The wheels of a big business turn in small town
Working for a compact company suits David Beatenbough down to the ground because that gives him greater scope for having his hands on the levers of power, not such a bad thing for a mechanical engineer working for a company that makes heavy machinery.
It’s not that the company Beatenbough works for is by any means small, but “the management group here is smaller than my former employer’s, so we can make decisions and move faster”, said Beatenbough, 58, an American who has worked in China for about 13 years.
Beatenbough has worked for LiuGong Machinery Corp in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, since 2007, after having worked for an international machinery company in Shanghai for four years.
Beatenbough, a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state, met Zeng Guang’an, president of the State-owned LiuGong Machinery, two years after he began working for the Shanghai company.
Zeng, impressed by his record and knowledge of the global market, urged him to join LiuGong, but Beatenbough was hesitant about joining a Chinese company and turned down the offer. But Zeng persisted and finally, four years later, managed to get him to change his mind.
When Beatenbough joined the company, it was looking to expand globally, but he soon realized the dimensions of the challenges he faced because of the company’s limited product offering.
“We needed to expand the product line to attract quality dealers in the international market,”he said.
The model, still used by the company, managed to improve the success rate of such projects and shortened the launch time of new products.
“It forces our engineers to look at what our customers really need and want,” he said.
The company’s D series excavators, developed by following that model, won the company immediate attention in the market following their launch in 2010. The model has contributed to the company’s growth in the past few years, helping it enrich its product line and turning it into a full-scale manufacturer of construction equipment that makes wheel loaders, skid steer loaders, motor graders and excavators.
But Beatenbough wasn’t satisfied with just developing new products for the company as he thought most wheel loaders made in China looked the same no matter which company they came from.
Then, he tried to build a brand for LiuGong, with methods including the distinctive use of industrial designs so people could recognize its machines easily.
He also played a leading role in establishing the LiuGong Global R&D Center that opened last year. It is the only unit of its kind for earthmovers in China.
“It has always been my dream to build a world-class R&D Center in LiuGong,” said Beatenbough, now the company’s vice-president in charge of R&D.
A research unit should be a place where people sit down together regularly, brainstorming plans to get every detail right, he said.
Although Beatenbough cannot speak Chinese, he said language barriers largely do not bother him.
“In terms of engineering, the ideas are quite similar. It involves numbers and graphics a lot. That’s why we have whiteboards everywhere,” he said of the company’s meeting rooms.
He has paid great attention to the design of the R&D center itself by buying books on office decor.
He has made a “wall of history” with photos of products from LiuGong.
is a history
of our industry rather than the company’s history,” he said.
“If you don’t know where you came from, you also don’t know where you are going.”
Devoting himself to the development of a new generation of wheel loaders in the past year, he has helped the company successfully launch two core products that are globally competitive.
“We are on our way. That goal will definitely come true before my retirement,” Beatenbough said of his and the company’s ambition to become a world-leading player in this field.
His work in the sector has been recognized by the Chinese government as well.
Last year, he won the Friendship Award, a top honor for foreigners who contribute to the country’s development in different fields.
“The award is a great honor. It’s an important event in my life,” Beatenbough said.
For him, Liuzhou, as small as it is, is a pleasant place to live in. He enjoys riding his bike to explore different aspects of life in the city.
But some famous local delicacies are hard for him to handle as they are spicy, he said. He prefers to buy raw ingredients from the local markets and cook Western food in his apartment. Many of his local friends and colleagues describe him as the “best steak chef in Liuzhou”, Beatenbough jokes.
He has quite a few hobbies, such as cooking, reading, gardening, working with wood and taking or collecting antique industrial photos. These activities not only help him relax but are also sources of inspiration for his main job machines, he said.
It has always been my dream to build a worldclass R&D Center in LiuGong.”
vice-president of LiuGong Machinery Corp