In Suzhou, just outside Shanghai, a new state-of-the art bus factory is a milestone in the strategic cooperation between Scania and Chinese bodybuilder Higer. The new plant will allow significant improvements in quality, while creating new opportunities both in China and other new markets around the world.
The 22,000 square-meter factory has been financed by Higer, but is exclusively for Scania and Scania-Higer branded products. Initially, the factory will be used to manufacture both the high-end Scania Touring and the versatile Scania-Higer A30, for intercity and suburban use. However, with a capacity of 1,000 buses per year on one shift, there´s room for new models to come.
The Scania-Higer cooperation is purely a commercial partnership, where Higer provides bodybuilding expertise and Scania supplies the chassis and the experience of international customer demands. Jointly with Higer, Scania´s team of stylists gives the coaches a distinct Scania character.
New joint projects
Together, Scania and Higer are working not only on product design, but also with production methods, flow and efficiencies. As the market continues to develop in China, more possibilities for joint products and projects are expected.
The 250 bus builders are employed by Higer, but trained to work with the same standardized processes, quality controls and continuous improvements that Scania utilises in its other plants around the world.
In addition, Scania´s own management and quality teams now have entirely new conditions to guarantee the level of quality required for Scania products. Scania’s on-site quality team performs standardised inspections, which are mandatory for everything that is built on a Scania chassis, anywhere in the world. In parallel they also perform a thorough inspection the paint and varnish on each bus.
Previously, about 80 percent of the deviations found on the buses were related to paint work. The jewel in the crown of the new bus factory is a state of the art paint workshop.
“With the new factory – and especially the paint workshop – we are raising an already high level of quality. The buses now leaving for our customers around the world are absolute world class, says Jesper Eriksson, who after three years as Quality Manager in the former factory is now General Manager for the new factory.
Leading exporter in China
“Meanwhile we continue our efforts to integrate Scania´s quality mindset in Higer’s working processes. We set up more Quality Gates – quality stations – along the new bus line. The factory layout, with several pre-assembly stations, gives us a much better logistics flow. Better ventilation and lighting create a work environment at a very high level in the Chinese manufacturing industry,” he continues.
To date, Scania and Higer have sold close to 2,500 premium coaches to over 40 overseas markets, making this cooperation the leading exporter of premium coaches out of China.
In the Chinese market, demand for high-end coaches vanished with the financial crisis in 2008, and this trend was reinforced by the extensive investments in high-speed trains over the following years. But with a growing and increasingly resourceful Chinese middle class, demand for long-distance travel with high quality buses and coaches is on the rise again.
Chinese market next
Scania´s newly appointed Senior Vice President Buses & Coaches, Karin Rådström, believes the new factory in Suzhou could be key to a comeback for high-end buses in the Chinese market:
“China is developing very fast, and we expect the premium coach and bus operator market soon to re-emerge here in China. When it does, the customers will be asking for world-class quality. And as we already today build the best coaches ever produced in China, I´m totally convinced that the China market soon will take off.”
Scania Higer Suzhou
Area: 22 000 m2
Capacity: 4 buses / day, 1,000 buses / year (one shift)
Chassis comes from Södertälje and to a lesser extent from Sao Paulo