As the Mainland economy continues to grow and evolve, the face of manufacturing is changing dramatically.
The traditional industrial production and low-skilled work that led to China – and particularly Guangdong Province – becoming known as the “factory of the world” is fast disappearing. Smart manufacturing, instead, is emerging as a growth area, with cutting-edge technology being employed in factories across Guangdong Province.
The development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in recent years has given an added spur to the transformation, as the 11 cities refine their focus to more specialized areas, to upgrade their capabilities and avoid duplication.
To learn more about the latest development of the GBA’s smart manufacturing industry, China Committee Chairman Petrina Tam, along with Vice Chairmen SH Chan and Edmond Yew, led a 34-member delegation to Jiangmen and Zhongshan on 19 September, travelling via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
On arriving in Jiangmen, named after its location amid two mountains and a river, members first learned about some of the history of the city, which is known as the “capital of overseas Chinese.” The Jiangmen Wuyi Museum of Overseas Chinese introduced delegates to the history of the large numbers of people who travelled to the United States to seek a living and to escape the social unrest and hardships in China at the end of the 19th century.
Today, Jiangmen has been transformed. With the development of advanced manufacturing and high-end equipment manufacturing, coupled with the gradual improvement of transport infrastructure in the region, Jiangmen has become a gateway city for the western GBA.
The city is not as urbanized as much of the rest of the GBA, which means there is scope for further development and investment.
“Jiangmen is the only city in the GBA with a sufficient supply of land for development,” said Cai Dewei, Vice Mayor of Jiangmen, during a meeting with delegates. “As a city founded on industry, Jiangmen attaches great importance to the development of the manufacturing sector, and boasts many long-established outstanding manufacturing companies.”
Hong Kong companies have for many years been setting up manufacturing plants in the Mainland areas that now make up the GBA. Among the long-established companies is the 131-year-old Lee Kum Kee, a household name in Hong Kong, which has established its largest production base in Jiangmen.
With its entrepreneurial spirit, Lee Kum Kee has transformed from a small oyster sauce business into a kingdom of sauces, with more than 200 products sold at home and abroad. In recent years, its Jiangmen plant has undergone significant improvements in automation and mechanization, which has enhanced production efficiency and eased the pressure on labour supply.
The 111-year-old Xin Baotang is another long-established enterprise, which has been recognized as a transmitter of an intangible cultural heritage of Guangdong Province – production skills for xinhui chenpi (dried tangerine peel). The company also keeps abreast of the times by using highly automated machinery to ensure the quality of its products.
In addition to its automated production line, Xin Baotang has developed new products in recent years. One of these is making enzymes from the large amount of discarded tangerine pulp. This helps solve the problem of pungent tangerine pulp piling up during the harvest period for xinhui in December.
The delegation also visited the sales headquarters of Kejie Group in Jiangmen. Kejie specializes in research and development, production and sales of the equipment manufacturing industry, providing customers with sophisticated computer numerical control processing machines. Its self-developed products have been sold to Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.
On day two of the mission the delegation visited Zhongshan, the hometown of Sun Yat-sen and the only Chinese city named after a great man. Zhongshan is conveniently accessible by public transport, with its one-hour economic circle covering five major airports in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai, four deep water ports in Nansha, Hong Kong, Yantian and Guangzhou, as well as eight railway lines.
“Zhongshan is actively integrating itself into the GBA development,” said Lei Yue Long, Vice Mayor of Zhongshan. “The Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridge under construction is expected to be completed and opened in 2024. After the bridge opens, it will only take 20 minutes to travel from Zhongshan to Shenzhen, which will greatly strengthen the link between the cities along both banks of the Pearl River.”
As an advanced manufacturing city and a modern service industry base, Zhongshan boasts a national-level development zone – the Zhongshan Torch Hi-Tech Development Zone. Another development zone – Zhongshan Tsuihang New District – is also under way. The Chamber delegation took the opportunity to visit several smart manufacturing businesses and their production plants located in these areas.
Established in 1988, Hongrita is a Hong Kong company with facilities in Shenzhen and Zhongshan Tsuihang New District, focusing on advanced R&D in product moulds. ZRP Printing Group was set up in 1978 and specializes in packaging and printing. It is one of the best-known packaging companies in the sector.
During their visits to Hongrita and ZRP Printing, delegates noted that in addition to highly automated production lines, both companies have an automatic warehouse management system in place. These high-tech warehouse systems enable the companies to automate the management of large quantities of raw materials and their delivery to the required production lines, which helps save staffing resources.
Magusso, another company operating in the Tsuihang New District, has developed various patented technologies to make its kitchen appliances both efficient and space-saving. Mltor, another innovative high-tech company located in the Torch Development Zone, integrates R&D, production, sales and service of automatic control equipment. Its products are widely used in the aerospace and automobile industries.
During the two-day mission, the delegates visited a total of seven manufacturing companies. Petrina Tam, Chairman of the China Committee and leader of the delegation, said that the mission had shown that the development of the Pearl River West cannot be ignored.
“On this trip, we have seen how the advanced equipment manufacturing industry is booming in the western part of the GBA and the companies based there are doing very well,” she said. “Coupled with the support policies being rolled out by local governments, all of these are conducive to the stable and healthy development of the region in the long run.”
Tam encouraged members to grasp the opportunities arising from the development of the western part of the GBA, and to make the effort to explore Zhongshan and Jiangmen.