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Supporting the shift to a carbon-neutral world - An interview with Sealand CEO Yu Sun

发表时间:2021-10-08 15:27

Interviewed and written by Lu Hong; associate editor for Entrepreneur Business And Life

The new IPCC climate report released in August has placed even greater urgency on the need to shift to a carbon-neutral world. One of the many companies playing its part in the battle against climate change, Sealand Technology, design and produce cleaning devices that ensure optimum savings for clients, while also promoting a greener world. Sealand now has a close market relation with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and now is actively expanding its business to USA, where Sealand has designed a more advanced cleaning devices that works well on US outdoor scenarios such as parking lots and outlets. In this interview with Yu Sun, CEO of Sealand Tech, we learn more about how this company is taking advantage of Electrical Engineering and product design technologies to further enhance the environmental performance and efficiency of its cleaning machines.

   Q: I want to ask you about Society 5.0 because we know that China, in the face of major changes, has had to adopt new technologies such as IoT, Industrial Engineering, and Product Design to overcome societal trends such as the environmental protection. Can you tell us how China could offer the world when it comes to the next generation of cleaning devices that assist labors to help the next generations of society?

   A: It is indeed a fact that China's environmental condition has caused some problems in the domestic market and the quality of drinking water and food has shrunk. We know that this crisis has pushed a lot of Chinese companies to reduce the pollusive emissions, and our company is no exception, we cannot continue relying heavily on the heavy and polluted cleaning devices. Most of Chinese cities has KPI on environmental protection and carbon neutrality, that motivated our design of carbon neutrality property into our cleaning devices.

On the other hand, we are now making necessary steps to go beyond the Chinese borders and expand in Asian markets such as in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and our aim, aside from what the more economically developed companies are doing, is to contribute to the rapidly growing Southeast Asian region. Vietnam would serve as our entry point to further expand in the Southeast Asian market. We invested in a cleaning machine making facility in Vietnam and through this we can reach other potential markets.

In terms of the management of the supply chain which is very crucial because we have to deal with sustaining various elements such as materials, sales, delivery, and quality due to the fact that one market differs from another. Our management's decision is very important as to where, which, and what kind of things should be produced, this is how our supply chain works. To make this happen and to optimize and make this process efficient, IoT plays a crucial role. If we can improve one particular aspect of the supply chain, all things combined can be improved on a larger scale. Furthermore, our aim is to be competitive in terms of prices and to produce products with the best features. Our midterm strategy was to invest in the hardware infrastructure necessary for the introduction of IoT, but we have accomplished beyond that initial plan. Currently, we are now in the next phase of implementing full-scale IoT with product design and 3D CAD programming. While it is true that there is a declining demand in the local market here in China, however, by making enough efforts to improve the supply chain it is possible to improve the situation and increase your attractiveness towards the customers.

   Q: China's big infrastructure and construction boom occurred in the 2000s before the first Olympic Games that was held in Beijing, since then China became a major industrial nation. Nowadays, with the emerging of environmental problems, there is an increasing need for environmental protection and on the contrary the demand for new infrastructure has slowed down. With regards to your product design business for industrial cleaning solutions, can you tell us about your situation in the domestic market and your forecast for the international aspect of your business?

    A: There are two approaches that have been adopted these days, the world utilizes PPP (Public Private Partnership) and the private sectors utilize BOT (Build Operation Transfer), these approaches have been adopted by developed countries. Unfortunately, China is relatively slow in adopting these approaches in the domestic market, this is one of the reasons why we are targeting the East and Southeast Asian market. We believe that we could get good returns in a short period of time, it is just a matter of implementing our technologies to these emerging countries. With regards to China's higher attention on environmental protection, through our R&D efforts we could come up with a new business that could potentially catch up this trend in China and spread our business worldwide. One example is to come up with solutions that could reduce the emission and water consumption during the cleaning job. Through product design, on the other hand, we are looking to tackle projects using our technology for the lighter product weight and size, and using of environmental friendly materials, for example, through our product design system.

Another way to accomplish this is through joint ventures. Despite the enhanced technology that we have it is quite challenging to capture bigger markets because compared to larger companies our capital is relatively lower. We already obtained the angle round of investment, but that is far from enough for expanding our business worldwide. We are now combining efforts with eight different companies from Shanghai which operate in different kinds of industries, our goal is to promote our technologies and showcase our respective portfolios. Shanghai companies are trying to bring their own resources to develop new businesses in order to achieve our target of 46 GW by 2030, this is one of the steps towards becoming a carbon-neutral society. This synergy to be created could be a win-win situation for Chinese companies.

   Q: These projects on utilizing carbon neutrality provide some challenges such as high costs. China has pledged to be a carbon-neutral society by 2050, therefore there is a big need to create new technologies related to environmental friendly cleaning devices. In your opinion, what sectors are most likely going to benefit from these changes? How will your company leverage this?

   A: Cleaning devices is our company's strong suit. If you think about it, our business activities are helping towards decarbonization even before this global move towards a more environment-friendly drive. From the engineering's point of view, as we install our technologies, we would like to be more efficient in decreasing the consumption of electricity and water while improving the production sites which result in the decrease of CO2 release. We will also develop a global O&M Business using these technologies and IoT to achieve optimization (Quality, Cost & Delivery), these have to be maintained as well and this is one of the company’s strengths. We are excellent not only in design and produce but also inspection works in the service. I believe that in order to benefit from each other, it is also important to attract foreign companies into China and not only Chinese companies venturing in the overseas markets.

   Q: You are a industrial cleaning company, and you have two lines of business, cleaning product design and cleaning service based business. In your industrial cleaning you have these SDD product design systems with integration of carbon neutrality functionalities, MBR systems for advanced treatment of industrial and domestic robotic R&D using PID technologies, and then you have the electrical engineering used as a control measure and you do so efficiently with your devices. Which is your bestselling system? What synergies have you been able to create between these product design and service provider of business in your company?

   A: The floor cleaning devices and environmental protection parts of our business occupy 60% of our annual total sales, to be more specific this segment encompasses system design, manufacturing, construction, equipment, maintenance, and what’s more important, the service. It is a complex segment in our business portfolio. Furthermore, our product design/production business is around 20 to 30%, and our service-related work is around 10 to 15%. We are a company that provides one stop solutions; using the experience of the processes in these segments, we have started to develop a system to optimize the material, energy and money balances. Moreover, our advanced product design has strengthen the installation of carbon neutrality properties of our cleaning devices, our new industrial engineering technologies enable a cleaning device with lighter weights and less emissions, and our IoT technology enables us to provide a better cleaning service by dynamical collection of status of our cleaning products, as well as corner cases of application scenarios from the customers, thus providing our customers with a more efficient cleaning services.

   Q: To create new devices we see that many Chinese firms combine their know-how and technologies through co-creation efforts. Is this something that your business is looking for? What role does co-creation play in your R&D?

   A: We promoted our interactive PID product design system to both Chinese and South Korea universities, and we have been able to use their skills, knowledge and academic facilities to customize the system to suit the Asian market. We have seen sustainable growth in the both East and Southeast Asian market and one of our strategies is to cooperate with the local authorities, government support agencies and academic institutions. It is not co-creation, it is more of a collaboration. Our cleaning device design system, which has been in development since 2016 and is still a world leader in the experimental stage, is now being developed in cooperation with various institutions. Another co-creation example is to collaborate with customers to solve their corner cases, and use their feed-backs to improve our product design system.

   Q: You have been present overseas since 2020 when you established sell orders with customers in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, also in Vietnam. Obviously East and Southeast Asia is very important for your business, what strategies are you going to adopt as you expand further in this market to more developed market such as USA? Will it be through joint-ventures, M&A, or opening a new office?

   A: Each country's market is different; thus, we must respond accordingly.   With regards to Japan and South Korea, both countries share the similar emphasis on environmental protection, and our cleaning devices have strong advantages on both carbon neutrality performance and product quality. Thus, we have close collaboration with customers from the two countries. With regards to Singapore which is our hub to enter the Southeast Asian market, we currently have 2 customers there. We will then transfer our accumulated know-how on cleaning services, carbon neutrality solutions, repair and maintenance, and everything else combined to Singapore. We will establish local manufacturing facilities around these emerging countries.

In my experiences, USA market has similarity with Japan and South Korea, but with more developed market and customer's needs. Firstly, the cleaning devices will work more on outdoor instead of indoor like parking lots and outlets. In this aspect, we have designed cleaning devices with longer battery life and stronger water purification systems, along with a more advanced cleaning brushes that are able to handle more complex outdoor floors. Secondly, the security standards are more strict in USA. In this aspect, we have designed an innovative anti-collision system combined with new sensors and algorithms that is able to warn the users for the incoming passengers and vehicles.



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