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Bauma China 2014

Chinese cranes don’t grow to heaven

Although the construction machine business faces a downturn, the Bauma China attracted more visitors than two years ago. In addition to suppliers of electronics from abroad, Chinese companies also increasingly supply automation equipment.

The Bauma in Shanghai was held from 25th to 28th November with more than 3000 exhibitors from 40 countries (Photo: Bauma China)

DESPITE THE SEVERE CHALLENGES FACING the construction machine industry, the exhibition attracted 191 000 visitors (2012: 180 000) from 149 countries. After China, the top ten visiting countries were Russia, Korea, Japan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Indonesia – in that order. Many electronic suppliers exhibited at the four-day tradeshow, which is a spin-off of the Bauma Munich. Unfortunately, they were spread all over the fairground so that visitors needed seven-league boots to see them all in the 17 halls.

Main competitor: discrete I/Os

CAN is the dominating network technology of the embedded control systems in construction machines. However, only high-end machines use CAN networks. XCMG is, for example, the largest customer in China for Epec’s CANopen controllers and devices. Sany and Zoomlion, two other Chinese frontrunners in the construction machine industry, also use CANopen-networked equipment in their cranes, concrete pumps, and other sophisticated machinery. However, the majority of the simpler machines is still based on discrete digital and analog inputs and outputs. Some of them already use proprietary interfaces based on EIA 485.

Sany, one of the market-leading Chinese construction machine providers, is going through a difficult phase and searching for new markets (Photo: Steven)

Most of the CAN-connectable devices are developed and produced in Europe, and especially in Germany. At the German pavilion, CiA members FSG, Gessmann, Graf Syteco, Hirschmann, Intercontrol, STW, and Wachendorff presented their products and services. Close by was Moba, another CiA member. This company started in China with control systems for paving machines. They penetrated the market, were copied by Chinese companies, and have diversified to other construction machines for some years, in order to expand business.

Diversification is a general trend. Shanghai-based Lonking, for example, has broadened its export operations for its wheel loaders. In addition, the company has widened its product range to excavators. Other machinery as part of the diversification strategy includes compactors, graders, skid steer loaders, piling rigs, forklift trucks, and bulldozers. Shantui has also broadened its product portfolio: The bulldozer expert additionally offers concrete equipment. Suppliers of electronic control systems do the same. Hirschmann started with overload protection systems for cranes and today also provides CANopen-based control systems for other construction machines.

The Bauma in Shanghai was held from 25th to 28th November with more than 3000 exhibitors from 40 countries (Photo: Bauma China)

Most of the European suppliers sell their products via distributors. For example, Jari, a Chinese member, distributes CANopen products by Epec and Graf Systeco. This government-owned institute has started to develop and produce customer-specific CANopen controllers, too. There were also start-ups at Bauma China exhibiting CANopen products: Zhuzhou Jiacheng Technology presented the Evencontrol host controller series. The products implement Codesys and are programmable in IEC 61131-3 languages. The company also provides CAN-connectable operator displays, which come with Codesys runtime software too. Jining Zhineng also presented host controllers and HMI devices with CAN connectivity made in China.

Shanghai Barutu, one of Kvaser’s distributors in China, has developed keypads and joysticks with CANopen and J1939 interfaces. The company, which has recently become a CiA member, showed these products at the joint CiA booth. ESD (CAN interface boards), Kvaser (CAN interface products), and Posital (encoders and inclinometers) were the other partners at the CiA booth. Dr. Ingo Mönch, General Manager of Posital Asia, said that it was a good decision to participate in the CiA joint stand.

Providers of mobile machines also addressed new markets. John Deere, well known for its agriculture machines, was exhibiting at Bauma China for the first time. Sales Director China, Jason Daly, said: “We have met our target customers interested in excavators and construction wheel-loaders at the show.”

Selling to Africa and Southeast Asia

To overcome the economical downturn, some Chinese construction machine builders try to expand their business to Africa and Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the customers in these regions often do not pay their bills on time. This leads to delays in paying the device suppliers and system integrators such as CiA member Shanghai Palfin. Other device makers suffer, too. In particular, Sany’s suppliers are waiting for better times. Sany already has a 20-% export rate. Of course, Chinese machine builders try to get a piece of the European cake. But in Europe, safety is an important issue. This is not yet a value in the home market. Intercontrol and STW have received the very first request on SIL-3 compliant CANopen controllers from Chinese brands. Hydac’s TTControl showed its CANopen-Safety products at Bauma too.

The Bauma in Shanghai was held from 25th to 28th November with more than 3000 exhibitors from 40 countries (Photo: Bauma China)

Exports are increasingly important for XCMG, one of market-leading Chinese machine builders. Zhang Yanmei, the company’s vice president, said that Latin America was one of the main export markets for her company. She added: “We already have some 30 000 machines in Latin America.” To keep track with technology, the company bought Schwing, a German concrete pump expert, two years ago. Another German concrete pump leader, Putzmeister, was acquired by Sany, also a Chinese company.

Some non-Chinese machine builders focused on customers in other Asian countries. Liebherr (Germany) reported some success on the Korean market. “Our booth had many customers from China but also many international customers from Southern Asia, Russia, Africa, etc.,” explained Armin Natter, Managing Director of Liebherr Shanghai.
“There were a lot of potential customers and partners at Bauma China, including those from other countries,” stated Zhang Guojin from Hitachi (Japan). He regarded the Shanghai event as a Pan-Asian event. This was confirmed by others, e.g. Ulrich Reichert from Wirtgen China: “The exhibition remains a must in our event calendar, on a local level as well as on an international level as we had customers from Southeast Asia, India, Middle East, South America, Africa, and Russia.”

Chinese market still slow

Even officials in China do not predict a return to two-digit growth-rates. The Chinese government has increased investments in infrastructures at the beginning of 2014. But many projects won’t be implemented before next year. Qi Jun, President of China Construction Machinery Association, said: “In the first three quarters of 2014, the sales volume of nine kinds of construction machinery products fell 0,49 % over last year.” Imports decreased month by month and the first three quarters of 2014 showed a decline of 7,29 %. The export increased by only 0,99 % to an amount of US-$15 billion.