The history of SEM development in international markets
SEM established its Foreign Trade Division in 1995. At the beginning, there were only two employees responsible for exploring sales opportunities with Chinese companies doing construction projects overseas. In 1999, the division expanded to four employees and began cooperating with import and export companies. The team continued to grow and in 2001 began trials to provide on-site support and develop distribution channels overseas. By 2007, now with access to Caterpillar’s powerful global dealership network, SEM began to sell products in more than 80 countries and regions, including Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, CIS, India and the Middle East. SEM products provided initial affordability and high reliability while being easy to operate and maintain. And customers around the world could now count on responsive support from SEM to build a strong foundation for future success.
Jack Shi joined SEM in 1993 when the company was looking to break into overseas markets. At that time, SEM provided products mainly to Chinese companies involved in construction projects in Asia-Pacific, Russia and Africa. Jack first stepped into overseas business in 1996 when he was assigned to a project in Papua New Guinea for six months as a service engineer. In 2000, he formally joined the Foreign Trade Division. He and the team assumed long-term overseas assignments to fully serve their customers in places such as Russia, Papua New Guinea and Ghana. They viewed every overseas market as potential opportunity.
Lacking professional service personnel and local market experience, the team took charge of all sales, services and parts delivery work while trying to complete design improvement and product delivery. They faced many difficult questions. Would the products work well in local work sites? What were the customers’ machine operating habits? What was the best way to deal with after-sales problems? The Foreign Trade team began to study these issues by participating in trade shows to generate leads, learn commercial knowledge about receipt handling and even practice waterproof packaging with instruction from experienced frontline workers.
Jack also served in multiple roles while working in Iran. He was a sales manager and service engineer while also overseeing product out-box assembly, parts inventory plan and service-people training. Everyone working overseas at that time had similar experiences. Jack remembers how proud they all felt when overseas sales contributed nearly 40% of profits in 2005.
Leadership on-site instruction for products disassembling for shipment
In fact, many thrilling experiences remain fresh in Jack’s memory. “At the port close to the capital of Papua New Guinea, Chinese employees had to be accompanied by bodyguards when they went to the bank,” Jack remembered. “I almost encountered a robbery then. The customer’s workstation was located on a small, isolated island. It was robbed by armed gangsters. Bullet holes could be clearly seen in the roof. Fortunately, no one was injured.”
Poems written by an employee for disassembling the loaders in snow
Jack calmly tells these stories. He says expatriates share the trait of having an unflappable makeup. “Of course, we also had a lot of pleasant experiences (too). In makeup Iran, I often drove with dealers’ maintenance personnel on long journeys, taking half a month, across the mountains in the northern area, through the desert to the border of Pakistan. We met a lot of kind, local people and made many friends.”
Jack participated tradeshow oversea
SEM became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Caterpillar in 2008. Relying on Caterpillar’s powerful global dealership networks, SEM began to expand its business in multiple key markets overseas. Reliable SEM products drove dealer business growth while strengthening their sales confidence and enthusiasm. The South American market was specifically yielding large opportunities.
In 2009, the demand for construction machinery in South America grew quickly. Infrastructure construction projects such as transportation systems, telecommunication networks, water conservancy and environmental sanitation facilities abounded. Kaku Guo went to South America to capitalize on those opportunities.
At first, Kaku Guo found local dealers refusing to cooperate. “A lot of salesman thought we were their competitors,” said Kaku. “We communicated with the dealers one by one to let them know that the partnership would benefit both parties. We also helped them in after-sale support, parts service, the establishment of a standard process system and joint works on bids. Eventually, we won their trust.”
Kaku says the struggle to develop new markets was not the only hardship. Adapting to local living conditions could also be a problem. Kaku remembers electric kettles were unavailable and that meant hot water was also unavailable. A colleague once had a stomach ache and needed hot water. He discovered restaurants had none, and he settled for ordering hot coffee without coffee powder.
Kaku Guo worked four years in South America. His proudest achievement was developing the market in Ecuador. “Products are disassembled for container shipment. But when the products arrived, we found they lacked assembly tools. So, I drove outside to buy the tools to fix the problem. We were part salesman, part technician and part engineer then.”
Kaku Guo visit customer in Peru with a ZL 60G wheel loader working more than 6,000 hours
With the help of Kaku and his team, the Ecuadorian dealer won the Global Excellent Dealer Award of SEM in 2011. Cat® and SEM together accounted for more than 70% of the wheel loader market in Ecuador.
Today, SEM’s business in the region has expanded to more than ten countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador.
Kaku Guo, on the way to visit a customer in the Andean Plateau with an elevation of 5,700 meters
Kaku Guo has now taken a new position in the Southeast Asian market. He believes, in the future, SEM will focus on the wheel loader but also invest more in infrastructure products in the local markets with track-type tractors, motor graders and soil compactors to meet the needs of customers.
Overseas markets have become an essential part of SEM’s profitable growth strategy. SEM has consistently improved its operational capability in overseas markets. The company will continue to expand its international business and support the Belt and Road Initiative with affordable products, available distribution and supported services.
The first SEM650 loader delivered to the customer by Ecuador dealer
Peru dealers sales training