Manufacturing News

Chinese auto glass tycoon finds initial success in US rust belt, despite cultural difference

A recent report by The New York Times has made Fuyao Glass the focus of media reports. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's penalties on Fuyao, one of the world's largest auto glass makers, and concerns from automobile workers associations have created a negative opinion about the Chinese company's American business.

"Fuyao always puts the wellbeing of country, society, people, and employees first. Only in this way can the company make money," Cao Dewang, president of Fuyao Glass Industry Group, told the People's Daily.

At its Moraine manufacturing plant at Ohio, U.S.A., a People's Daily reporter met Nikki, who is responsible for logistics and transportation. She said she went to bed at 3:30am last night because she had handled some emergencies. "Working overtime is quite often, but I do it voluntarily," she said, adding that the company cares for her family, trusts her, and appreciates her work.

Moraine City Manager David Hicks might be the one who knows the city's history best. The 1930s saw the development of the automobile industry here. In the 1950s, the number of workers at the General Motors (GM) plant reached 18,000. Before the 2008 financial crisis, he learned that GM would close the plant, so he and other area officials journeyed to Detroit to lobby GM leaders face-to-face. The mission failed, but he succeeded in keeping the factory's workshops.

As expected by the city government, employee numbers increased from 600 to nearly 2,000 after Fuyao moved in, and it will further increase to 2,500. The factory has grown to be the largest car glass manufacturing facility in the world.

"It's really amazing!" Hicks exclaimed. "We need companies like Fuyao."

According to Liu Daochuan, president of Fuyao Glass America, the company's output is about $300 million, and it grows 30 percent every year. It aims to produce four million automotive replacement glass windshields each year and grab 25 percent of the market share in the U.S., with output value reaching $600 million and the value of after-sales reaching $200 million.

But the company still faces challenges operating in a country with a different cultural background.

To facilitate communication, the president sets aside one day each month to introduce the company policies, analyze existing problems, and listen to his employees. A three-year localization plan was also unveiled, which aims to help more local staff move into management and technical positions.

To cope with potential safety hazards, the company has set aside a seven-million-dollar fund; it also set up a committee for employee safety, according to Eric Vanetti, Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Fuyao Glass America.

"I joined Fuyao because I was curious, but I am also optimistic about its future," said Steve Schrader, Chief Financial Officer at Fuyao Glass America. How a Chinese company achieved success in the U.S. market and became a frontrunner made him curious. From introducing American technologies to manufacturing glass in America, Fuyao has come back with technologies it accumulated in the past three decades. The U.S. market is a market of fierce competition. If Fuyao can adapt to the environment and operate using advanced technologies and equipment, it will have a bright future, said Schrader.

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