The wheels of a big busi­ness turn in small town

China Daily (Canada) - - EXPATS - By ZHANG LI and LIU XIAN­GRUI Con­tact the writ­ers through li­ux­i­an­grui@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

“Ac­tu­ally

it

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

HUO YAN / CHINA DAILY

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