Reporter recently learned from Shenzhenbased CIMC Group that six of its subsidiaries have now been selected as “Little Giant” for professionalism, refinement, distinctive and novelty. Staying focused, continuing to innovate, improving quality, building core competencies and caring for customers are the keys that have enabled CIMC Vehicles to nurture a number of “Little Giant”. In the interview at CIMC Vehicles (Jiangmen) Co. Ltd.(“CIMC Jiangmen”), the reporter learned the story of how a “Magic steel plate” turned a corporate into a “Little Giant”. This “Magic steel plate” has not only brought CIMC Vehicles out of the confusion and dilemma, but also helped its mixer truck achieve industry-leading position in China together with other partners.
EVEN SMALL ENTERPRISE CAN DO GREAT THINGS EVEN SMALL STEEL PLATES CAN CHANGE THE INDUSTRY
At CIMC Jiangmen’s production base in Da’ao Town, Xinhui District, Jiangmen City, Guangdong Province, hundreds of specialty vehicles are ready for export to various countries around the world.?
CIMC Jiangmen is a “Little Giant” engaged in the production of semi-trailers and specialty vehicles for 17 years. Compared to a decade ago, the super wear-resistant steel used in its production in recent years is distinctive and has been called the “Magic steel plate”. Its distinctive characteristics have not only increased the company’s own revenue and profits, but also helped customers to make significant cost savings.?
Taking a cement mixer truck as an example, the use of super wear-resistant steel allows the truck to lose 800kg of weight, which means that 1.6 tons of carbon emissions can be reduced in the production process of each truck. This not only allows the vehicle to carry 800kg more cargo at a time, but each vehicle also saves nearly 3,000 liters of fuel consumption and 6 tons of CO2 emissions per year, saving nearly RMB20,000.?
According to Ding Zhengxiang, General Manager of CIMC Jiangmen, in recent years, the company has been committed to promoting the cement mixer trucks made of super wear-resistant steel and they are favored by more and more customers because it allows them to save costs, save energy and reduce emissions.
?It is worth noticing that the “Magic Steel Plate” developed by CIMC Jiangmen and Baosteel Group is not only used in CIMC Jiangmen’s products, but is also widely used throughout the industry. It has greatly reduced the consumption of steel in China and contributed to the cause of low carbon and environmental protection.
1 YEAR’S PROFIT + 3 YEARS’ TIME TO DEVELOP THE “MAGIC STEEL PLATE”
How did the “Magic steel plate” come about??
Mr. Ding told the reporter that, in 2012, the market demand for specialty vehicles nationwide was halved, all the companies in the industry were in difficulty and in desperate need of a breakthrough. Therefore, they resolved to survive and thrive under the limited demand through product innovation and bringing more valuable products to customers.?
Mr Ding joined CIMC Vehicles back in 1992 and he was involved in the manufacture of CIMC Vehicles’ first trailer. He has rich experience in manufacturing, at that time, considering that the overloading of specialty vehicles in China has been very serious, the CIMC Jiangmen team firmly believed that if a wear-resistant and light-weight product was developed, it would definitely solve users’ troubles. It may seem like a simple idea, but the real development process is extremely difficult for the company and often takes a long time to be accepted by the customer. For example, when they tried to produce with lighter steel, they were misunderstood by customers as “cheat on labor and materials”.?
For small and medium-sized enterprises, the R&D talents are limited, how to challenge the difficult research and development Mr Ding recalls that in 2013, they worked with Baosteel to develop super wear-resistant steel with the help of CIMC’s R&D resources. However, the finished products that came out at the beginning always failed to meet demand, and often only a few qualified steel plates could be utilized. By 2015, a total of 15 batches of trials had been made in three years, and although it was successful, the utilization rate was only about 60% due to the specifications of the steel plates that came out, obviously, continuous improvement was needed.
“ We ex p e r i e n ce d a l o t o f f a i l u re a n d pain, as well as even fell on the verge of abandonment.” Mr Ding said that in addition to setbacks in the process of research and development, a large amount of capital was invested in it, with more than RMB20.00 million invested from 2013 to 2015, which was equivalent to the amount of profit gained in a whole year. In addition to the high cost of steel plate, the high-strength steel as a new material brought high difficulty in welding, resulting in great pressure on the team, many people intended to give up.?
In the face of difficulties, what should a team of several hundred people do? In the end, CIMC Jiangmen chose to persevere, and the customers who had complained about the product slowly changed their attitude towards the super wear-resistant steel products. Since 2015, more and more customers have accepted super wearresistant steel products, and the products began to be able to raise prices.?
Compared to previous products, the mixer truck using super wear-resistant steel is around 800kg lighter than the same vehicle and lasts three to four years longer than vehicles using ordinary steel, says Mr Ding. After withstanding the test of time, both the sales volume and the price of the super wearresistant steel increased.
NEVER STOP INNOVATION, SHARPEN A SWORD IN A DECADE?
The dedicated innovation brings value to the enterprise and honor to the team.?
Mr Ding said:“We used to be the industry follower, but after developing the super wear-resistant steel material to fill the domestic gap, we became the industry leader, and many companies came to learn our technology, and our right of speech in the industry was enhanced. This material was widely recognized for its contribution to the whole industry and even to the realization of Chinese “Carbon Peaking and Carbon Neutrality” objectives, overloading management and limitation management.”?
After the development of super wearresistant steel and the acceptance of the product by customers, CIMC Jiangmen’s innovation did not stop. Tens of millions of capitals have been invested in research and development every year, the thickness of the steel plate of super wear-resistant steel has become thinner and thinner, from 6 mm down to 3 mm, the utilization rate of the steel plate has been increased step by step to 95%.The super wear-resistant steel plate was first applied only to the cylinder and then applied to the blade, it has been continuously iterated and upgraded.
At present, CIMC Jiangmen has a R&D team consisting of nearly 100 people, and has approximately 40 authorized patents, many of which are invention patents. Mr Ding and the team have also felt the longterm cumulative effect of innovation. The company’s experience in the development of super wear-resistant steel has given them a better idea of where to focus their efforts when they later develop corrosion resistance when producing urban dump truck. CIMC Jiangmen has also accumulated positive relationships with many industry leaders, such as Baosteel Group, to carry out research and development cooperation in a more smooth way.?
Mr. Ding is deeply aware that innovation is a long-term process.
?He said that “First of all, if innovation is based on the customer’s demand, you will have infinite faith in that the innovation is on the right track; secondly, you should keep going during the process of innovation; thirdly, the innovation needs to be fault-tolerant, and you should not treat your team and partners harshly. In the end, the innovation should be done step by step, instead of a rush for quick results.”