Living and working in China
Marcel Gerth-Noritzsch, Head of Engineering at MTU Maintenance Zhuhai, paints a picture of what it’s like to live and work in China.
12.2018 | Text: Victoria Nicholls
Victoria Nicholls is a specialist for aftermarket topics such as engine MRO, leasing and asset management, as well as international market trends. The British-born editor lives in Berlin and works for MTU’s corporate communications in Hannover and Ludwigsfelde.
“You’d be mad not to consider it,” says Marcel Gerth-Noritzsch about secondments to MTU Maintenance Zhuhai. There is a lot to love: exciting, dynamic projects; a fast growthrate within the company; a very new and invigorating environment to work in; the chance to move past your comfort zone. Any downsides? “Well, put it this way, it is a completely different culture that can be hard to get used to, especially for a German. We can be rigid in our mindset.”
MTU and China
With bilateral trade in goods worth nearly 190 billion euros, according to the German economic publication WirtschaftsWoche, China has been Germany’s most important international trade partner for two consecutive years now. It is also a key focus for the German engine giant, MTU Aero Engines.
But beyond current trade success, China is a key growth market for the future. According to Flightglobal’s fleet forecast, China’s commercial fleet of single-aisle and twin-aisle jets is forecasted to triple from 3,100 in 2017 to 9,400 aircraft in 2037, overtaking the US by the end of the next decade. And from a maintenance perspective, over 35% of the world’s shop visit demand will come from the country by 2027.
No wonder then that MTU Maintenance Zhuhai, set up 17 years ago and already the number one engine shop in China and largest narrowbody shop in Asia, is poised for yet more growth. A shop expansion of 50 percent, taking the yearly capacity to 450 shop visits by 2021 is getting underway.
Besides the strong relationship with Airline customers, MTU has a wide network of relationships with other players in the Aviation and IGT Business. The company has a representative office based in Shanghai that is key to negotiating the local market and coordinating activities in the booming region. For instance, China harbors significant potential for aero-derivative gas turbine applications, in which MTU also specializes through its subsidiary Vericor and its brush team specialists, housed under the brand MTU Power.
Gerth-Noritzsch moved back to Zhuhai in Summer 2017 to take on the role of Head of Engineering. It is not his first time in the Pearl Delta Region, he joined the facility in 2010 as an intern, more or less by chance, then wrote his thesis there, before being taken on as a project leader until 2012. Now he leads the department he once started in and is excited about the upcoming expansion plans as well as any new programs that might be implemented in the near future.
Serious job progression was one reason he took up his current role, contracted for three years. But he also had personal reasons: His wife is Chinese and together, they would like their son to grow up speaking and writing Chinese fluently. This would be hard to achieve in Germany, especially speaking German at home. “I was also in the fortunate position of knowing that I like living here,” he adds. “I think a lot of colleagues worry about having to compromise on the way of living that they are used to. But that isn’t the case, I don’t want for anything. I can travel Asia easily, and I go home regularly enough to stock up on any of the treats I might miss.”
Change for the better
Of course, working in a different country and culture comes with difficulty. “In Germany, we tend to have a very regulated way of working and that flows into our processes, we sometimes forget to be flexible. Things are regulated here too, but in practice, people will adjust their standpoint to reach a solution and help others save face,” Gerth-Noritzsch explains. “Overall, that is also more customer friendly.”
Gerth-Noritzsch also points out that it is easy to think that the country you come from is the center of the world. “It does us good as people to learn there is no single way of doing something. If you’re open to new experiences, you can learn a lot about yourself too,” he adds. “You also realize that the German Autobahn is a wonderful thing and that we can be extremely proud of our industrial heritage.”
His advice to anyone thinking of taking on a job in Zhuhai? “Come and visit to get a feel for the place – and take some extra days off to do it, two days aren’t enough. Don’t go to a Chinese restaurant in Germany, that isn’t anywhere close to the quality of food you get here. Be aware that the Western European media coverage of China is not impartial. And think about life outside of work, especially if you’ll be bringing a partner or family with you.”