EEM joined Cat® Global Operator Challenge champion Patrick Doheny on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the 2023 China Beijing International Construction Machinery, Building Material Machines and Mining Machines Exhibition & Seminar (BICES 2023).
Five action-packed days, hundreds of years of human history, and the latest in cutting-edge construction machinery and technology. For Cat® Global Operator Challenge Champion Patrick Doheny, this sums up his trip to China for the 16th China Beijing International Construction Machinery, Building Material Machines and Mining Machines Exhibition & Seminar – known to most as BICES 2023.
Patrick had been invited as a distinguished guest of machinery giant Caterpillar®, along with his colleague and CRE Group General Manager Darragh Masterson, and Richard Beard from Victorian and Tasmanian Cat dealer William Adams (and with team EEM tagging along for the ride).
On the schedule was taking in the sights, experiencing a taste of China’s rich culture, a peek behind the scenes at one of Caterpillar’s biggest factories, and for Patrick, serving as a guest of honour at the Cat Global Operator Challenge China finals at BICES 2023.
Where the magic happens
After finding their feet at Beijing Airport, Patrick and the team boarded a south-bound bullet train to Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province.
Xuzhou is home to the Caterpillar Xuzhou Limited (CXL) factory, Caterpillar’s flagship manufacturing facility in China. Since 1994, the CXL factory has manufactured Cat machinery for distribution across the world.
To accommodate growing market demand in China and abroad, the facility underwent a major expansion project ten years ago, with a view to boost its production of hydraulic excavators by 80 per cent. Today, CXL employs a staff of more than 3000.
Patrick and company were treated to a tour of the CXL factory, where they were walked through the whole excavator production process.
“Some of the most impressive things I’ve seen today were the robotic welders welding the stick and boom, and just seeing the volume that they can get through in a day,” he said.
“One of the most impressive parts was the assembly line. They can assemble a Cat 395 in an hour and a half. The number of machines they can get through each day is pretty amazing.”
Richard shared Patrick’s enthusiasm for the tour, and having the chance to witness the production of the machinery he works with every day.
“Going to see the Caterpillar CXL factory was a big highlight of the trip, and seeing all the efficiencies in the manufacturing process,” Richard said.
“And to see the start of an excavator’s life, to see it assembled, start its engine, then see it come to life was amazing. A great experience.”
The big show
After three high-speed hours back north on the bullet train to Beijing, Patrick, Darragh, Richard, and the EEM team prepared themselves for the event at the heart of the journey: BICES 2023
For the first time since COVID, China’s largest machinery expo opened its doors to more than 150,000 visitors from more than 70 countries.
Held at the China International Exhibition Center in the Shunyi District in Beijing’s north east from September 20-23, BICES 2023 boasted an exhibition area exceeding 150,000 square meters, attracted over 1300 exhibitors from the global construction industry, and hosted hundreds of industry forums.
Among the big drawcards to the event was the China finals of the Cat Global Operator Challenge, held across the first two days of the show.
Patrick had a big part to play in his still-new earthmoving celebrity role, taking part in the opening ceremony, kick-starting the Medium Excavator challenge by driving a Cat 320 Excavator into the field, and presenting the runner-up trophy at the conclusion of the second day.
Patrick said he appreciated the opportunity to relive some of his own glory from the Global Operator Challenge in Las Vegas earlier in 2023, where he proudly raised the winner’s trophy for both his home of Australia and his birthplace of Ireland.
“The highlight of the show was just seeing the joy on the winner’s face,” Patrick said. “You could see how enthusiastic he was about it – you could even see a tear in his eyes.
“It brought back memories of when we were in Vegas. I understand what that feeling is like – to get to the end and win it. It’s brilliant.”
Soaking up the culture
But the journey was not all about machinery. And no visit to China would be complete without experiencing the local food, history, and culture of the world’s second most populous country.
For Patrick, Darragh, Richard, and the team, this meant capping off the first day of BICES 2023 with a tour of Beijing’s ‘Old City’ – the historical core of the city, marked by traditional architecture and ancient landmarks, including centuries-old imperial palaces, gardens, and temples.
Darragh said he was grateful for the chance to see the sights and enjoy the local cuisine.
“We’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people and experience the culture,” he said. “We also got to visit the Great Wall, which was a great experience.”
This trip to the Great Wall of China was how the team kicked off their second big day in Beijing – and did so bright and early with a 7am start. The Wall, around an hour’s drive north of the city centre, awaited the team with its hundreds of ancient steps – but the clear weather and pristine scenery made the steep hike well worth the effort.
Having had a chance to work out the legs and clear the mind amongst the centuries-old stonework, it was then back to the bustling heart of Beijing for the team to cap off their BICES experience, and to celebrate a trip marked equally by China’s ancient cultural wonders and technological advancements in construction machinery.
For Darragh, as the show wrapped up, all he could do was express gratitude for the opportunity to take part in the event.
“Caterpillar really pulled out all the stops and put on a great show,” he said.
Patrick agreed: “The trip has been absolutely amazing. I just want to say thanks to Caterpillar – from start to finish, it’s just been unbelievable.”