Nuts and Bolts

China’s Screw Cap­i­tal Braces for an Up­grad­ing

That's China - - Enterprising Dinghai - Text by / Li Jing

“Peo­ple in Jin­tang were born busi­ness­peo­ple. Some­one who was a farmer yes­ter­day, can turn into a big boss overnight,” said Wang Bo, Vice Chair of Ding­hai E-com­merce Pro­mo­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, open­ing the con­ver­sa­tion in his of­fice which fea­tures a per­fect view of one of the five sea-span­ning bridges in Zhoushan.

Set­tling down in Zhoushan af­ter many years of striv­ing for a for­tune and a fu­ture in Shang­hai, Wang Bo calls his second home­town ‘a won­der­ful place to live’. “I did not re­al­ize how much the screw mak­ers in Zhoushan had been con­tribut­ing to the world screw mar­ket un­til I came to Jin­tang,” Wang Bo told us.

The man’s un­aware­ness can be for­given. The fact that a small is­land on China’s south­ern coast is the world’s largest screw ex­porter is known by very few out­siders and is un­known even amongst screw buy­ers in In­dia, Ger­many and Amer­ica. “When we brought peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the In­dian So­ci­ety of Plas­tics In­dus­try to Jin­tang, they were shocked by what they saw in what’s called China’s ‘screw cap­i­tal’,” Wang Bo re­called, show­ing us a pic­ture. “They know they are buy­ing from China, but that’s all they know about the start of the in­dus­trial chain.”

A long-term lead­ing in­dus­try in Jin­tang, screw man­u­fac­tur­ing gen­er­ated a to­tal value of pro­duc­tion top­ping five bil­lion yuan in 2016. The his­tory of the in­dus­try dates back to the 1980s. When He Shi­jun, from a lo­cal agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery plant, saw the trans­ac­tion of a screw sold to a for­eign client at a whop­ping price of 10,000 USD at an in­dus­trial expo held in Qing­dao, his eyes popped out. “I could make one at the cost of 2,000 yuan,” he blurted out to an en­gi­neer from Shang­hai who sat

“At least 10 years into the fu­ture, it is im­pos­si­ble to see screws step down from the world’s in­dus­trial arena.”

be­side him. The man re­turned to the fac­tory in Jin­tang, de­ter­mined to try his luck in the lu­cra­tive mar­ket. It did not take him too long to fig­ure out the tech­no­log­i­cal process. He made his first pot of gold in his life, and be­came the found­ing fa­ther of the screw man­u­fac­tur­ing tra­di­tion of Jin­tang.

The low-tech, la­bor-in­ten­sive in­dus­try brought many Jin­tang peo­ple onto the road of wealth, but it was faced with a large pot­hole to­wards the start of the 21st cen­tury. A tech­no­log­i­cal bot­tle­neck, reliance on old-fash­ioned hu­man re­sources and poor fi­nan­cial man­age­ment started to wreak havoc, caus­ing a vi­cious cir­cle in the in­dus­trial chain. When the rest of the world was em­brac­ing the magic of In­ter­net, many screw fac­tory own­ers in Jin­tang would still mud­dle along in the mire of a do­geat-dog price war. Many screw busi­nesses were troubled, ill-gov­erned, and fac­ing enor­mous eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges. Some were ‘screw­ing it up’.

The en­tre­pre­neur­ial pas­sion of Wang Bo chimed in at such a crit­i­cal pe­riod. Launched in 2015 as the coun­try’s first on­line-plat­form de­signed ex­clu­sively for the screw in­dus­try, the in­no­va­tive tool has shown its grow­ing po­ten­tial to serve as a match­maker be­tween pro­pri­etors and gov­ern­ment and be­tween man­u­fac­tur­ers and buy­ers. Also op­er­at­ing as an in­for­ma­tion ‘dis­penser’, the plat­form has proven its ef­fi­ciency in hu­man re­source al­lo­ca­tion and broad­cast­ing the lat­est trends and new poli­cies is­sued by the state gov­ern­ment.

It took less than two years for Wang’s team to usher the screw in­dus­try of Jin­tang into the frame­work of China’s most am­bi­tious de­vel­op­men­tal strate­gies – the great cause of ‘made in China 2025’ and the ‘Belt and Road’ re­nais­sance.

Within two years, the plat­form has drawn a mem­ber­ship of more than 200 screw man­u­fac­tur­ers and deal­ers, who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their break­through with the aid of tech­no­log­i­cal up­grandindg and re­source shar­ing. “Au­to­ma­tion does not mean ma­chines can re­place hu­man brains. The goal of au­to­ma­tion is to turn the in­dus­try from la­bor-in­ten­sive to tech­nol­ogy-driven, and the im­por­tance of high-cal­iber tech­ni­cal and man­age­ment per­son­nel can never be over­es­ti­mated,” Wang Bo clar­i­fied.

Such fore­sight is also a con­sen­sus reached not only by ev­ery­one in Wang Bo’s team but also by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment. At the Xi­hou In­dus­trial Park in Ding­hai, a ‘screw in­dus­trial town’ is tak­ing shape, cur­rently host­ing seven ma­jor screw man­u­fac­tur­ers and two large-scale in­fra­struc­ture projects in­volv­ing a to­tal cap­i­tal in­put of 800 mil­lion yuan. Upon the com­ple­tion of con­struc­tion in 2019, the ‘screw em­pire’ will be­come a new cor­nu­copia in Jin­tang and open a brand-new chap­ter in the in­dus­trial land­scape of Zhoushan.

“At least 10 years into the fu­ture, it is im­pos­si­ble to see screws step down from the world’s in­dus­trial arena,” Wang Bo pointed out, adding that “no mat­ter how hot the 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy is, it is far from be­ing able to re­place screws”. He went on to point out the im­mea­sur­able op­por­tu­ni­ties to be brought to all screw mak­ers by China’s ‘Belt and Road’ en­deav­ors.

“The in­fras­truc­tural con­struc­tion that is now in full swing in many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, to­gether with the new wave of ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and ‘rein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion’ in many de­vel­oped coun­tries, prom­ises a re­li­able source of profits for all screw man­u­fac­tur­ers in Jin­tang.”

The man’s con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of the screw in­dus­try, as well as in the fu­ture of the on­line plat­form, also comes from the emerg­ing pop­u­lar­ity of ‘green plas­tic’ tech­nol­ogy in some de­vel­oped coun­tries. “In Amer­ica, plas­tic floor­ing is gain­ing mar­ket share for its ‘green’ fea­tures. Where cor­po­ra­tions be­fore touted the best and most ex­pen­sive gad­gets, many are now ex­tolling the power-sav­ing fea­tures of high­tech plas­tic prod­ucts.”

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