(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series of articles discussing “American Factories in Chinese Land.” Part 2 will appear in the April issue of BIC Magazine.)
In general, global competition has been healthy for the scaffold industry as it lowered costs and provided more availability compared to when there were only a few larger U.S. and European manufacturers dominating the market.
China, which is home to Stepup Scaffold’s manufacturing plant, is now one of the biggest exporters of scaffolding, and there are more than 200 scaffold manufacturers there. Unfortunately, not all scaffolds are made at the same quality and meet the same standards.
Here comes the danger. When the inexperienced buyers purchase the scaffolds from Chinese factories, they inherit huge risk and potential liability for substandard scaffolds. They don’t get a second chance when poorly fabricated scaffolds collapse before they reach their advertised load. One accident can send the company into bankruptcy and the negligent persons to jail.
Recently, the quality of the scaffolds made in China has been brought into the spotlight and manufacturers are being criticized as inferior. Even though there are a lot of Chinese manufacturers who do not make products that meet American standards, China has the ability to make scaffolds as well as any country.
Manufacturers like Stepup Scaffold understand the North American and international standards, employ well-trained and intelligent workers and depend on a stringent quality assurance system to control product quality. Such factories are called “American Factories in Chinese Land” (AFCL).
So how can we distinguish AFCLs from ordinary Chinese factories? After inspecting more than 100 Chinese factories in the past 10 years and building two of our own factories, Stepup Scaffold’s experience has helped us define our qualification criteria for AFCLs.
Working environment. An AFCL provides a clean, safe and comfortable working environment for its employees and workers. Workers are happy and their stations are clean and safe. The workers are paid well, considering the cost of living in China. A happy, willing and proud work force is essential to manufacture quality products consistently.
Understanding the products and standards.
What am I making? How will the products be used? What are the safety requirements? As part of the manufacturing process, an AFCL invests in understanding the products and the North American and international standards for material strength, welding methods and loading requirements putting forth by organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), OSHA and the American Welding Society before manufacturing a single product for that market. An AFCL also tries to find efficiencies in the manufacturing process to lower cost without lowering quality.
Raw material selection. The tensile strength, yield strength and elongation are three critical requirements for the strength of steel tubing used in scaffolds.
According to American Society for Testing and Materials and ANSI standards, the hot-roll steel tube used shall have minimum yield strength of 50,000 psi and minimum tensile strength of 70,000 psi. The elongation requirement is 20 percent minimum.
Chinese Steel Q235 falls below these requirements. However, Chinese Steel Standards Q345 and Q390 far exceed these requirements. (Q345 has the minimum yield strength of 63,000 psi and the minimum tensile strength of 75,000 psi. Q390 has the minimum yield strength of 73,000 psi and tensile strength of 83,000 psi.)
While there are growing concerns on the quality of steel tubing being manufactured in China, a few large steel mills in China can manufacture the highest quality steel coil meeting and exceeding all the requirements.
An AFCL only uses steel tubing manufactured by these approved steel mills to guarantee the consistent quality of the steel tubing. The weld seam in the tubing is also a critical point for the quality of steel tubing.
There are multiple tests, such as the flattening and flaring testing, to check the quality of the weld seam of the steel tubing.
For more information, visit www.stepupscaffold.com or call (888)