Many Italian and European manufacturers are delivering new attractions to China, a market that continues to offer interesting opportunities and surprises
CONQUERING THE CHINESE MARKET AND THE IMPORTANCE OF INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS
by Enrico Fabbri
Back in the early 2000s, during a coffee break at the EAS trade show at EuroDisney in Paris, I had the chance to hear the opinions of 2 leading roller coaster manufacturers: “In the future,” they told me, “Chinese amusement parks will only purchase large roller coasters from Europe, and will buy the other small and medium rides from local manufacturers.”
Some months later I had the chance to visit the factories of some Chinese manufacturers. One of them, in particular, had installed and prepared for testing a Wild Mouse type roller coaster, very similar to the one made by Reverchon Industries. They let me have a closer look at the ride, including the transmission system and cars. They then took me to their technical department, where there were several people working on CAD drawings. The supervisor explained their design process, which involved ‘reverse-engineering’: they took a photo of an interesting ride made by other manufacturers and then calculated the overall dimensions of the attraction in proportion, until being able to create a complete model in CAD. The main structure was then processed using special software for a structural check. At the end of the visit they asked if I wanted to purchase their rides and sell them in Europe, as, in their opinion, there were no major differences between the ones we make in Italy and those they manufacture. Later I discovered that the company had closed because all of its key employees had left to work for another manufacturer.
In fact, once installed and used at Chinese amusement parks, many rides made in China immediately highlighted a number of technical problems, in some cases with serious accidents involving riders. Attractions are very complex machines with many fundamental safety components. This means maximum attention and extensive experience is needed in the technical department regarding the manufacturing aspects. In China, the number of attractions that can be produced and sold every year is minimal compared to other products made in the country, and these volumes do not allow Chinese manufacturers to specialise and achieve the same quality as their European colleagues.
Over time, the greater care paid to safety at Chinese amusement parks has meant they now buy medium-sized rides from Europe, even if these cost more than rides made in China. Consequently, safety and the duration of the ride are important factors for these parks too.
But that’s not all. In China there are a few big companies that own and operate several amusement parks (one example is OCT, a group listed on the stock exchange). These groups do not want simply well-made rides: they want innovative products in terms of both theming and concept. In other words, they have the same approach as the large American corporations, and like them they’ve long-term development programs.
Even the waterparks industry in China has been significant for many years and now accounts for more than 50% of global production. Many Chinese cities are near the sea, and so waterparks are also used to teach kids to swim. Over 70% of new wooden roller coasters are sold in China.
In China, like everywhere else, all attractions must be inspected and certified before being put into service. Small rides are managed by regional certification offices, while medium-large rides are certified by the main office in Beijing. The certification system involves 100% inspection of the welding and comparative analysis between drawings and calculation of the attraction. All very similar to what happens here in Europe.
The Chinese market is therefore a great opportunity for all Italian and European manufacturers. Almost no product made in China has been a success outside of China, especially when compared to other sectors. Against this, Chinese customers demand high quality standards and have technical staff capable of evaluating the products before purchase. As the local market is expanding, they want innovation at all levels, which many manufacturers had no longer been used to offering.
Written by Mr. Enrico Fabbri firstname.lastname@example.org
Article originally published in Games Industry (Italy) magazine
Original date: November 2015
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