Shanghai Expo – A Golden Chance For the Hardware Industry

It is known to all that Shanghai Expo is a big issue to our Chinese people and even to people from all over the world. Like the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, this exposition can bring various opportunities for the different industries, especially for the hardware industry because there must be many constructions before this expo. Obviously, all these constructions need many hardware products.

It is estimated that till 2009 the total value of the hardware industry in China will achieve eight hundred billion, among which the export value is about 50.3 billion. During the Shanghai Expo, a lot of venues as well as supporting facilities have to be built, thus, it will obviously provide a golden opportunity for the companies doing the hardware business. Many theme forums about this expo make the companies feel that there are many potential business chances waiting for them.

An expert in this field evaluates that not only the construction projects before the Shanghai Expo, but also the period after will produce a larger commercial scale than the Beijing Olympic Games. Various hardware industries such as the decorative hardware, hardware instruments, automobile instruments, and architectural hardware can have the chance to explore a broader market. Therefore, a lot of hardware companies from the China Hardware Manufacturing Base all come to Shanghai to share this big “business cake”.

Yang Yiqing, the leader of Zhejiang Commerce Association, once said that companies which take part in the Shanghai Expo should bear in mind that except making good use of this platform to present the company images as well as to spread the business, the companies should always combine this expo with companies’ transformation and upgrade. If these companies seize this golden opportunity, their business may come into a higher stage.

Another expert mentions that the hardware industry is facing the problem of changing the development mode and improving the core competence. In order to be competitive in the hardware industry, the hardware companies should go down the path towards the development of high-standard, high-quality, and high-efficiency.

Every coin has two sides, and the Shanghai Expo just like a double-edged sword. There are both chances and challenges for the hardware industry. Therefore, many companies should improve themselves to meet these challenges. In recent years, the hardware industry has carried out many activities, the core of which is to improve the quality of the hardware products. These activities aim at transforming the development mode and speeding up the structural readjustment, technical improvement, market enlargement as well as the industry upgrade. All in all, with the quick development of our society, the hardware industry will have a brighter future.

What Does Internet-Enabled Mean To The Average Construction Professional?

Expanding your usage of Internet tools, like intranets, will bring your business new opportunities to work smarter, and in certain cases, generate new revenue streams.

Is it something that must be provided for and demanded from software providers?

Not necessarily. Software providers can pre-package solutions only within certain parameters. Three parameters that stand out are value, scope and time.

The first parameter, the perception of value, means if you can get Internet software for free that is developed for the masses, will a vertical market like the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry be willing to pay for AEC focused Internet tools? This is a tough question for software providers to answer as the perception in the AEC market is that Internet software should remain free, no matter what the added value. Large software vendors like are addressing this issue by integrating Internet technologies within their traditional software offerings. As for fully developed solutions that you can purchase off the shelf, they do not exist yet.

Internet technologies are not just about software. So software providers that claim total solutions are not telling the entire story. The second, and more important element, of integrating Internet technologies within your business is Cultural. The ease of use and low initial cost of implementation make the cultural shift into the Information Age (aka: Internet-enabled) an easier shift than any previous Information Technology phase we have gone through as an industry. But just because it’s easier, does not mean that it’s without its difficulties. Getting your business to adopt to performing their traditional jobs electronically can be a daunting task. Add into the issues that the majority of AEC work is performed remotely outside the office, and you have a huge challenge.

Another parameter is scope. The Internet and its associated technologies are best implemented when you combine business goals (ie: communicating more effectively to the field) with the proper level of technology (ie: an Internet connection to the field). This brings a difficult level of detail to the software vendors. If there is no one way that all businesses perform tasks, than how do you write computer code to handle all possible scenarios? The Internet allows you to quickly and easily perform functions of your job without the need for proprietary software. But it does make sense that certain tasks, like CAD production, become Internet-enabled by your existing software.

An additional parameter is time. If Internet technologies change on the average of every 12 weeks, how can an established software vendor react to the changing technologies in a timely manner. Getting AEC-specific Internet products to market is a major hurdle that our existing AEC software manufacturers are struggling with. One solution that is being considered is software distribution over the Internet as a download. The complex issues of traditional software and other software team members will have to be addressed before this means of getting tools to the AEC community can be addressed in earnest.
Are there different levels of Internet-enabled that a contractor should look for?

There are three distinct levels of Internet-enabled that a contractor can benchmark themselves to.

One: Computer-Aided Business

Our industry began its integration of Information technology by embracing computers to automate manual tasks. We began to use computers to write letters, compose specifications, electronically draft through Computer Assisted Drafting (CAD) and numerous other tasks that we used to do manually. This period of technology expansion has been known as Computer-Aided Business. While a necessary first period of evolution, the Computer-Aided Business model has limitations. During this period, individual’s create digital information available to only themselves on individual computers. This has lead to “Islands of Automation” within our business environment. In the Internet environment, this can be related to a company putting up a Website that acts as an electronic brochure.

Two: Computer Integrated Business

The next evolutionary step can be called connections. We bring our “Island’s of Automation” together by allowing computers to communicate with each other through computer networks. By connecting our different computer hardware, different software programs, and different locations, we pull together a collective knowledge that we could not have had using traditional methods. We are beginning to see computer integration’s infinite power and value by connecting different locations through the Internet. As we, and the technology, mature through time we ask the technology to perform tasks that can not be accomplished manually. Technology brings with it new ideas and thoughts on how we can perform our tasks more productively and efficiently. As we become more comfortable with technology, we allow it to integrate into our businesses. We begin to utilize the potential of technology beyond traditional methods. This period of growth is known as Computer Integrated Business. No longer are we held captive to traditional manual solutions to problems within our business. We begin to expect that the technology will provide a solution.

Three: Information Based Business

The final phase is when technology becomes transparent to the business. During this period, it’s no longer a strategic competitive advantage to have the latest and greatest computer hardware and software. It’s expected as a natural fact. The use of technology and information during this phase becomes as transparent and factual as the four walls that define the office. This final goal is known as the Information Based Business. The simplification of hardware, software and connectivity brings to you and your business the true power of information technology in a cost and time effective way. Applied technologies such as Intranets and Extranets are the forerunners of this concept. Web-enabled Construction Documents are an outgrowth of this concept. The implications of “live” specifications and drawings by linking information in your computer, on your network and on the Internet are already being utilized by firms worldwide. Implementation of Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s), Virtual Job Trailer’s and Electronic Plan Rooms are also the results of an Information Based Business.

What industry trends will make the use of Internet-like media critical to the majority of the construction profession?

The integration and coordination of distributed, digital project information is one of the great challenges to our industry. This has been exacerbated by the growing use of the design/build method of project delivery where timely information is critical to the overall success of the project and its team. The Internet brings a cost-effective and powerful solution to every person on the project team, no matter what level of computer-literacy one may have.

Just competition?

Competition is always a driver to adoption of concepts into action. Of course, if your main competition has found a competitive advantage by using Internet technologies, you will adopt these technologies yourself. But a more important driver is Internet usage as a requirement by owners and clients.