At the Great Wall of China!

The iglide car has reached its second wonder of the world!! We are visiting an area of the Great Wall of China near Beijing. This was the closest we were able to get a photo of the car against the wall. If you didn’t know what to expect, I don’t think anyone would guess that this is a “Great” wall; its only been maintained in certain areas.  Even though its isn’t as exciting looking as i expected, being at a place with such immense history is what struck me as great.

At the Great Wall of China!

The car couldn’t come up onto the wall, of course, so I took the dry-tech box along instead.

At the Great Wall of China!.2 At the Great Wall of China!.3

Jinan-Tai’an to Beijing (375 miles)

After leaving Jinan, we traveled to Tai’an to visit a customer specializing in labeling machines. Mr. Ji, who founded the company about 15 years ago, is one of our newer customers.

Mr. Ji was searching for ways to improve the quality of his machines, as he is trying to sell more abroad. One main disadvantage of his machines before finding igus was that they had to be lubricated regularly. One day, he decided to substitute some of the metal bearings he was using with our iglide J bearings.

As all our bearings are self-lubricating, he was easily able to end his lubrication and maintenance problems! While we were speaking, he mentioned that he was surprised with the long lifetime of our products. He also said that there was an unexpected side effect of switching to iglide, with the special plastic bearings he was able to reduce the noise of his machines.

igus was truly able to help Mr. Ji improve the quality of his machines. Currently he is looking into swapping out more metal bearings with iglide.

Tai’an is quite well known because of a nearby mountain that is said to be sacred.

The Tai Shan Mountain is one of the 5 sacred mountains of Daoismus. At just under 5100 feet, it is not an extraordinarily high mountain, but in ancient China it was considered to be the tallest in the world. Anyways, the mountain has been a place of worship for more than 3000 years, and is therefore quite famous. What does the most famous mountain in the most crowded country get? Lots of visitors.

There are two ways you can climb the mountain: by stairs, or by lift. Of course, taking the stairs (there are more than 6000!) would have taken a long time, and as we only had a half day to explore, we decided on the lift. Since I wasn’t able to take the car up the mountain, I took the dry-tech bearings box with me instead!

On the mountain itself, besides a lot of tourists, you get a stunning view and come across a nice temple.

 

One thing I have really become fond of on my trip so far is the food.  Traditional Chinese food is light, tasty, and diverse. They eat lots of vegetables, chicken, and soups, but also some stranger things. For me, to adapt to new cultures and countires means to break some of my regular habits. While there was one dish I wasn’t willing to try, I did try some insects. In the Northern part of Chine, people eat them quite a lot. I’m not sure what I ate exactly, but it wasn’t bad. I was surprised at how crispy they were – and tasted like potato chips! I think I’d still prefer some real potato chips when watching a movie, but the insects weren’t too bad.

Food really seems to be something that customer visits pivot on in China. Most companies have their own on-site restaurant, and usually after spending some time with a customer, they’d invite us for lunch. I don’t know why, but every customer offers me a beer. Maybe they just think Germans are drinking beer all the time! J

That’s all from me today, I’ll keep you posted.

Sascha

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles)

Today I want to give you a closer look at the truck accompanying us during the Chinese leg of the tour.

I think the truck was a great idea on the part of the igus China team; it seems to be attracting a lot of people. Both the car and truck together draws a huge crowd. Basically, it’s just a normal truck that has been modified so it can be turned into a trade show booth in about 5 minutes! The truck is big enough that we can showcase a wide range of products.

For our customers, we offer the “whole package.” On the truck, not only can someone have a direct look at our products, but also have time to talk one-on-one with product experts.

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles)

Every day, dozens of potential customers are giving us their contact details in order to learn more about our products, as well as receive the now famous igus cups as a reward!

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles).2

Usually, after visiting the booth, the visitors turn their attention to the iglide on tour project. For everyone, we offer a quick drive in the car. Most people think the tour is a great idea, but often add that it must be a real adventure to drive this particular kind of car across all the places we’ll encounter on the tour.

Two days ago, we arrived at the Yellow Sea on the coast of Qingdao. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this city before, but I learned it is a famous beach vacation mecca for Chinese and other Asian tourists. I can tell that this city is growing fast; all around is construction.

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles).3

The city has a very nice beach. I imagine that it must get totally overcrowded here in the summer months. Even though it is winter, the beach is still filled with People.

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles).4 Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles).5

In Qingdao, we met with one of our suppliers who delivers goods to us for our exhibitions; guess what his name is and where he’s from?!

Sascha Kurtenbach was born in Cologne, but has been living in China for about 10 years. Although he speaks the language fluently, he explained to me that he only know about 3,500 written symbols, which isn’t enough for him to read a local newspaper. He told me most Chinese people know about 5,000 symbols, and someone like a university professor would know about 10,000. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to learn this language; so far everything sounds the same to me.

In my last post I told you I wanted to introduce you to the people helping us along our world tour. As the truck was in focus today, I’ll let you meet its driver, Mr. Wang.

Mr. Wang is 35 years old and a father of two children. He is from Henan province, where we will be traveling soon to visit a famous temple. Even though he has been working as a driver for more than a decade, Mr. Wang says he’s never seen a truck like ours. I asked my colleague to ask his opinion about the tour and the truck. Mr. Wang said it is special to be a part of a project like this one, where he gets to do more than just driving. When the truck has been transformed into the display booth, he helps us hand out information and talks with customers, guiding them to the right person to answer their questions. A great member of our team!

Qingdao to Jinan (250 miles).8

That’s all from Eastern China so far, I’ll keep you up to date!

-Sascha

Finally on the road in China!

I still can’t believe that we really made it. We are finally on the road, with the iglide car DRIVING!

Let me tell you about what happened. Last Tuesday, we went to pick up the driving approval permit, but instead of handing it over, the police administrator told us our case had hit some complications and she wasn’t going to be able to give us the permit. If we wanted to drive, then we would have to obtain a document from the ministry of transport in Beijing.

What the igus China team pulled off was remarkable! They spent the rest of the day Tuesday in state offices while our guys in Shanghai, with help from the offices in Germany, worked day and night to modify all our paperwork. By Friday evening we were still unsure if we’d get the permit, but on Saturday morning we got it – just in time for the trip!

The igus China team had prepared a show truck to travel along with the iglide car to our customer visits. The truck is like its own tradeshow booth, with displays and information on our products, not to mention the free samples and gifts everyone loves about shows! Unfortunately, the truck left for Qingdao while we were waiting on the car’s permits. We had to get the car on the road quickly to catch up, but I wasn’t about to leave Shanghai without a few pictures of the iglide car driving downtown!

We are now on the way to Qingdao. The city is located near the Yellow Sea, and is one of the major harbors in the country. With 8 million people, the city is only considered to be medium size here. They laughed when I told them that Berlin is our largest city with only 3.5 million people! Qingdao is historically tied with Germany, as it was a German colony until 1914. A German brewery was even built here in 1903. That beer is now very famous here – a Chinese name, but the beer is the same 😉 Its sold here under the name “Tsingtao.” Perhaps it’s due to the comfortable distance of a Germany brewery that a German supplier for igus China is living here too, or maybe its just a coincidence. Anyways, We are going to meet him in the evening.

I would like to start using the blog as a platfor to introduce you to some of the people working for igus and on the iglide world tour. I’ll start today with Carte. Carte is 30 years old, and has worked with igus since 2011. He is working across China with automotive customers, and he’ll likely be with me for most of the Chinese tour. When I asked him what sporty activities he enjoys, he told me “Meeting customers.” It’ll be great to be tagging along to customers with someone as passionate as he is! (Either that or he misunderstood me J)

Next time, I’ll tell you if the main street in Qingdao is still a German name!

Sascha

First days in Shanghai

Welcome to the land of dragons. Well, I haven’t seen any dragons… yet. Nonetheless, some of Shanghai’s skyscrapers –especially the Shanghai Tower at about 2067 feet tall- are as impressive as a dragon would be. My first thoughts when arriving here was just “Wow!!”

This city is incredibly modern. Starting with our trip from the airport on a highway much more modern than any I’ve seen in Germany, everything looked on the cutting edge. Still, despite some of the ‘wow-effect’ skyscrapers, I can’t tell you much about Shanghai; I haven’t had time to discover the city yet, but as soon as  I do I’ll report it to you.  

So far, I can only say that Shanghai reminds me of New York City, surely owed to the stunning skyline. I think the skyline would look much better with a small orange car in front of it, don’t you think?

Well, speaking of the car, customs has cleared it, but we are still waiting on driving approval. While waiting, we brought the car to the shop to get the fluids replaced – they all had to be emptied at the airport in Bangalore on our way out of India.

During the inspection, we learned that the car’s automatic transmission for the car’s gear shift was not working anymore. It’s annoying, but it won’t disrupt our immediate tour plans as the car is semi-automatic, which means we can drive it in manual, as well.

By the way, we have a planned route through China of about 3,700 miles. We’re planning on going from Shanghai to Beijing, to the Great Wall of China, and back to Shanghai. This is just a tentative plan for now, and there are dozens of stops at customers and other spots along the way. All in all we’ll be traveling China for about 3 weeks.

 On Monday, the official press conference launching the Chinese tour was held. James Mao, CEO of igus China opened the conference with a speech, before Mark Poensgen gave information about iglide bearings, Fred Lu gave a presentation of iglide bearings for automobiles, and Dirk Tietz gave an overview of the retrofit process. Dirk also introduced me as the driver, and I followed with an overview of our trip through India.

After all that, the program was topped off with some traditional Chinese musicians, and the unveiling of the car.

 

The conference was very successful – 57 journalists from 45 different journals attended, and seemed like they couldn’t wait to see the car that would be traveling through their country over the next 3 weeks.

Even though we couldn’t take the car with us, we went to visit our first customers the next day. Our Chinese colleagues surprised us with a “show truck” to take along for exhibitions. I can imagine that both the car and the truck together will be quite impressive! Even without the orange iglide car, we saw more than 250 visitors in only half a day from Johnson Controls! They specialize in manufacturing car components including seats and batteries.

Right now, I’m on my way to the Chinese driving administration. I hope today we will finally get the permission that we need to get on the road and explore China! I’ll keep you up to date!

 -Sascha