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Chinese firm thrives in Germany with innovative business model

Trade volume between China and Germany reached €170 billion last year allowing China to overtake the US as Germany’s largest trading partner.

Cooperation between the two countries is still on the uptrend. Germany in return became China’s largest trading partner and biggest source of capital and technology in Europe.

But how could Chinese manufacturers win over the trust of German clients?

A Chinese heavy-duty equipment manufacturing company in Hamburg may have the answer to the question.

Approximately 80 percent of the giant cranes at the bustling Hamburg port are from a Chinese company, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company (ZPMC).

Macro Hennekes, a German crane driver, said that they are better than the German products he used to operate.

“The crane is good. It has little noise. It can grasp heavier stuff. As it’s close to the ships, it can drag stuff easier. And it can lift up to two containers at the same time,” said Hennekes.

The company has already delivered 47 cranes to the Hamburg terminal.

However, at the early days of the company, things were not as easy as it is seen now, especially it was hard to win over Germany’s trust, a country famous for efficiency and manufacturing.

But one of ZPMC’s key innovations helped the Chinese brand conquer the German market.

“We overturned their traditional model,” said Huang Qingfeng, President of ZPMC. “Our German competitors ship crane parts to the port and assemble it on the field. It usually takes one year, but we put the parts together on a base in China, and ship it here as a whole.”

“This is very important to our cargo port. This model only takes a month to put a crane into operation. It doesn’t delay our work,” said Ulf Bockelmann, technical director of German transportation company Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG.

This new model is behind 18 years of smooth cooperation between ZMPC and the port. And the two sides say they are winners from their collaboration.

“We have big benefits from ZMPC, regarding their experience worldwide, and their flexibility at the terminal,” said Bockelmann. “I think ZMPC also benefits from our expectations, because they learn from us about operation and productivity.”

ZPMC Germany was one of the Chinese firm’s first overseas branches. It has since reaped much success on a larger scale, and is now the largest heavy-duty equipment manufacturer in the world.

“Hamburg port has helped us establish a good reputation, it not only helped us with the German market, but the global market. So our relationship has achieved a mutual-beneficial and win-win result,” said Huang.

ZMPC’s thriving business is only a small part of the growing bilateral trade between China and Germany.