Jiangsu Sea-lion Machinery Co., Ltd., a Chinese manufacturer and worldwide distributor of high end commercial laundry equipment, recently marked a half century of business with celebrations, speeches and entertainment at its new headquarters building in Leyu Town, Zhangjiagang City, Jiangsu, China, according to Ed Kirejczyk III, a veteran laundry machinery executive who oversees the company’s U.S. subsidiary, Sea-lion America.
“The ribbon cutting and 50th anniversary celebrations were very authentic and traditional Chinese”, Kirejczyk said adding, “The Chens are outstanding hosts. During our sightseeing tours, we saw a side of China not many get to see.”
Sea-lion America’s Quebec dealer, Philippe Demers of Service Raltech, joined the trip. “Sea-lion’s factory is immense and very impressive, especially the robotic welding cells. I was also very happy to see that the employees of the factory are proud to work for Sea-lion and they are part of the new middle class of China.”
Company Chairman Chen Hong, son of the founder, Chen Youquing, spoke of how the company’s longstanding commitment to quality and continuous improvement has fueled its growth since its pioneering days of developing China’s first automatic washer/extractor in the late ’60s.
“Only by remaining true to our original aspiration can we build up our ambition,” he told 1,000-plus visitors, including customer, employees, dignitaries and family members who attended the three-day anniversary program from Nov. 27-29. “Only when we remain true to our original aspiration can we build up our confidence and perseverance; only when we remain true to our original aspiration can we work together to forge ahead.
In a roughly 40-minute minute address, Chen went to recount Sea-lion’s humble beginnings as a startup focused on repairing agricultural equipment. The emphasis soon shifted to the need for a domestic manufacturer of automatic washing equipment, which at the time was imported entirely from abroad. A small group of employees worked endless hours in a building without electricity to produce a prototype washer/extractor.
From there, the company overcame liquidity problems and limited help from local officials because “the passion of entrepreneurship is overwhelming, like a spring tide,” Chen said. “We braved the risk and made great progress toward the established goal.”
With an emphasis on service and quality, Sea-lion steadily expanded its operations. As market reforms boosted China’s private sector in the 1990s, Sea-lion launched a series of international partnerships, starting with Hong Kong in 1982. That move was followed by similar arrangements with the Congo in 1983 and Thailand in 1989. A partnering deal in Germany was completed in 1994, and others followed in Europe, Asia and Africa. Sea-lion exhibited for the first time in the U.S. at the 2005 Clean Show. The company formally launched its U.S. subsidiary earlier this year.
Part of the reason for Sea-lion’s rapid growth over the last decade is its ongoing focus on manufacturing innovation, including the introduction of a tunnel washer system in 2010 followed by finishing equipment innovations and automation technologies. Currently, Sea-lion is working with customers to “embrace a new era of intelligent manufacturing to create a new mode of intelligent laundry,” Chen said.
As its expanded, Chen cited the company’s long-term commitment to community service as well. Examples include donating washer/extractors and other aid during the Yangtze River flooding in 1997 and relief efforts following several earthquakes. Among other projects, the company has funded the Nanjing City Games and donated anti-SARS dry-cleaning equipment to the Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital.
Now Sea-lion is poised to build on these traditions of service and innovation as it seeks to leverage future growth by implementing advances in technology.
“With the arrival of the new industrial revolution era, Sea-lion will make good use of the internet, internet of things (IOT) and robots to promote the industrial revolution, and deeply integrate big data, artificial intelligence and manufacturing industry to comply with the unprecedented new trend of industrial model reconstruction,” Chen said.