taiwan location. “[In the U.S.], we have quite a reputation on the West Coast,” said Liao. In addition to the U.S., Horng Yuan supplies products to mainland China, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and the Philippines.

Shanghai Hui Zhong also has an international reputation as a block buyer. In total, the company imports about 1,000 blocks a month. “We have strong support from quarries all around the world,” said Liao, adding that the company buys many of its blocks from India, Brazil, the U.S. and Canada. It only produces slabs, and offers a selection of about 50 to 60 granites. The Shanghai location maintains an inventory of approximately 5,000 cubic meters of material, while the factory in Taiwan has a stock of about 6,000 cubic meters.

Both companies hold high standards for quality. “If someone is just coming for cost, I say, 'No, you come for quality,'” said Liao. “In the beginning, it was a little difficult, because no one thought that we could compete with Italy, Spain, etc. I gave it a chance, and when the quality and service is good, it makes it easier.”