Supporting Technological Evolution in China
While we tend to focus on leading-edge technologies in this blog, such as hydraulic hybrids, electric vehicles, advanced thermal management, and engine downspeeding, it’s important to note that the technology landscape around the globe is not uniform.
This can be attributed to many factors – government regulations, adoption rates of innovations, availability of financing, labor costs – but the primary reason is the local preferences of equipment buyers. Simply put, if the buyers of equipment either perceive they don’t need or aren’t prepared to invest in the added benefits that advanced technologies can provide, it doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to offer machines with them.
This is certainly the case for off-highway equipment in China, where the use of basic torque converter technology with manual controls has been prevalent for many years. This technology is widely understood and trusted, simple to service, and low in cost compared to alternative power transmission technologies.
However, the Chinese market is evolving at a rapid pace, and equipment buyers are increasingly looking at the long-term total cost of ownership of their equipment purchases. Besides the initial purchase price, they are assessing how an increase in acquisition costs can be offset by the benefits they can achieve from improved productivity as well as lower operating costs related to reduced fuel consumption, less frequent maintenance, longer expected vehicle life, and financing.
Successful OEMs in China are also tasked with satisfying the needs of both the domestic market as well as the export market. To compete in the global market, leading Chinese OEMs are expanding the levels of technology used in their off-highway equipment, since export machines must meet higher expectations for fuel efficiency, productivity, equipment life, and compliance with emissions regulations.
Global Expertise, Local Implementation
As equipment buyers evolve, the technologies offered to them must evolve as well. But this is not a simple matter of taking a technology developed somewhere else and putting it into a Chinese machine. The technology must be customized to fit within existing vehicle design envelopes, integrate with other components sourced locally, optimize the performance of the entire vehicle system, and meet traditional expectations for usability, maintenance, and pricing.
This is why Dana has deployed technical centers at 15 locations around the world, including one in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. These technical centers are fully integrated into Dana’s global research and development system to provide advanced product and applications engineering. They allow us to support new products from concept development through launch, as well as to adapt technologies developed elsewhere in the world for the specific needs of each market.
For example, the test lab in Wuxi is outfitted with the latest testing equipment for axles, transmissions, materials, NVH, prototyping, inspections, and machining to ensure products engineered and manufactured in China meet Dana’s high global standards for performance and durability.
We cannot overemphasize the value of fully developing and testing drivetrain solutions in locations that are physically close to manufacturers, where we share the same language, customs, knowledge of historically used technologies, and an understanding of continuously changing customer needs. By working side by side with our customers, we are uniquely positioned to react quickly to the aggressive product development timelines of original-equipment manufacturers, wherever they do business in the world.
Proven Technologies Customized to Market Preferences
These advantages are evidenced in the development of our Spicer® Rui Ma™ drivetrain solutions, a new class of transmissions and axles designed and produced in China for the Chinese market. Developed and produced in Wuxi, these drivetrain solutions provide an optimized blend of product features, performance, dependability, and cost that purchasers of the majority of construction and other off-highway vehicles in China seek today.
Spicer Rui Ma products are an affordable, alternative solution for customers who want higher quality than what can be found in most Chinese-made components, but do not need the more advanced technology used in Dana’s premium Spicer line.
Hydrostatic transmission technology is also drawing increased interest from Chinese manufacturers of small front-end loaders and other off-highway applications, and we spoke with numerous Chinese manufacturers at the most recent Bauma China in Shanghai who are looking to incorporate hydrostatic transmissions into their product lines. Offering enhanced efficiency and performance characteristics, these technologies range from hydrostatic continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that maximize efficiency by continuously monitoring work conditions while responding with the optimal combination of speed, tractive effort, and control, as well as basic two-speed gearboxes and shift-on-fly hydrostatic transmissions
The world is getting smaller and smaller, with both global manufacturers looking to make in-roads into regional markets while regional manufacturers expand beyond their traditional local markets. That said, we are not yet at the point where a single solution can be universally applied around the globe. This is why we strongly believe that deep technological resources, local engineering talent, decades of market expertise, and a wide range of drivetrain solutions are paramount in responding to manufacturer needs and evolving market trends.
We’d like to hear your thoughts:
- What are the common elements you’ve found in engineering, regardless of where you go in the world?
- What lessons can engineers in mature markets like North America and Western Europe learn or re-learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world?
- Do you believe equipment standards around the world will eventually converge, or will engineers always have to account for regional preferences in some way?
Published by Kevin Hua