Chinese Speed Domes: Getting Back to Basics

Chinese speed dome players offer flexible customization, strong production capabilities and on-time delivery. With continuously improved quality, Chinese-made speed domes are quite competitive in international markets.

Chinese speed domes have entered a period of maturity. High rotation speeds, up to 128 preset positions, optical lenses, multi-language onscreen displays (OSD) and multi-protocol support are common. Most also integrate infrared, masking, high-temperature alarms, temperature displays, auto-tracking and self-diagnosis.

"The primary concern is stability followed by high resolution and precision of preset positions," said Annie King, Vice President of Minking. Most Chinese speed dome players are, therefore, getting back to the basics by focusing on quality and stability rather than jazzing their products up with an excessive number of complicated functions.

Stability: a Key Factor
International markets focus on the three following factors: quality, service and price. Chinese speed dome players agree that quality comes first. "For an enterprise, quality must come ahead of branding," said Jacy Xia, Sales Manager of Minrray, "so we are endeavoring to enhance quality. Most speed domes on the market have similar functions. Where they compete is on stability."

James Chin, General Manager of Foready, believes that offering quality products is the only way to differentiate since foreign customers want long-term partners that provide stable products.

"Functions are often subject to trends," stressed Charlie Wang, General Manager of Pearmain, "because there is no need to change hardware when adding or taking away most functions. Once a new function becomes popular, other manufacturers can easily jump on the bandwagon by offering the same thing in a very short time. Only stable quality is difficult to provide since it requires a long-term effort. We have been developing speed domes since 2002."

Many are under the impression that the higher the speed, the better the performance. Wang Chunxuan, General Manager of JEC, has a different opinion. "High speeds are not that difficult," said Wang. "The problem is that this affects stability."

Other factors affecting stability are design, materials and components. "We use only antistatic ICs," said Xia, "as well as Tyco AMP sockets because they are key components that connect dome drives and power supplies."

Whenever clients request special features, the company usually refuses, said Xia. "A lot of these new features would have had a direct and negative impact on stability." That said, the company is open to updating products according to feedback from major customers.

"For the past two years," said Xia, "we have looked into incorporating infrared lighting into our speed domes. Infrared lights, however, may shorten product life. If speed dome with a life of three years is integrated with infrared lights that last for a year, then that means the whole product has a life of only a year. What we have done is to control the power and decrease the temperature so that product conditions are better able to take advantage of infrared light."

Al l Minrray products undergo high-temperature, aging and vibration testing. In addition, Minking tests all products to ensure that they comply with RoHS standards. That means examining effects of salt spray, vibration, high and
low temperatures, and aging.

Being able to guarantee stability has its rewards. Minking products have been used in the Olympic sailboat stadium in Qingdao and Safe City projects in major Chinese cities. Yaan speed domes are in use on the Qinghai-Tibet railway because of their reliability in environments that are prone to high and low temperatures, wind, sand, and low air pressure.

Continuous R&D Efforts
Minrray management has set the goal of launching five new products every year. Since 2002, the company has also updated models (both hardware and software). This is difficult for most Chinese manufacturers as it requires extensive research and development. "It is not just a matter of copying whatever everyone else is doing," said Xia.

The focus of R&D efforts at Minking is all-in-one domes, DSP drives and hot swap. The company's blueprint encompasses launching more than three new models annually. 35 staff members are devoted to R&D efforts, engaging in communication regarding technology with the research institute at its headquarters (CSST).

In Charlie Wang's opinion, Pearmain's strengths are its fine structure and IC designs. "Pearmain led the move to 32-bit IC chips in China. Many other players opted for dual CPUs, which are not very suitable as communication problems between the two chips may cause information loss," said Wang.

Currently, Pearmain cooperates with Zhejiang University on R&D. In addition, it has more than 30 people of its own working on R&D.

JEC engages in die production, assembly and design. The company has two R&D centers in Tianjin and Shenzhen, which employ 30 staff  15 percent of the company's total number of employees.

"We are looking at hospital applications," said Chin, "to enable people to monitor their parents or friends, especially since intensive care units
(ICUs) have strict visiting times."

Overseas Expansion
Made-in-China still draws frowns in overseas markets. According to Charlie
Wang, buyers tend to look only at price when sourcing in China. Perhaps, he posited, they have this perception because of insufficient efforts by Chinese manufacturers to educate them about quality.

"The fierce price competition," he added, "has left a deep impression that Chinese products are cheap and shoddy regardless of what improvements have been made. If the price is higher than what the buyer is initially prepared to pay, then he or she may think it is unreasonable. Chinese players need to enhance quality and let overseas buyers witness that improvement. The good news is that they are doing so."

Foready's overseas business accounts for 50 percent of company revenue. Today, the company sells to more than 30 countries worldwide, including advanced markets such as the U.S., France and Italy.

Pearmain, which has been exporting since 2005, gets 20 percent of revenue from such efforts. Major markets include Europe and North America. "If you want to penetrate a market," said Charlie Wang, "you have to visit your customers on their own turf. The best solution is to set up a branch. That is what we are planning to do in the U.S."

Major markets for JEC include North America, Europe and Taiwan. The company is also exploring Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where the main difficulties  as in China  are price sensitivity.

According to JEC, it exports 50 percent of its speed domes. The company is establishing an overseas department in Shenzhen to facilitate shipping, while maintaining another such department at the company's headquarters in Tianjin. Its clients can visit factories directly in Shenzhen, helping increase trust.

The depreciation of the U.S. dollar is having an impact on Chinese exports. "Buyers are turning to Taiwanese and Korean players," said King. "Even if the client accepts your price, the indirect client  the client's client  may turn to others," she said. "The only real solution is enhancing product quality."

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