Mr Liu Weixin, Senior Engineer at Shandong Shengquan
Refwin: Hi, Mr Liu. Would you please introduce your career to us first?
Mr Liu Weixin: Hi. I started my career in Jinan Steel Refractories Plant as a factory manager, and later to Jiangsu Nuoming, Changzhou Sunai served as vice manager, and then join Jiangsu Senxinlian as general manager. Now I hold the position of product manager in Shengquan Group, focusing on phenolic resin for refractory industry.
Refwin: What do you think of current development of China refractory industry?
Mr Liu Weixin: In my 18 years of working career, I have always been in refractory industry and related fields, dealing with refractories used in steel and iron industry, lime kiln and dry quenching, and electricity and waste incineration, etc., with many opportunities to exchange ideas and communicate with various refractory enterprises.
From my years of working, the whole industry is facing grave challenges currently - the more the company relies on iron and steel industry, the worse the business falls in.
From geographical regions, enterprises in northeastern China relying on magnesia refractories exports run well, but those who rely on iron and steel plants are falling in struggling. In Shandong, plenty of clay brick plants have been closed down because of mandatory installation of natural gas furnace. Moreover, some Yixing and Changxing refractory enterprises run in good, especially in Yixing, those refractory enterprises timely grasp the opportunities of electricity and environmental protection fields, achieving good economic efficiency.
Refwin: Recently, the new normal of China economy is often mentioned nowadays, and how do you think of the new normal of China economy?
Mr Liu Weixin: The so-called new normal was proposed by experts, but I do not agree on it. It seems that a “new normal” can generalize the whole 5000-year history of China, and everyone focus on these three English words U, V and L, just like China economy do actually walks on L-shaped road or slow development should become a reasonable tense.
In my opinion, the so-called U, V and L shaped development are all wrong. All development models of East-Asian counties are of gradual decline-line shape and those original-creation types of Anglo-American countries have never appeared such development models, which are generally sine curve shaped.
East-Asian countries lagged behind Western countries in a big gap, which just like the fall of water, bigger gap contributes to greater potential energy and faster flow velocity, and vice versa. East-Asian countries are of echelon shape, first Japan, followed by Asian tigers and now, it is China. All these economic entity has been imitating western countries. When obtaining achievement of per capita income being close to Anglo-American countries, there is small gap and little potential energy. Coupled with few original innovations, they fell in sluggish, so the growth will slow down as the gap with developed countries become slighter. What will slow China’s development is there is lack of original creations although there are some innovations.
However, Confucian cultural circle is the only one after Christian culture circle, which is of powerful original innovation ability. There are much more original innovations than any other civilization areas until around A.D. 1500, when the innovation spirits began to fall in long-term stagnation in this region. Some advanced countries in current Confucian cultural circle are the very ones who played the role of learners, imitators and plagiarists long before around the edge of Confucian civilization circle.
Nowadays, China, as the core of Confucian civilization, has just stepped into the threshold of the modern original innovation and has released its powerful creativity in quantum communication, 5G and Internet of things, thermonuclear fusion and high-speed rail technology, etc, which are inseparable from refractory industry. We can imagine that electric cars will finally replace diesel locomotive as air pollution remains so serious, and refractory is necessary for sagger of lithium battery. Therefore, I think China economy would take off as the time it open the door of original innovation.
Refwin: What do you think enterprises should do facing the continuously worsening domestic operation environment and sluggish market home and abroad?
Mr Liu Weixin: First, dimensionality of view defines what you are thinking. Bosses and managers shall go out for blue ocean field and looking around for what happens nowadays. Actually, more technologies are not advanced, but if you can link them, sometimes grafting is innovation, as old Chinese saying that stones from other hills may serve to polish jade. Many refractory additives stem from cement, and in fact, refractories for steel request for the highest techniques as well as the most laborious spirits. Garbage incinerator calls for less in refractory technology, but it bring about a new field. So looking for a blue ocean is the point of view.
Second, companies should learn to combine and financing. As I know, some new companies actually use angel investment and venture capital, on the help of partnership, and finally finish backdoor listing. As Chinese saying shows taking eggs by others’ hen and fishing by borrowing boat, this is excellently used in the Western. For example, booming of furnace lining for intermediate frequency furnace was in a few years. Currently, this model is used in Jiangsu and Zhejiang in China, but enterprises in other areas prefer to hard and long-term accumulation, which is safe and hard to expand in scale. Xuncius once said that Gentleman is not born to be different but good at making use of materials.
Third, optimal combination of resources and implementation of joint operations. Those refractory enterprises in Zhangze, Yixing often run in small joints and take big operations, by which several companies mutually complement and support each other as a company to promote the projects after they get it. It is similar to a kind of crowd funding model, but focus on industrial things instead of money. From my points of view, it is much useful than Ameba mode often used by some large enterprises. China refractory enterprises do need to joint in development and risk-taking.
Refwin: Do you have any idea about future development of refractory industry both in China and overseas?
Mr Liu Weixin: In terms of innovation technique, I think it is never too excessive to pursue finer and better. We need steadfast research and study, but before that, it is more important to understand where we go. Therefore, I think we should address it by a broader view.
1. Refractory technology for garbage incinerator cannot count as new techniques, which involves more in refractory application in power system, but the extensive use of nitrides should be a new direction. Although it has been a long time for nitride research, the application prospect of silicon nitride and aluminum nitride are still waiting for open, especially aluminum nitride that is now firmly controlled by Tokuyama, and this can be more research value than oxide.
2. Combinations of 3D printing technology and refractory technology will be a trend. As technology for synthetic resin, boride, and rare earth element (yttrium oxide, lanthanum oxide, etc.) becomes mature, coupled with broaden application of superfine powder, it will be possible to achieve 3D prints through the mixing of above three addictives and superfine powder. Refractories will expand further in its application fields, and construction method and on-site service will be a big different, even a new molding revolution.
3. Internet of Things (IoT) is inevitable. As the development of 5G NET, interconnected world is inevitable, and the corresponding hardware support must be inorganic non-metallic materials. The ceramic substrate will get a spurt of development, both taping casting and gel method will get full development, and inorganic new materials will be constantly updating. This is the general direction, alumina and aluminum nitride will achieve scaled application.
4. Cross-industry lateral communication is vital important. Some specialists with high education are often considered as low emotional intelligence, and poor ability to communicate. Those who close himself in his own industry or field, having no ideas about other relevant industries are easier to fall behind and become pedantic, so it should break industry restrictions, learn from each other, and promote mutal-development.
The advantage of Chinese words lies on easier understand to different industries, while phonetic language languages such as English make it more difficult to understand basic words from different industries. Therefore, I think we should take advantage of language, to get more knowledge about related industries and emerging industries. This is useful to improve the overall industry level. Through the decline of MOTOROLA and Nokia, we can see that the western is not invincible and we can catch up with them.
Refwin: How do you think of the recent development and changes in iron and steel industry?
Mr Liu Weixin: As for iron and steel industry, I think it is also greatly changing. Steel industry has been in the pursuit of the short flow steelmaking, preferring to study how to directly extract iron from ore powder. Actually, Nucor Corporation has achieved great success in electric arc furnace in 1990s.
Along with the large-scale application of intermediate frequency furnace, cheaper steel billet and scrap are directly used in steel steelmaking process instead of traditional methods. So, refractory lining used for intermediate frequency furnace, continuous casting refractories, and functional refractories deserves to more attentions since there are less competitions and higher profits.
As for the whole inorganic nonmetal materials, of course, we can’t predict everything. As long as we are not trapped by iron and steel industry, the prospect of development is immeasurable. Anyway, human actually knows less than we think they know, development happens on the basis of industry cooperation and subverting innovation.
Refwin: Thank you for talking to us, Mr. Liu.
PM of Phenolic Resin, Senior Engineer
Shandong Shengquan New Materials Co., Ltd.