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Known as the world’s largest wool-on lamb and sheepskin provider, Henan Prosper is diversifying its portfolio with the launch of a new bovine division, which is set to become an important extension of the Chinese company’s operation, both in terms of capacity as well as product offer.
The move follows significant investment in Henan Prosper’s tannery in Mengzhou, Henan Province, including the construction of a new state-of-the art effluent treatment plant, which opened in 2017, and which is a crucial strategic move to facilitate the expected increase in production volume and the launch of the new bovine leather business.
Completion will be conducted in three phases: phase one is set to be finalised in October 2020, putting in place the infrastructure and operational framework, with additional machinery and capacity increases to be added in phase two in early 2021 and final completion at the end of 2023.
From beamhouse to finishing, the tannery features the latest developments in process automation and machinery, with as many environmental benefits and energy efficiency savings as possible having been implemented, including water recycling in the liming and pickling steps, a new sludge treatment facility and the use of solar panels throughout, to create “the best possible facility for future sustainable growth”, as Michael Lu, CEO of Henan Prosper, explains.
Initial production capacity of the bovine tannery will be 1000 to 1500 pieces per day, which will increase to 3000 pieces per day in phase two and 3500 to 4000 pieces per day once phase three has been completed. This translates to a total manufacturing capacity of 1.5 million pieces per year from 2023 onwards, making Henan Prosper a significant player in the bovine hide segment. According to Lu, the new division is expected to drive substantial growth and in particular open up the company to the automotive sector, where he sees the biggest expansion potential, as well as the high-end upholstery sector. “We have established a fantastic base in our environmental protection program with our effluent treatment plant’s phase 2 completion. We now have capacity to produce and recycle water more efficiently than ever before. This will enable us to diversify our production and increase volumes. As demand for automobiles in the Chinese market is on the rise, we aim to supply leather to auto makers and high-end upholstery manufacturers”, he explains.
Henan Prosper predominantly sources baby calf from New Zealand, while bovine hides come from the U.S. and Europe, in particular from Catalonia through the Group’s Colomer 1792 subsidiary. Production will be divided into finished and semi-finished leather, with the bulk of finished leather made for export to the U.S., while semi-finished hides will be exported to Henan Prosper’s European clients. In addition, Lu expects a steep rise in demand for bovine hides in the domestic Chinese market going forward. “With the growth of the middle class in China, you will see a jump in consumption of high-end automobiles and luxury furniture”, he says. “The next generation of Chinese consumers will have much higher expectations from their products, they will not be satisfied with only brand names alone, they will start developing a taste for real quality, which is what we are able to provide”, he adds. Once the bovine operation is up and running and scaled up, finished products made at the site will be split into 20% for footwear, 30% for bags, 20% for furniture and 30% for automotive.
Michael Lu, CEO of sheepskin specialist Henan Prosper.
As a vertically integrated business, Henan Prosper’s clear competitive advantage is its network of global procurement offices and warehouses, combined with the capability to produce any quantities to clients’ demands and specifications. “We have set up operational warehouses all over the globe to make sure we have access to the right materials as directly as possible. We are taking the same approach as we have within our lambskin division. We understand that dealing with this type of organic and raw resource you really have to have an almost artistic understanding of how to select the right material” says Lu. “Our vertical integration is our key strength. However, we also try to maintain the best relationships possible with our suppliers and customers and are able to adapt to their needs and work closely with them”.
Animal welfare and traceability of its leather products is also at the heart of Henan Prosper’s ethos and has been a key consideration in the company’s choice of suppliers. “We have recently been audited by the Leather Working Group (LWG) and been awarded a Gold rating in our traceability standards. We have been able to service international brands for many years, as we have always had high standards in procurement and production processes. Making sure that we know that the animals have been treated correctly and fairly through the process means that we only deal with the most professional organisations in the industry. This then translates to better quality service and overall security of supply”, says Lu. “Furthermore, we can see that Chinese domestic meat consumption is increasing rapidly. This will lead to better farming practices and abattoir facilities, which means better traceability for our customers”, he adds.
A bird’s eye view of Henan Prosper’s new water treatment plant at its production site in Mengzhou, Henan Province.
GreTech™ Leather System
Henan Prosper’s environmental commitment, however, does not end here. It is striving to make the leather making process itself as clean and green as possible. The company is using predominantly chrome and metal-free processes and is focused on bio-based tanning, with over 70% of its lambskin production already implementing bio-based chemicals. The aim is to replicate this in the new hide tannery also. “We see this as a future trend and we aim to make this our key feature”, says Lu.
Furthermore, a new and exclusive leather coating method, GreTech™ Leather System, is being implemented across Henan Prosper’s production. The fully automated process offers a number of environmental benefits, including reduced use of chemicals due to the use of water-based substances to optimise the quality of the leather, as well as less waste in cutting and a higher yield, in addition to other key advantages on the finished leather itself. These include improved uniformity and high colour authenticity and vibrancy. “As the production process of GreTech™ is completely automated and computer controlled, it allows us to make extremely bright and vibrant tones that were not possible to achieve before, such as fluorescent or super light pastel colours for instance”, says Lu. “Aside from the vibrant colours, we can achieve contrast colours on either side of the skin. For example, we can take a skin that is dyed black and coat it with a fluorescent green, and there will be no contamination of either side. This is something that is very difficult to do with traditional coatings”.
Another benefit of the GreTech™ Leather System is that it is geared for fast reaction time compared to traditional coating methods, as colours and dyes can be applied quickly and aspects such as tear strength, thickness, natural defects and colour variations are all considered before anything is put into production, which ensures the end result is always of highest quality.
Henan Prosper is evidently an ambitious and rapidly growing company, committed to a sustainable agenda which inform its strategic direction. Despite the current coronavirus pandemic impacting most of the world, Lu remains optimistic that both the company and wider industry will come out of it stronger. “We are currently faced with a great deal of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, one represents danger and the other opportunity, then we look toward the future with great optimism and hope, believing that when we look back at this time in history, it will be remembered as the moment we created something truly essential to our future growth.”
*This article is an advertorial provided by Henan Prosper.