CRCHI: Growing from Strength to Strength

Liu Feixiang, Chairman of CRCHI, has discussed with Maria R the company’s strong growth in China and the secret behind its success in overseas market as a Chinese player.

How has CRCHI progressed as a TBM manufacturer over the years?

Liu Feixiang
Founded in 2007, China Railway Construction Heavy Industry Co., Ltd. (CRCHI) is a member of Fortune Global 500 China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC). As a large enterprise, the business of CRCHI covers research, design, manufacture and service of high-end underground engineering equipment and railway track equipment. CRCHI established 12 manufacturing bases in China (in Changsha Hunan, Sichuan, Gansu, Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning Guangdong etc), with Changsha being the biggest facility.

CRCHI strongly believes that technology innovates the world and service leads the future. Accordingly, CRCHI has shaped itself as an innovative and service-orientated enterprise by realizing Differentiation, Intellectualization, and Globalization.

CRCHI has benefited from its mother company CRCC's construction expertise, experience and techniques, and it promotes innovation in production and application. Today, CRCHI is positioned amongst China Construction Machinery Manufacturers Top 5 Enterprises and World Construction Machinery Manufacturers Top 50 Enterprises.

China first large open type hardrockChina's first large-diameter open-type hard rock TBM (off-line ceremony)

With its specialized and customized high-end equipment, CRCHI has shaped four business segments:
  • Hard rock tunnel boring machines, whose market share is about 80% in China and represented by shield machines and hard rock TBMs.
  • Specialized tunneling equipment, which ranks first in China, represented by drilling jumbos and multi-function vehicles.
  • Railway track equipment, whose market share is about one third nationally, represented by turnouts, fasteners and clips.
  • Railway maintenance machines.
How do you see the market of China for underground engineering?

Ten years ago, the market of China was occupied by foreign high-end underground engineering equipment, but now, Chinese brands account for 90% of the domestic market and 2/3 of the global market.

For 10 years, CRCHI has been focusing on innovation and all its products have independent intellectual property rights. More than 50 high-end underground engineering equipment are working in China and outside of China. CRCHI has more than 1,300 items of technical monopolies, some of which have led the world; in fact, the company is aiming to promote the global construction equipment industry high-end.

In terms of technology and customi- zation, how does CRCHI differentiate itself from other companies?

CRCHI aims to produce world-class products and adheres to the strategy of innovation and scientific research. We have three mature business segments viz. TBM, specialized tunneling equipment and railway equipment, and a number of emerging businesses. The market share of self-developed, full-face TBM, large-diameter TBM, and specialized tunneling equipment, including the three-arm drilling jumbo, are way ahead in China and amongst the top in the world.

CRCHI is committed to be the world's leading enterprise of customized and tailor-made underground engineering equipment and rail transit equipment. At present, we are the only enterprise in the world with the capability to develop and produce underground engineering equipment in both shield tunneling methodology and in drilling and blasting methodology.

We are not only a specialized equipment manufacturer, but also a complete underground solutions provider to contractors. In underground engineering equipment, we provide two types of methodologies: drill and blast equipment and tailor-made tunnel boring machines. Generally, we produce TBMs from 0.5 m to 16 m diameters. This year, we have bagged a contract to produce a 22 m diameter TBM for an underground car parking in China. We also design different shapes of TBMs as per the strata/geology and requirement of the clients.

So, what differentiates us from others is our complete solutions and services for specialized underground equipment in applications that include hydro power, metros, railways, roads, hydraulics etc. and in any kind of strata / geology.

Intelligent three boom drilling jumbIntelligent three-boom drilling jumbo of CRCHI on the construction site of Zhengzhou-Wanzhou high-speed railway

Would you like to share some of the remarkable innovations and achieve- ments of CRCHI with our readers?

In recent years, as China's 'Belt and Road' initiative continues, CRCHI is eying the global market for business opportunities. Today, we are exporting our TBMs to over 15 countries, namely, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and many others, where our machines have shown excellent performance. For instance, our 5 TBMs in Russia could cope very well with the extreme cold weather. This was because CRCHI designed the main drive for -30 degrees and equipped the machines with a heating system. The new design, when applied in the Moscow subway project, it reduced the construction time and work efficiency, and was much appreciated by our customers.

Our TBM "Galina" was the only TBM of China to be selected by the National Museum of China and exhibited at the "China-Great Change" to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up of trade.

CRCHI promotes the "Overseas Priority" by providing good quality products, advanced technology and good services to customers all over the world. We don't just sell products, but also promote our company's brand value. It is our mission to help "Made in China" win worldwide appreciation. CRCHI will continue to implement the "Overseas Priority" strategy, expand the overseas market, and offer more customized equipment for global customers. We firmly believe that we can provide the right Chinese solutions and Chinese wisdom to the world.

China first large  type hardrockChina's first large-diameter open-type hard rock TBM

CRCHI entered the international market in 2016 and has got many orders till date. What would you attribute your success to?

It's only been 12 years since CRCHI started its business from zero; we spent the first 8 years in developing new products, exploring the domestic market, and creating a strong brand domestically, while preparing to take our brand overseas.

In 2016, we entered the overseas market. It's been a short but fruitful journey, during which time, we exported over 30 units of TBMs. In 2018, our overseas sales revenue accounted for 8% of the company's total revenue and the share continues to increase year-on-year.

We attribute our success to the thorough research that we do of the specific markets; we study their geological conditions, strata and project requirements, and then become fully prepared with high quality products, solutions and services to satisfy customers.

The international market is both promising and challenging. To be able to find the right opportunities, it is important to be well prepared in all aspects of operation, mechanism, product technology, service and talent. Today, the reputation that CRCHI has gained has far exceeded our expectation.

The key to operate a business successfully is to select and develop only good products These products should also have some unique features, which your competitors cannot imitate. We believe that products with severe competition in the market are not deemed to be good. This is the reason why CRCHI offers only tailor-made, standardized and high-end products, which are closely aligned with the construction methodologies. We looked at the top 3 products in terms of market share and considered only these for development. It is also important to make the product good ever after; which means that we must always maintain the products' quality, good service and economy.

Over 60 years ago, experts from Soviet Union came to China and helped build the Beijing Metro. Today, the Chinese have helped Russia to build the Moscow Metro, using CRCHI TBMs.

SPB with  cutter

Another important point is innovation. One can never buy know-how from others! In underground construction, CRCHI is the only company in China which did not import technology, nor did it acquire any overseas enterprises. Moreover, CRCHI is the only company in the world to have both TBM methodology and drill & blast methodology products - the intellectual property rights for all the products and for the technologies used, are totally owned by us.

One interesting figure that has always been maintained during the growth of CRCHI is the number of our R&D employees; they comprise 20% of our total employee strength.

India, as one of the fastest growing markets for tunnel construction, has attracted many TBM companies from overseas. What business scope does CRCHI see in the Indian market for its tunneling equipment and technologies?

India is a great country like China. It is one the fastest growing economy in the world and there is a lot of focus and investment in infrastructure development. India and China are similar on many aspects including their large population. We are optimistic that as China has seen growth, similarly, India is going to see growth too.

Ten years ago, China had no high-speed road network, but today, we have 30,000 km of high-speed roads and highways connecting every part of the country. And we expect the same is going to happen in India as well, as the country has also started building roads at a faster pace, along with metros, railways, airports, smart cities etc. All of this will create huge demand of high-tech and specialized equipment and machinery. Hence, India has huge business potential for us and we have big plans for the country.

What products and services does CRCHI offer to the Indian market?

Three years back, we started operations in India through a dealer/distributor. This year, we are planning to establish our own company in the country with a local representative to enhance our presence. The local employees will coordinate with the project manager to better understand the requirements, which will help us to customize the products as per the demand.

Last month, we received a total of 900 million RMB order from India. We bagged an order of 160 million RMB from Larsen & Toubro, who purchased our TBM for Mumbai coastline projects. This is the first time that India is using such a large TBM. Beside this, we have sold 40 units of railway equipment such as rail maintenance machines in India.

Does CRCHI undertake refurbishment of TBMs?

Every project has different requirements so TBM designs and sizes are also different as per the project. We are providing refurbishment and second-hand equipment, but for second hand TBM it is important to be certain that the geology and strata of the site where the TBM will be used, is similar to the earlier project, along with the diameter of the TBM.

If all the criteria are the same for both projects, then only will the refurbished or second hand TBM works. So, before refurbish we will provide the sulution through studying the project application and strata.

How was CRCHI's participation at bauma 2019?

At bauma 2019, CRCHI exhibited its complete product portfolio and total solutions for tunneling, including equipment and innovative achievements, representing the most advanced technology of the industry. Innovations included our large-diameter SPB with cutter replacement under normal pressure, large-diameter open-type TBM with the fastest tunneling speed record, and rectangular TBM used in urban tunnel construction.

Our products drew a lot of attention from professional audiences from across the globe, who appreciated the expertise of CRCHI.

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