Inside China's Booming Bike-Sharing Plants: 16 Bikes Every 10 Minutes

By Tristin Zhang, March 14, 2017

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With numerous bike-sharing companies now vying for riders' attention here in China, the more bikes one can put on the streets, the better. The key to winning that game? Set up shop in Tianjin.

The city is emerging as China’s low-end bicycle production hub, and boasts over 1,000 bike manufacturers and more than 700 spare parts manufacturers, according to a report by the Ministry of Commerce of China. Of course, this is nothing new: the very first bike ever manufactured in China was made in Tianjin.

Earlier in March, reporters with Tencent Finance News visited a number of bike assembly plants in Tianjin to discover the ins and outs of bike-sharing manufacturing and assembly worker experience.

sharing-bike-manufacturer-1.jpgAt Fushida factory located in Dongli District, workers labored 11 hours a day to fulfill an order of 10 million bikes for Ofo, the bike-sharing company with signature yellow bicycles. According to the report, these workers are frequently exposed to extremely loud noise and pungent smells and do not wear earplugs or take other safety precautions.

The factory averages a production of more than 5,000 bikes per day. Apart from Ofo, it also manufactures HelloBike. Tencent reporters observed that 16 bikes were assembled in 10 minutes.

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About 50 kilometers away from Fushida’s assembly plant, workers in Feige Bike Factory also work tirelessly to stay on top of their production schedule for Ofo. Here, 400,000 Ofo bikes are pieced together on a monthly basis. The orders for Ofo constitute one third of the factory's total annual production.

Not far away from Feige Bike Factory lies another assembly plant, Aima Sports Supplies Company, which received an order for five million bikes in 2017 from Mobike. A worker in the plant told Tencent journalists that they often work both day and night shifts to meet the growing demand.

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These factories are ostensibly short-handed, as job posts recruiting new workers were spotted outside the premises, with one Fushida ad stating: “a bonus of 500 yuan is given to internal staff for introducing one worker.” 

A Fushida worker told Tencent reporters that they typically work six days a week, from 8am to 9pm with two hours of rest, and are paid RMB130 per working day plus one yuan for breakfast every morning.

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Wangqintuo Town, China’s 'No. 1 bike production town' 20 years ago, sits in the northwest of downtown Tianjin. Here, a Shanghai bike manufacturer, Shanghai Anji’er Bike, told Tencent they were asked to produce 200,000 bikes for Ofo within 45 days, or roughly three bikes per minute.

None of the bike manufacturers mentioned above have been able to automate their assembly lines due to technical limitation, according to the report.

If bike-sharing in China truly is here to stay, however, production plants may be forced to consider more efficient and sustainable methods of manufacturing if they hope to stay in business.

[Images via Tencent Finance News

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