Auto supplier Minghua USA breaks mold in South Carolina

By Dong Leshuo in South Carolina | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-16 10:42

Auto supplier Minghua USA breaks mold in South Carolina

Minghua USA moved into its new plant in Spartanburg County, South Carolina on May 31. Dong Leshuo / China Daily

After a year of construction, Minghua USA, the US subsidiary of Jiangnan Mold & Plastic Technology Corporation (JMPT), moved into its new US home in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, on May 31.

The facility is a 538,195 square-foot plant within three miles of BMW Manufacturing Co, one of its major customers.

Founded in 1984, JMPT manufactures a range of molded plastic parts for the automotive industry, mainly bumpers and spoilers.

JMPT has seven plants in China and a new one under construction.

JMPT's customers include the major automobile companies in the world, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and General Motors.

"Our company grows along with the automobile market in China. We're the first manufacturer of bumpers in China," said Ren Hairong, president of Minghua USA.

JMPT plans to invest $45 million in South Carolina in two phases. The first phase is estimated to be $30 million.

"This investment in South Carolina and Spartanburg County will further strengthen Jiangnan's efforts to expand its global leadership role in the plastic molding industry," said Robert Cao, chairman and general manager of JMPT, in a statement. "It is very clear to us that South Carolina is a pro-business state, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation with the state as we grow."

"This is our first big Chinese manufacturing company here," David Britt, a Spartanburg County councilman, told South Carolina Radio Network in 2016. "It expands our international rsum."

The annual production capacity of the Minghua USA plant is 300,000 car sets. The plant is scheduled to start operations in January 2018. In the months to come, Minghua USA will get the facilities ready for the production of BMW G05, G07 spoiler assembly and seat parts.

Minghua USA hopes to create 150 jobs in five years. As of today, there are already 60 newly hired Americans in the company.

For Jason Duncan, director of operations at Minghua USA, his first time working with a Chinese company "has been a great experience."

Before joining Minghua USA in February 2017, Duncan had been in the automobile industry for about 20 years.

"I chose Minghua for a greenfield opportunity," Duncan said.

"I was interested in getting into a newly built facility, new company coming in, being able to get in at the round level and make a difference and help steer it in the right direction," Duncan said.

Over the past few years, the automobile industry in South Carolina has been steadily on the rise, with BMW locating in Spartanburg County and Volvo about to build its first US plant in South Carolina.

Chinese suppliers have learned to move with their customers, for a larger market share and better communication.

"You're starting to see more and more Chinese companies coming to this area, which is good," Duncan said. "They're becoming more and more involved in the automobile industry."

"We want to serve our customers better," Ren said.

Having worked for a lot of suppliers for BMW, Tom Morgan, quality manager at Minghua USA, who called himself "employee No. 8", thinks that Minghua really cares about what the customer thinks.

"They care about customer perception," Morgan said. "They care about having a great relationship with the customer."

Duncan thinks that the advantage of Chinese companies is that they bring their technology and mix it with the US.

"The challenge will be adapting to the Southern culture," which Duncan calls "a little more relaxed, laid back and slower pace", while "Chinese people are very hard working. They're very loyal people. The hierarchy is very structured.

"I think it'll just take some time for them to adapt," Duncan said.

Ren thinks that the management philosophy is different in China and in the US, and she is trying to adapt the corporate culture to the American way.

"I think the biggest advantage of Minghua is that they are very open and willing to work with anybody," Duncan said. "They are very helpful. The Chinese culture is to not let anybody fail. They're always there to help you."

"My co-workers are exceptional, sharing the culture and educating me," said Morgan. "It's a two-way street and exciting both ways. They get to learn about American culture and I get to learn about Chinese culture. Some of it has been eye-opening."

"Some of the disadvantages lie in communication," Duncan said. "It's just a little hard on understanding with the two different languages. It takes a little longer to understand what each one of us is trying to say. Lots of times we're on the same page, we're talking about the same thing. But it takes a little longer to figure out that we're both going in the same direction. It's not bad, it just takes a little longer."

"I see in the years to come us expanding, broadening our customer base within the US, because there are a lot of potential customers in this area, giving us the opportunity to work with them, plus building our relationship with BMW," Duncan added.

Both Duncan and Morgan got to visit China with the company and both had a great experience. "I would definitely go back anytime," Duncan said.

"Chinese people try to please each other more," Morgan said. "In the US, I think we take it for granted that you can say what you want, if you upset somebody, nobody really cares. In China, they very much care about working relationships between co-workers, and the customer. I think we can use that more in American companies."

"My vision for the next year is we'll be very busy," said Morgan.

"I look forward to working with BMW and proving that they made the right choice in choosing Minghua as a supplier," Morgan said.

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