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Jushi, literally translated as ‘Giant Stone’, has come a long way since its inception in 1993. With 10,000 employees, spread amongst three plants across China, the Jushi Group has developed a colossal capacity, able to produce 900,000 metric tonnes of fibreglass per year, which the company say make it one of the largest producers of fibreglass reinforcements in the world.
NetComposites was invited to attend Jushi’s 15th Annual International Conference on Fibreglass, held at their vast headquarters in Tongxiang, part of the Zhejiang province, China. Afterwards, we discussed the progress of Jushi with the company’s CEO, Mr. Yuqiang Zhang, whose business exploits have this year gained him the title of The Best CEO of Public Companies in China, 2009.
Future of Fibreglass
Despite the proliferation of fibreglass alternatives, ranging from Carbon Fibre to bio materials like Flax, Jushi are confident that their product has a good future. “We believe that no other material can take the place of fibreglass,” says Mr. Zhang. “Many more industries will be dependent on the use of fibreglass in the future; it can already be used in emerging industries such as environmental protection and energy saving and there will be more applications explored in the years ahead,” adds Mr. Zhang. Having gained the 2008 Supplier of the Year award from Wind Turbine specialists, Vestas, Jushi have already made solid inroads into renewable energy.
Mr. Zhang indicated that the developments being made by Jushi meant that there is plenty of scope to bridge the gap between alternative fibres. “We believe the key is to continue to develop E-glass to higher levels. We know that carbon fibre currently achieves a higher level of strength and performance, so we must develop our fibreglass to match these properties.”
According to researchers at Jushi, they are working towards this goal through the introduction of their latest formulation of E-Glass, E6 Enhanced Glass Fiber.
Commitment to R&D
A tour of the Tonxiang facilities shows the extent of Jushi’s commitment to research and development and gives credence to Mr. Zhang’s confidence. Engineers work from Monday to Sunday, researching new formulations of fibreglass and working on quality control to ensure that the final product is of the highest quality. “We have committed around $20 million every year to our research and development of our fibreglass over the last five years,” says Mr. Zhang, who believes constant development of his product will ensure continued growth. “We have looked at an increased number of applications (based on our customer feedback) and made subsequent modifications of our glass formulations,” he adds.
A large portion of the feedback Jushi have used to reformulate their product has come directly from their exclusive US representative, Gibson Fiberglass. These high-end customer demands have challenged Jushi to continually develop their product range in order to meet a set of standards unfamiliar to many Chinese companies. This relationship has led to a number of new product developments. In 2009, Jushi applied for no fewer than 24 international patents and have now implemented the commercial production of their E-6 fibreglass rovings. This continued advancement has been the reason for Jushi’s successful advancement into areas such as the renewable energy market and the marine industry.
In addition to their in-house product developments, Jushi has committed itself to looking further afield than its own laboratories for new blends of fibreglass; Jushi has just recently announced it has signed an Agreement of Technical Cooperation with Sichuan University, which will not only help to continue the company’s ambitions to further fibreglass technology, it will also help to expand Jushi’s reputation and increase brand awareness.
This is a new way of thinking for a Chinese company. “[In China] there are problems with standards and the understanding of technology,” explains Mr. Zhang. “Previously, we have seen companies produce great products but had no understanding of why they work because they had no theoretical support to go along with their developments. In the last five years we have broken this trend by spending millions to find out how and why we can make good products. We have set up laboratories looking at pultrusion, injection moulding and filament winding and we can judge whether a product is the right fit for our customers,” added Mr. Zhang.
Although the world’s economic troubles have caused a manufacturing slowdown, Jushi retain their ambition to grow output capacity to 1.5 million metric tonnes of fibreglass per year by 2012. This year, emerging domestic business has buoyed the company and despite foreign business decreasing, custom has risen by approximately 20% within China. However this increase in local business has not deterred Jushi’s international agenda.
“We must target expansion. We need to look at adding more locations to our business so that we can expand our capacity.” says Mr. Zhang. This ambition has just taken a major leap forward as Jushi announce their launch of sales and marketing facilities in France and Spain with speculation mounting as to whether the company will look to expand production to these countries at some point in the future. In addition to this, Jushi’s commitment to improving its products and modernising its factories seem to indicate that the 2012 targets set out by Mr. Zhang are well within the company’s reach.
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