Say hello to our June member highlight - Innevation Center member Lorne Smith, the co-founder and Director of Business Development at A-ONE Group Holdings Ltd. He assists clients in achieving their commercial objectives in China by providing services in sourcing, manufacturing, and corporate development.
Lorne started his international career in 1998 working for Intracom Asia in Taiwan as the VP of Operations. In 2005, Lorne co-founded A-ONE Group Holdings Ltd. with the goal of assisting companies in the US with their challenges and strategies in China, in particular, cost reduction through offshore manufacturing, quality assurance, and establishing sales and distribution channels in the Chinese market.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions in the global supply chain. Over the last year, a lot of new customers have reached out to A-ONE for assistance with component sourcing. “Shortages continue to be a problem across many industries, and we expect to be dealing with these challenges throughout 2021,” said Lorne. International travel has been almost nonexistent for well over a year. A-ONE has a large team in China providing the “boots on the ground” management to serve A-ONE’s partners and customers. “I was living in China during the SARS epidemic, and I remember a similar uptick in business,” recalled Lorne.
Will manufacturers reassess and pivot their supply chain in the post-pandemic world? Lorne sees a couple of possibilities emerging in the months ahead. On the one hand, people tend to have short attention spans and will forget about COVID and move on with their existing supply chain partners. On the other hand, the “COVID excuse” has given industries, such as freight companies and chip fabricators, the ability to manipulate a crisis to their benefit. “We’re seeing price escalations forcing people to look elsewhere for products and services. If prices and lead times continue to increase in China, domestic manufacturing will become more attractive,” said Lorne. However, wages in the US are going up, and factories are finding it difficult to bring on qualified workers. A-ONE may have to pivot its business by engaging more in engineering and consulting.
We also asked Lorne about the US-China trade war and how it has impacted his business. “Initially, the trade war created challenges in both Asia and America. Factories in China were forced to make price concessions; American companies were terrified at the idea of raising prices to consumers,” said Lorne. The COVID-19 pandemic came along and gave companies an excuse to pass the tariffs and price increases on to the American consumer; the consumers continue to bear the brunt of the trade war. Lorne is hopeful that a reset of the USA-China trade relations will benefit American consumers by reducing the tariffs and forcing China into buying more products from American companies. “Strong trade between China and the US presents opportunities for both sides,” said Lorne.
After twenty-plus years in China, Lorne was looking for a place to call home in the US. A brief overnight visit in Reno turned into a week. Lorne was warmly welcomed by the startup community and many of the great local organizations like EDAWN, 1 Million Cups, NCET, and UNR. Lorne quickly fell in love with the people here in Reno, and often jokes that “it’s as close as I can get to Hong Kong without the issues of living in California.”
Outside of work, Lorne enjoys various outdoor pursuits among the beauty and diversity in the Reno-Tahoe area, snowboarding, skiing, motorcycling, mountain biking, and camping and boating with his family, just to name a few.