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CHN: MUSIC Tribe’s New Manufacturing Facility Emphasises Transparency

Located in Nanlang town in Zhangshan City, MUSIC Tribe City is the baby of the company’s founder, Uli Behringer – and for good reason. Having taken over three years of planning and construction, the sprawling 300,000sqm facility was created as a means to ensure product quality.

Speaking at a press conference, Behringer shared how his journey started with a simple goal: “I wanted to provide equipment for my friends, my family… To make them happy. In 1987 I graduated from university, and it was clear to me that this was exactly what I wanted to do.”

While creating equipment for his friends, he noticed that components mostly came from Taiwan and China, and decided to import them directly. However, he also soon realised it was very difficult to manage the sub-contractors he worked with, and the company ran into problems with product quality.

“While I wanted to have the best product at the best possible cost, the sub-contractor or contract manufacturer wanted to maximise their profit. That was a time when we had severe quality problems, because the sub-contractor did not follow our specifications, and he chose components that would give him more profit but caused us many problems.”

The lesson learned? Build your own factory.

“The only way you can achieve quality is if you own manufacturing,” commented Behringer. “We rented the facility that we were using for the past 10 to 12 years, but then we wanted our own building, our own manufacturing… So we made the decision about four years ago to build this place (in Zhongshan).”

And so MUSIC Tribe City was born – boasting facilities like dormitories, various recreational facilities, a canteen, supermarket and hospital, the grounds are crafted as a home away from home for the company’s 3000 employees.

The factory handles the entire process – from manufacturing components, piecing the products together and packaging for distribution – for MUSIC Tribe’s 12 brands, from MIDAS to Turbosound and Behringer.

The factory handles all operations, from manufacturing to packaging

According to Behringer, MUSIC Tribe City isn’t meant to just be a workplace for employees – his vision is for the company to be a “collaborative showroom” of sorts, where employees come together for a shared purpose.

“In a tribe, people come together for a shared purpose that is bigger than shareholder money. Our purpose is not making money, it’s to provide meaningful, great solutions for customers.”

Behringer also shared that an enlightening conversation he had with his ageing mother was the basis for the idea to create an academy within the company’s culture: “Tribe Academy is a vision where we help people to learn, for the purpose that they can teach us. The most meaningful human value is helping other people, and you help other people by teaching them – learning becomes knowledge, and knowledge becomes the ability to survive. Our academy has no tuition fee, no certificates, no degrees – all we try to do is provide our employees and customers with knowledge that is meaningful and unconditional. This is how we came up with the tagline of ‘Learn. Teach. Inspire.’

The factory handles all operations, from manufacturing to packaging

I believe that if you help people to learn, they will want to apply the knowledge. If people learn more and apply it, magical things happen. People want to apply what they have learnt. And then you create better solutions, better products – and then the profits will happen.”

Of course, the learning process applies not only to MUSIC Tribe’s employees, but the company itself – Paul Coates, China Operations Transformation Leader, shared that the company is always looking to improve on its failures.

“The biggest problem we face is our success; we’re not good at turning around when we have problems, and aggressively nailing that problem and making the change. We admit that, we recognise it and we’re working on making it better – but we’re still not there yet, we’ve still got some way to go.”

A finished Behringer speaker awaiting the packaging process

One way of working past their failures, Behringer stresses, is to enforce the culture of “Glass”: “’Glass’ means transparent, something you can see through. So when you go through this facility, you’ll see everything is open, there’s nothing to hide, we want people to see each other… we believe in transparency between the customer and us, between the people and us, everything’s open.”

One way of enforcing the “glass” culture, he added, is to allow customers to see the entire process from manufacturing to packaging: “We have an idea to put cameras in the factory, with live streaming – so the customers from Nicaragua, from Northern China – they can log in and see live on camera how the products are made. Remember the glass vision, we’re transparent. If we make a mistake, we admit to it because we want to improve, and at the same time we want you to be able to see anything.”

Behringer standing with Rowlands (far left) and Coates (far right)

So why now would MUSIC Tribe choose to hold a press conference, considering how their last media conference was 10 years ago? The answer, according to Behringer, was simple: to introduce the company’s new factory in Zhongshan, and better relations with the media – therefore reinforcing the “Glass” culture.

With the company’s “Glass” vision in mind, however, it’s mildly ironic that they play coy when asked about upcoming plans for their products. Graham Rowlands, VP of Global Sales (Professional Division, Music Group) explained: “Approximately four years ago we started developing the next generation of MIDAS consoles. But with the new development this is not an extension of pro series; we want to fundamentally change the digital mixing console market. This is not only slow going, but there are failures along the way. We research, we believe, we fail. The process goes on and on.”

A manufacturing team leader performing routine quality checks on finished components

As Behringer put it: “We are not interested to release another series of consoles which is slightly better. The time we’ve spent over the past four, five years is to invent something that I think is fair to say is revolutionary. Let me make it simple – what will come in the near future from MIDAS, from Behringer, will change the industry. Remember my words.”