On day 7 we traveled from Shanghai to Suzhou and Changshu, where we visited the Suzhou Industrial Park, Johnson & Johnson Suzhou, and the Canadian Solar Corporation. Our trip to Suzhou was coordinated by Ms Maria Liang, Suzhou Partner with Deloitte, and U of A MBA alumni.
At the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), we were greeted by Mr Alan Wong, Senior Project Manager at SIP, who recruits and manages commercial tenants within the park. Mr Wong discussed the special incentives offered for businesses located in Suzhou, and explained that 130 of the Fortune 500 companies already had a presence in Suzhou. Mr Wong explained his desire to upgrade tenants within the industrial park from labour intensive industries to non-polluting high end industries. SIP is currently recruiting businesses in the pharmaceutical, precision mechanics and service industries.
Ms Liang joined us for lunch and had an opportunity to discuss her experience as a U of A MBA grad working in Suzhou.
After lunch, we visited Johnson and Johnson Suzhou, where M. Frederic Caubit, general manager of Johnson and Johnson Suzhou, discussed opportunities and challenges of managing manufacturing operations in Suzhou. The J&J manufacturing operations in Suzhou produce knee and hip replacement products for medical clinics around the world. M. Caubit, a French expat and as it turned out, a fellow former student with Pascal Bisson of our U of A MBA group, explained how, through conservatives practices, his plant has not experienced a single product safety issue since he started manufacturing 26 months ago. His plant implemented LEAN manufacturing 3 years ago, and it was fascinating to examine their LEAN cellular manufacturing operations at work on a subsequent tour of the shop floor.
On the road back to Shanghai, we stopped in Changshu and were met by Dr Zhang, a Chinese-Canadian who was born in Shanghai and received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Manitoba. Dr Zhang described the history of Canadian Solar Inc, from its roots in 2001 as a small spin-off of Ontario Hydro to its present day position as one of the top five global players in the solar panel industry. Canadian Solar Inc has nearly 7,000 employees who manufacture and sell solar cells and modules. It has 7 sales offices worldwide, with its headquarters located in Kitchener, ON. It has R&D partnerships with the University of Toronto, ECN, and Dupont. It was interesting to hear how Dr Zhang was able to leverage Canada’s reputation for quality in her company’s branding. As a Canadian company, she stated that her company has a much better reputation for product quality than her Chinese competitors, and she backs her quality guarantee with a 25 year warranty on all her products.