When it comes to excavators, He Qinghua uses a word not heard that often to describe heavy construction equipment: “fashionable”.
But to He, the founder of Sunward Intelligent Equipment Co Ltd, the word aptly describes the design of one of his company’s main products.
“The mini excavators often work in urban areas. The fashionable appearance will add beauty to the constructions sites,” he said with great pride.
Founded in 1999 by He, a mechanical and electrical engineering professor at Central South University, the Changsha, China-based company has grown into an international enterprise with total assets exceeding $951 million. Sunward is among the top 50 global construction machinery manufacturers, and when it comes to excavators, the company is among the top 20 global manufacturers.
Focusing on machinery engineering and intellectual property development, the company has exported products to more than 60 countries and regions with its core products, including large piling machines, excavators, drilling equipment, mining equipment, pavement construction machinery, military machinery and general aviation equipment.
And now He is pushing the design of his equipment along with product differentiation to win the US market.
“Sunward has targeted the global market ever since it was founded, so our main overseas markets are Europe, and the US before 2008,” said He, chairman of Sunward.
Before the financial crisis, the sales of excavators in the US were pretty good, he said. “During the few years following the crisis, we didn’t focus our overseas strategy on the US market until recent two to three years,” said He.
It’s harder to achieve brand recognition in the US than in Europe, said He.
“To win this market, we have to rely on product differentiation, which means our products’ performance must exceed the performance of local products, and then we can find our customers and dealers,” He said.
Aside from the products’ performance, another important factor is service, said He. To meet customers’ needs, the company has set up a subsidiary in Utah and service centers and warehouses in the US.
Sunward is among the first few Chinese companies that exported self-developed excavators to the European and US markets. The company has exported nearly 10,000 mini excavators since 2003.
Among its products ranging in size from 0.8 ton to 90 tons, the mini- and small-sized machines are most popular in the overseas market, according to He.
The company has manufactured several series ofits independently-developed products and accessories for the US market, including SWE series excavators, SWTL series skid steer loader, SWTC05 crane, SWDM15S rotary drilling rig and SWDL150 spiral drilling machine.
In March 2017, all those models were displayed at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Expo, the second-largest global construction machinery exhibition, which is held every three years in Las Vegas.
During the exposition, the SWDM15S rotary drilling rig, with maximum drilling diameter at 1.5 meters and maximum drilling depth at 56 meters, made its first appearance in the US. The machine’s imported Tier 4 engine meets US and European emissions requirement.
The company reached agreement with more than 20 potential dealers and signed $15 million in deals during the five-day exposition.
“I believe the customers will realize the value once they experience Sunward’s products. Performance is the foundation of brand recognition,” said He.
Independent innovation will be Sunward’s development model though it means a lot of risks and frustrations ahead, He said, adding that Sunward’s mission is to “produce real value for the world’s equipment manufacturing industry”.
As for good design, that Seward mini excavator that He is so proud of isn’t alone when it comes to recognition.
In 2007, the company’s backhoe loader won the Gold Idea Award of Industrial Designers Society of America) International Design Excellence Award, one of the three major awards in the industrial design area.