Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide Group Co. Ltd. (ZCC), a wholly owned subsidiary of China Minmetals and China’s leading hardmetal producer, has been celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding with a range of events.
ZCC was initially established in 1954 as one of China’s 156 key projects in the nation’s first Five Year Plan. In the first thirty years of its existence, the company adopted cemented carbide production technology introduced from the former Soviet Union. In this phase of its development, the company described its main production as hard alloy and this comprised just six brands and around 500 product types.
A step-change came in 1984 with the opening up of Chinese manufacturing to the adoption of Western technologies. At this point, ZCC introduced a modernised and upgraded production line based on plant and technology acquired from Sandvik AB, Sweden. Since then, the company has grown into an internationally competitive cemented carbide producer.
Today, ZCC has developed its business based on six ‘Diamond’ brand product series comprising metal cutting tools, mine excavation and petroleum drilling tools, hard materials, tungsten and molybdenum products, tantalum and niobium products and rare earth metal products. The company now has over a hundred brands and over 50,000 product types. It operates two product business divisions, twelve manufacturing plants and has five wholly-owned subsidiaries. Annual output has increased from the initial 700 tonnes to over 5,000 tonnes.
Since the reform of the business in the 1980s, ZCC has invested a cumulative RMB 5 billion Yuan in more than twenty projects, all aimed at technology advances and quality improvements.
The company’s Technology and Analysis/Testing Centre is the only national-level key laboratory in the Chinese cemented carbide industry. In running this technology innovation platform, ZCC states that it is continuously refining and improving its R&D methodologies, upgrading the quality of its technical R&D personnel and improving the response times of its scientific research programmes. Sales revenue arising from these innovation projects now exceeds 30% of the company’s total annual sales and almost 600 patents are in force.
Technological innovations have also focused on the optimisation of production systems through integration of the industrial production chain. In this context, ZCC has been adhering to a philosophy of strengthening its various business units in order to grow the company. Currently, six industrial business units cover cutting tools, IT processing tools, hard materials, drilling & digging tools and refractory metals.
Since the 1980s, ZCC has been pursuing a ‘two markets’ strategy, involving competition in the international market place. As part of this globalisation strategy, ZCC has transformed its export business from the supply of cemented carbide semi-finished products into the supply of highly processed and high added value finished products. The export volumes of products such as cutting tools, bar materials, spherical teeth, rollers and micro-drills, have been enjoying double-digit annual growth levels.
While many enterprises were adversely impacted by the global financial crisis in 2008, ZCC states that its products have been winning the favour of foreign customers on the basis of both quality and competitiveness.
The company told Powder Metallurgy Review, “These high quality ZCC products continue to change the world’s perceptions of the ‘Made in China’ label and have made Zhuzhou well known to overseas customers.”
Looking to the future, ZCC’s stated development goal is to grow into an internationally recognised brand that ranks amongst the top four cemented carbide enterprises globally.
“This will be achieved through continuing product development programmes, quality control enhancements, improvements to the sustainability of production and acceleration of developments aimed at improving the agility of production systems,” the company commented to PM Review.
In June 2014, the long-standing collaboration between ZCC and Sandvik AB was extended and formalised through the signing of a letter of intent to cooperate in the cutting tools field by the setting up of a joint venture. This agreement is seen as an important contributor to ZCC’s future growth prospects.