At Intermat, LiuGong announced that it was in a 60-day countdown before its new Global Research and Development Center opens in June. LiuGong, founded in 1958, currently directs close to 5% of its total sales revenue into R&D year-on-year, with an investment of over €61 million (~$68 million) in 2014 alone.
“For LiuGong to continue our growth path, we need facilities that enable our design and engineering teams to innovate and utilize the technologies that will drive the future of our machines,” said David Beatenbough, Vice President of LiuGong and Project Lead for the new Development Center.
Development began in Liuzhou, China, in 2013 and the accumulated investment in the project since then has reached €40 million ($45 million). The facility spans 110,000 m² and includes a 22,000 m² office complex for about 1200 engineers, a test center, a prototype center, seven laboratories, and three design studios, including a virtual reality studio.
Liuzhou—also home to the company’s global headquarters—will be the new hub that will provide direction to LiuGong’s three other R&D facilities in India, Poland, and the U.K. One of the main objectives of the new center will be to encourage greater interaction between the R&D facilities, streamlining information exchange and resource utilization.
Most important, the new center will be the focal point for the development of engineering talent within LiuGong, considered a key target at LiuGong. The new complex has several specialized training laboratories that will focus on testing and optimizing all aspects of machine performance, such as structural design, materials science, electronic and hydraulic efficiency, cooling, vibration, and noise. The laboratories will allow accelerated endurance testing as well as a wide variety of performance testing.
“From a personal point-of-view, it is the most complete facility that I have had the opportunity to work in,” said Beatenbough. “It gives us the platform to be competitive with any construction equipment manufacturer in the world.”
At Intermat, Beatenbough, even considering the state-of-the-art equipment in the laboratories, seemed particularly enamored of the office space, which has been designed “with gathering and meeting places to facilitate interactions between engineers,” he said. “The space will have different kinds of rooms for different kinds of meetings, for energetic engineers eager to learn.”
Co-locating experts from many disciplines will allow better exchange of ideas, and help with one of the new design center’s primary missions—that of evaluating future technologies, and future trends within the industry. LiuGong believes that the center will enable a fundamental change for the better in how it approaches R&D.
In terms of expectations for the research center, “We want to bring highly-skilled people to LiuGong whose primary outlook is to teach and inspire their colleagues in their specialties,” said Beatenbough. “I am not interested in bringing in an engineer just to design a better excavator; I want to hire an engineer that designs a better excavator in a way that educates and hones the skills of their fellow employees.”
Beatenbough believes that within just a few months of moving into the new center "our customers will begin to feel the impact of optimized R&D, and I can confidently say that within a very few years there will be technologies and products from LiuGong that will advance the industry.”
The facility's initial focus will be to undertake major R&D and testing for LiuGong’s lines of wheel loaders, excavators, and graders. One of the first projects will be the completion of R&D and testing for the second-phase models of H Series wheel loaders. In 2014, LiuGong held nearly 9.7% of the global market share in wheel loaders and nearly 17.5% share domestically.