Butterfly are one of the world's top table tennis equipment manufacturers. Find out more about them in this exclusive interview.
Butterfly are probably the most well known table tennis equipment manufacturer in the world. They started in Japan in 1950 and they're still going strong today.
Their headquarters are in Tokyo and they have a factory at Tokorozawa together with offices in Sapporo in Japan, Shanghai in China, Seoul in South Korea and Moers in Germany.
Their European office - Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH - was founded in 1973 in Moers, Germany and their Export Sales and Marketing Director is Sebastian Rangs.
I recently caught up with Sebastian and asked him a few questions about the Butterfly brand.
Thanks for sharing your time with me here at All About Table Tennis.com
Q. Can you tell us about your job at Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH and your table tennis background?
A. I am the Export Sales and Marketing Director responsible
for all sales and promotional activities of the Butterfly brand within the European Economic area as well as some additional countries such as Russia,
Switzerland and Norway.
I started at Tamasu Butterfly Europa in 2004 after finishing my work and study period in a German bank. During my first few years with the company, I passed my university exams in business economy as well.
I've been a table tennis player ever since I was six years old and at a young age I practiced hard and nearly made the German Youth national team. This brought me to the attention of Butterfly who gave me a small sponsorship deal at that time.
Ever since then, I've been close to the staff of Tamasu Butterfly Europa and therefore I was very glad to take the job opportunity which they offered me in 2004.
Q. Can you give us an insight into the size of the Butterfly brand and Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH?
A. The Tamasu Butterfly group is the most successful table
tennis brand in the professional market with a worldwide distribution network.
The main characteristic of the company is that the vast majority of rubbers and blades, which are the key elements of table tennis, are produced in the company's own premises in Japan.
Butterfly rubbers and blades are produced in our main factory in Tokorozawa, Japan whereas most of the textiles, bags, socks and shoes are produced by
Tamasu Butterfly China who are based in Shanghai.
More than a million Butterfly table tennis rubbers are sold each year.
SRIVER is our most popular rubber family and 20 million pieces have been sold since it was launched in 1967.
There are 15 permanent workers employed at Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH based in Moers, Germany and they are in management, sales & marketing, accounting, importing, sponsoring and warehousing.
Q. Can you tell us about the ownership of Butterfly and the senior people at Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH?
A. Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH is 100% owned by
Tamasu Co., Ltd with Shunsaku Yamada and Taisei Imamura as their Managing Directors.
Tamasu Co. Ltd. is owned by its shareholders and managed by Shunsaku Yamada as Chief Executive Officer.
Taisei Imamura is the current CEO of Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH and has held this position since 1 January 2011. He has been managing most of the Butterfly sponsorship deals for more than 20 years and is known as an absolute material expert among the world’s best players.
Hideyuki Kamizuru, who was the CEO until 31 December 2010, has upheld Butterfly’s image worldwide for many years and is still an advisor to the company and responsible for international affairs.
Hans-Joachim Nolten is the Chief Financial Officer of Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH. As a former German national team player, he combines a deep knowledge of the sport with excellent controlling and strategic management skills and is therefore another key person among our staff.
Rüdiger von Berg is responsible for sales and marketing in Germany, whilst Michael Janknecht takes care of our sponsored players, coaches and teams, and Miguel Buschhauer is in charge of our imports and organizes the warehouse staff.
Almost all of our staff have been very good table tennis players.
Q. Can you give us an insight into how Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH works in conjunction with their parent company in Japan?
A. The corporate image is very important and therefore
we follow the same philosophy and corporate design as our parent company.
We also benefit from the vast knowledge which our parent company has in production and material science, as well as from the international sponsorships of world class players and teams.
The rubbers and blades which are produced in our own Japanese factory are our key products of course, but our sales and marketing is adapted for the European market and sometimes this is very different from the Japanese methods.
Primarily we are the European base, taking care of all our business partners, sponsored players, coaches, teams and the company's performance in the European table tennis market in general. But of course our task is also to work on business development strategies which are important for our market.
Even though China is the dominating table tennis country in the world, Europe is still the heart of table tennis and the most important brands in our sport are all based in Europe, most of them in Germany. Therefore we consider Europe to be a key market which needs to be taken care of very intensively.
Q. Can you give us an insight into how new Butterfly products are developed?
A. We have about 20 colleagues in our product development
team in Japan who are not only responsible for developing new rubbers and blades, but they also investigate new technologies in shoes, balls and other
Butterfly China in Shanghai are responsible for developing a wide range of textiles, bags and accessories.
We in Europe choose many of these products for our market and add some which are produced only for our market’s needs.
Additionally, our world class players are a key element of our product development. Our staff co-operate very closely with them and their opinions are very important to us.
For example when we developed the Tenergy series of rubbers, about 12 of our very best players went to Japan to test more than 50 different rubber variations and they chose the ones which fit best for different playing strategies.
The same goes for blades and shoes, which are very individual products and of the highest importance for the players.
Here in Europe, we have between 50 to 60 new products each year, most of them being textiles of course.
Q. Can you tell us about the production of Butterfly table tennis equipment and how many different items are made?
A. Butterfly rubbers, together with the main part of our
table tennis blades, are made in Japan, whilst our table tennis tables are made in Germany.
Of course a large part of our production is automated, but some items are hand-made.
Hand-made production is much more important in Japan than in some other countries so this means that on the one hand, production costs are a bit higher, but on the other hand it means that the quality and workmanship is perfect in all respects.
The time it takes to make the equipment depends on the lead time in production. For our table tennis rubbers and blades we calculate that, from the time of ordering the material from our Japanese suppliers, it takes about four months to produce them.
Table production needs about four to six weeks, but we have warehouses in different parts of Europe (the largest ones are in Germany and England) in which we have all of our most important tables permanently in stock.
We make around 40 different table tennis rubbers and around 90 different table tennis blades for worldwide distribution. The number of tables varies very much depending on the market’s needs, but I believe we have more than 50 different models available worldwide.
We also produce and distribute all kinds of products that a table tennis player needs. These are not only the personal equipment such as rubbers, blades, textiles, shoes, socks, bags, accessories etc, but also the playing court and club equipment (balls, tables, nets, surrounds, scoreboards, robots etc).
Q. Can you tell us how the ratings for Speed, Spin and Control for Butterfly rubbers are calculated?
A. Our product development team in Japan carries out a
lot of investigation into product technology and its performance.
The Speed and Spin numbers are very much scientifically based and therefore very accurate.
Although there are other companies in the market who state Control figures for their rubbers, and even though many players ask for them, we do not do so because we think that the control of the rubber is an individual feeling and cannot be measured in numbers.
For example, if you ask Timo Boll about the control of Tenergy 05, he will say it is absolutely perfect, whereas an amateur player possibly feels much safer with Sriver FX.
Q. How do you promote and advertise Butterfly table tennis products and Tamasu Butterfly Europa GmbH?
A. We sponsor a lot of big international events
(such as the World Championships 2009, 2010 and 2012-2016 for example) as well as national and regional competitions.
But our main advertisement is simply that a large percentage of the world’s best players use Butterfly equipment.
Although many of these players are sponsored by Butterfly, there are also players who have sponsorship agreements with other brands but who still use our equipment, especially Tenergy rubbers.
In the last World Championships, about 60% of the participants were using Butterfly rubbers and blades. This underlines the importance of our products at the top level.
We advertise in classic table tennis magazines which are published by the various national federations and authorities, on websites such as national and international table tennis websites and also on Facebook.
We also have sales stands at almost all national and international events so that we can offer our range of equipment to all the players and spectators as much as possible.
Q. Please tell us about your web site.
A. This summer we are launching our new European website
which will offer our complete range of products inside a new e-Shop together with lots of interesting information and articles for all players and coaches.
The German version launched in July 2011 and will be followed by the other countries step by step.
For the UK and Ireland, enquiries and orders from our new site will automatically be transferred to our long standing British partner Ransome Sporting Goods, whose specialist table tennis website, Tees Sport, carries our entire range. They have the largest stocks of Butterfly products outside our warehouse in Germany and provide a complete and comprehensive service.
We manage our website ourselves and it is constantly updated. Starting in August we will be adding special activities from time to time.
As well as showing our entire range of products, our website provides information about all of the Butterfly stores in Europe and it means that table tennis players can easily find out who our partners are in their area and can contact them directly.
Thank you Sebastian.