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CHINA JOURNAL: A Car Plant Tour in Tianjin

Posted By David Brousell, September 27, 2017 at 3:00 AM, in Category: Factories of the Future

Haval.jpgWednesday, September 27, 2017 -- We left Shanghai early yesterday morning for what was supposed to be a quick, two-hour flight to Tianjin, in the northern part of China where the MIF2017 conference I am speaking at later this week will be held. But due to air traffic control issues our flight was delayed for two and half hours. That gave us time to walk around the immense, gleaming, ultra-modern Shanghai airport. If there is a high-end, luxury brand missing in the airport, I don’t know what it is.

We arrived in Tianjin in mid-afternoon and underwent another jaw-dropping experience as we saw the innumerable high rises – a three-bedroom apartment in one of them, I’m told, can go for as much as $1 million -- that stretch as far as the eye can see. This city of 15 million plays host to a range of manufacturing, from aerospace, chemicals, and automotive, to name just some of the most prominent types. Airbus has a factory here and Toyota is said to have 20 factories in the area.

Today, I joined a group of about 20 conference attendees to tour an SUV final assembly plant in the Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area, known as TEDA, a 33-square kilometer sector 40 kilometers east of the city center of Tianjin that was established in 1984 and which now has 3,300 companies.

Our host for the tour was the Great Wall Motor Company Limited, which makes a mid-size SUV brand called Haval as well as a higher end brand called Wey. The one-million square meter final assembly plant produced 530,000 vehicles in 2016. The plant, which has 8,000 employees, currently runs two shifts five days per week. It first started producing vehicles in 2011.

What I saw was clearly on the level of the most automated and spotless factories I have seen in the U.S. Automated guided vehicles carry materials and parts around the factory as cars are assembled on two levels by uniformed workers. The goal for the shift I witnessed, in part, was 452 cars. The workers had produced 260 cars at the time of the tour, exceeding its goal at that time of 255 cars.

The tour lasted only about 20 minutes, but in that time I could see just how modern and advanced Great Wall is in this particular assembly plant. There was no organized presentation by plant management and only limited question and answer opportunities. But I was fortunate to have the able Yvonne, a translator arranged by the A. Brain Science and Technology Development Co. Ltd., the organizer of the MIF2017 conference, with me on the tour to get my questions answered.   

Tomorrow, the MIF2017 conference will officially open.

Written by David Brousell

Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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