Insights & News

China Sends Us DVD Players. We Send them 600,000 Lbs. of Advanced Machinery.

Posted On July 5, 2017

When you think about our trading relationship with China, what image comes to mind? Is it low-cost consumer electronics washing up on shore, sort of like a bunch of plastic invaders ready to overwhelm your local big-box store shelves?

Okay, that’s a little dramatic. But the common narrative about trade with China is that low-cost manufactured goods are sent here, making the cost of a home entertainment center (and the supercomputer most of us carry in our pocket) far lower. And that is part of the story.

However, we ignore another part of the story in that narrative. While Chinese manufacturers do send a lot of low-cost goods our way, there are also ships carrying manufactured goods to China—only American goods sent to China usually aren’t small consumer electronics or relatively cheap component parts. When Chinese companies buy from American manufacturers, they are usually purchasing some pretty technologically advanced stuff.

Like jet engines.

Or robots.

Or more than 600,000 lbs. of hydraulic cylinder tooling machinery. If that last one sounds oddly specific, that’s because Ram International—a member of the Flat World Holdings families of companies—just managed the warehousing and custom crating of 300 tons’ worth of advanced hydraulic tooling machinery as it made its way from Philadelphia to Shanghai. The Ram International team was there to supervise every step of the process, beginning with warehousing and ending with tens of millions of dollars’ worth of machinery being loaded on the ship. You can see in the pictures here that moving that much equipment is a big job.

It isn’t every day that the Ram team oversees a project like this—but it likely won’t be long before they handle the next shipment of advanced manufacturing equipment as it makes its way from the United States to China. While the United States has always had the edge on the Chinese when it comes to advanced manufacturing, that disparity is only likely to increase as a growing number of manufacturers realize automation and technology have eliminated some of the cost advantages Chinese manufacturers had just a few years ago. Further, while the Chinese educational system is seeing some improvement, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University has conducted research showing it will be a long time—if ever—before China has enough skilled technical workers to manufacture the type of equipment Ram International just loaded onto a ship in Philadelphia. Even if Chinese businesses could technically manufacture advanced machinery like jet engines or hydraulic machinery, they can still purchase a better product at a lower cost from foreign companies—the same way we can purchase a better smartphone for less money if most of the component parts are manufactured somewhere else.

What does all this mean? If you make big, advanced machinery, you may see Chinese customers soon, if you haven’t already. When that happens, pick up your phone and call Ram International. We’ve been providing companies with freight forwarding solutions since 1980, and working with our sister companies across Flat World Holdings, we can provide comprehensive supply chain solutions, including freight forwarding, custom crating, and supply chain and transportation management. Many of the little machines we use on a daily basis are at least partially made in China. But many of the world’s biggest, most advanced machines still come from right here in the United States.

And the next time you need one of those machines warehoused, crated, or shipped, give Ram International a call.