Hannover, Germany -- Chinese bearing makers are out in full force this
year at the Hannover Fair. By my count there are at least a couple of dozen
companies in a cluster of small stands that make up the Chinese Pavilion in
Many have colorful names
that are not-so-subtle marketing messages in themselves, like "Billion Strong
Bearing" and "Ningbo Better Bearing Company."
But I wondered how these companies can possibly differentiate their
offerings among a sea of seemingly similar products.
Lower cost is presumably a
given, as no one typically looks to outsource parts unless there is an economic
incentive. But I was surprised how much the message has changed in only a few
years, with Chinese marketers sounding more and more like their Western counterparts
in their sales pitch.
"We offer a high grade
product, good service and a full line of bearing products," says Jin Xuan,
Executive Director of the Ningbo Better Bearing Co, Ltd. He says the company,
which has been coming to the Hannover Fair since 1999, is hoping that marketing
message will help further increase exports to Europe and North
America, which represent only a small fraction of the company's
overall revenue today. To help attract those new customers, he's also counting
on the company's ISO certification and tight quality control.
Michael Liu, marketing
manager at HL Bearings, says his company's broad product line includes
tapered roller bearings, ball bearings and cylindrical bearings. He also
emphasizes its capability to produce custom products, grabbing a tapered
bearing with no inner ring off a shelf to show me as physical evidence. He says
the company had roughly $50M U.S. in exports last year, mostly to the U.S., and is hoping to expand sales in Europe in the future.
Wuxi Wanda's Greg Chen is proud of the fact
that his company's prices are actually higher than other Chinese bearing
makers. "Most people think that Chinese products are cheap, and we're trying to
change that perception," he says. "Our philosophy is to make high-quality
products, and look for opportunities to add value." He says the company, which
makes precision-tapered roller bearings, cylindrical bearings and spindle bearings,
has quadrupled its U.S.
exports over the past five years and hopes to repeat that growth in the next
The only person to allude to
lower cost at all was David Soon, managing director at Supersun Industrial Ltd.
The small company ($1M U.S. in revenue) based in Northern
China sells ball bearings into lower end applications, which do
not require precision products. When asked about what differentiates his
company from the others, he says they are "very competitive on price."
Spoken, of course, like a