Published: 11:53, June 11, 2024
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China-made dishwashers save time, effort
By Zhuang Qiange and Pang Bo

Last year, country exported 5.8 million units, while 1.94 million were sold at home

Visitors check out China-made dishwashers at a booth of Fotile during an expo. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Washing the dishes each day can be a tedious chore for many Chinese, especially plates heavy with greasy stains.

For them, a China-made dishwasher is the perfect answer to free up time and bring happiness.

"I bought a dishwasher when I decorated my new home. The dishes are clean after washing, and it saves time for me to do other things," said Wu Peng, an office worker from Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

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Sonof Arthritis, a consumer from the United States, bought a dishwasher made by Ningbo, Zhejiang province-based kitchen appliances maker Fotile.

"The Fotile 2-in-1 sink dishwasher holds a day's worth of dishes. Most days, I prefer the 20-minute cycle that only uses 2 gallons of water. Everything is clean and dry when finished," he said.

In 2023, China exported 5.8 million units of dishwashers and sold 1.94 million at home, according to data from the General Administration of Customs and home appliances consultancy All View Cloud.

Better life

While people across the world seek a better quality of life, China's 494.16 million families have various needs according to their diversified lifestyles.

"Personalized cleaning solutions are a must," said Zhou Chengxiong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The needs vary for a newly married couple, a pregnant mother, a couple with children, three generations living under one roof, and a well-to-do household, he said.

A study by Zhou showed that it may take a Chinese family an hour and a half to wash dishes, brush pots and clean the table each day, and as the variety of cuisine goes up, the time spent on washing dishes and pots may be longer.

"Washing dishes could take up three years of one's lifetime," Zhou said.

According to a survey among modern households in the United States, 80 percent of households wash dishes at least once a day, with an average of 23 minutes spent on dishwashing, Zhou said. And, 22 percent of the people surveyed think that washing dishes is one of their least favorite domestic jobs.

"As people around the world seek a more comfortable life, dishwashers can be a great help," Zhou said, adding that the number of households with dishwashers has doubled in the US in recent years.

More functions

A growing number of people buy dishwashers because they can clean dishes better, save energy, and are environmentally friendly and intelligent, said Zhou.

The cleaning efficacy of Chinese dishwashers is growing steadily, he said.

Zhou noted that Chinese dishwasher makers are gaining more patents for the cleaning function of their dishwashers, with Fotile (with 790 patents), Shandong province-based Qingdao Haier Dishwasher and Guangdong province-based Midea Washing Appliance Manufacturing Co among the top.

Amid a trend of green and low-carbon development, green environmental protection technologies such as energy saving and water saving have become the key factors when consumers choose dishwashers, he said.

In China, Fotile, Haier and Midea are the top three patent holders in this field.

Wisdom Bud Database showed that by end-February there were 1,930 authorized patents in China for dishwashers' intelligent technology, accounting for 15.6 percent of all authorized patents on dishwashers in China. Since 2019, the number of such patents has been climbing steadily year-on-year.

Researchers discuss new technical designs for home-developed dishwashers. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Growing craze

Dishwashers entered the Chinese mainland market in the late 1980s, but were restricted to some high-income groups and large commercial organizations, and the masses could not afford them, said Wang Xiwen from the international economic and technical cooperation center under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and a postdoctoral fellow of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 1998, a dishwasher craze hit the market, but the feedback was poor.

In 2015, Fotile's sink dishwasher — the world's first — appeared, reinvigorating the Chinese dishwasher market and marking the first year of real progress in domestic dishwashers, Wang said.

Led by Fotile, which was established in 1996, Chinese dishwasher makers constantly innovated in core technologies, reversing the previous monopoly of overseas players.

Since then, sales of domestic dishwashers have grown by leaps and bounds, he said, noting that in 2023, the share of domestic dishwashers in China surpassed that of foreign brands for the first time, and the progress was regarded as the epitome of China's self-reliance in manufacturing.

In 2023, retail sales of Chinese dishwashers reached 11.2 billion yuan ($1.55 billion), up 9.6 percent year-on-year, while in the same year, the export volume of domestic dishwashers hit 5.8 million units, earning 63.24 billion yuan through export.

Technological breakthrough

The growing popularity of Chinese dishwashers mainly comes from its technological breakthroughs, Wang said.

To meet the needs of a green and low-carbon transition, developing new quality productive forces is the intrinsic requirement and an important focus for promoting high-quality development, he said.

Wang said contemporary advanced productive forces are generated by revolutionary technological breakthroughs, which can give rise to new industries, new models, and new driving forces — the core elements for developing new quality productive forces.

Mao Zhongqun, chairman and president of Fotile, set a target for his product research and development team when developing sink dishwashers: "To be a high-end brand and a leading enterprise, we must persist in innovation and make original and inventive innovations."

With the high-energy bubble washing technology developed by Fotile, China's manufacturing industry ushered in a major breakthrough in new quality productive forces, bringing a brand-new experience for consumers across the world, Wang said.

Independent innovation and R&D can have many benefits, said Ge Fengliang, president of China Household Electric Appliance Research Institute.

Following others in dishwasher technology may not suit the Chinese market, and only those products that meet the preferences of Chinese consumers can seize market share, Ge said.

Winning hearts

Technological guarantees can easily win the hearts of consumers.

Mitch Donovan from the United Kingdom, who compared British and US brands with Chinese dishwasher brands, thinks that Fotile is much better at cleaning oil stains.

"We installed Fotile's combination dishwasher and sink on our sailboat, and it has been hard at work for over a year with no issues. We use it twice per day, and even the 20-minute setting (which is energy and water efficient) works well," said Ed Marks, another consumer.

Core driver

On March 6, the National Industrial Information Security Development Research Center and the Electronic Intellectual Property Center of MIIT released its 2024 Research Report on Dishwasher Patent Innovation in China — it showed that Fotile had gained 1,338 patents.

Fotile is leading the technological innovation and development of dishwashers in China, it noted.

The report added that as technological innovation is the core driving force, the dishwasher industry in China should deepen technological innovation, and develop high-end, differentiated and green products, in order to promote a consumption upgrade in the country.

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Zhu Keli, founding president of the National Research Institute of New Economics, said: "By continuously raising the scientific and technological content to bolster the quality of dishwashers, Chinese manufacturers can help boost consumption, and meet people's growing need for a better life."

Wang noted that as China's economic development has entered a new stage of high-quality development, it is imperative to enhance its scientific and technological innovation capability and help the country's manufacturing industry gain new ground with enhanced consumer demand.

All View Cloud said China has become the world's largest manufacturing base for home appliances, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of global production capacity.

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