Fuyao Glass bridges cultural divide in Ohio
The 1.6 million-square-foot factory that used to be a dank and deserted space — except for a few raccoons — is now reborn. Robots transport fabricated glass in a flowing rhythm, while men and women, many of whom were unemployed a year ago, busily work three fully up-and-operational production lines and installation stations.
Fuyao Glass America, the US branch of China’s largest automotive glass maker, is working toward its goal for 2016 of achieving full production capacity at its first US manufacturing facility in Moraine, Ohio, and further sealing its corporate image as a global manufacturer.
It’s been about 20 months since Fuyao took over the vacant plant abandoned by General Motors years ago. The factory now has 1,300 workers — about 700 full-time employees and 600 with part-time jobs that could turn into permanent ones with benefits after 90 days.
The factory will employ a total of 1,800 to 2,000 local workers by early next year, said John Gauthier, president of Fuyao Glass American.
Ohio Gov John Kasich, a candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, has been highly supportive and very proud of the project. He met with Cao Dewang, chairman of Fuyao Glass Industry Group, many times to finalize the deal.
On March 11, Kasich hosted a town hall attended by more than 1,000 locals at the Fuyao factory in advance of the Ohio Republican presidential primary on March 15.
“The whole process has gone smoother than I expected,” said Cao. “Every Chinese from Fuyao has been working really hard. It’s also very important that the US support us. Otherwise, it would never be possible.”
Apart from 120 Chinese workers from Fuyao’s Chinese factories who are running the installation of Fuyao-designed equipment and new employee training, everyone was hired in the US, mostly from the Dayton area. “Our largest challenges lie in the language barrier and cultural differences,” Cao said. “We are working on bridging that culture gap. We have to learn a lot of things. For example, American workers demand a break room, which we never have in our Chinese factories.”
“We have to localize. We tell our Chinese leadership to respect the US management team, and help them establish credibility,” he said.
Including Gauthier, four of Fuyao America’s top nine management executives are Americans.
Dealing with US Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and unions are among the challenges Chinese manufacturers face.
Also, American workers are different from workers in China. Many have no experience in auto glass-making, and they have different working hours and habits, said Gauthier.
A worker inspects parts at Fuyao Glass America, the US branch of China’s largest automotive glass maker, on March 29. The company is working toward achieving full production capacity at its 1.6 million-square-foot facility in Moraine, Ohio.