OPERATOR CORNER: Thousands of excavator operators across China are expected to compete in Operator Idol 2014, Volvo CE’s nationwide ‘eco-operator’ contest
by Nigel Griffiths
Launched in 2011, Operator Idol is the first contest of its kind in China and the largest fuel-efficiency training event in the world. Targeting more than 1 million excavator operators in China, it not only encourages fuel-efficient driving but is also a valuable vehicle for promoting the Volvo CE brand and its core values of quality, safety and care for the environment.
“The dream of our era is to foster a green future. We actually pioneered fuel efficiency in China by leveraging a lot of creative approaches,” commented April Li, Vice President Marketing, Volvo CE Region China.
With its massive impact in terms of participation, public attention and brand recognition for Volvo CE, the company has now decided to extend the competition for a further three years with the 2014 final planned for November.
Organized jointly by Volvo CE and its dealers together with the China Construction Machinery Association (CCMA), the multi-location event is also supported by China’s Department of Conservation and Resource Utilization and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Staging the contest involves more than 1,000 people working behind the scenes.
Over a period of three years, the competition attracted 410,000 entrants – 40% of the country’s excavator operators. The number of participants in this highly innovative contest has risen from year to year.
The 2013 event ran over six months and reached all corners of China, with preliminary rounds in 30 provinces and regions leading to the final in Shanghai. There, 24 operators competed for the top three national Operator Idol titles, each one winning the prize of one year’s free use of a Volvo excavator.
This year, the organizers are planning to extend fuel-efficiency training and hope to offer a wider variety of prizes.
Publicity surrounding the 2013 contest was impressive with more than 3,500 media reports, and 100 million unique visits to the Operator Idol website. The project attracted 150,000 fans on Weibo, China’s micro-blogging equivalent of Facebook and Twitter, and received wide recognition from operators, dealers, industry and society.
Outright winner Liu Fang Jie was participating in Operator Idol for the second time: “I’d like to thank Volvo for helping me to realize my dream of finally owning my own excavator after working in this industry for more than 10 years,” he said.
Runner-up Feng Yi, in second place, commented: “As a result of the contest I have been able to focus more on environmental protection and am learning many new concepts and skills for fuel-efficient driving,” adding: “Now that I have my own excavator, I will apply what I have learned here to my work and try to influence others in my surroundings.”
Over the years the contest has generated thousands of young operators who are now skilled in fuel-efficient driving techniques. As part of the program, tailor-made online and offline training in fuel-efficient driving is given to all registered operators, and contestants receive certificates when they have completed the course.
In the final, the operators face a series of challenges simulating actual working conditions to demonstrate their flexibility and fuel-efficient driving skills.
“The operators taking part in this contest are all very young, yet they represent the backbone of the industry’s future,” explained Jennifer He, Marketing and Communications Director, Volvo CE, Region China. “The contest has proved an excellent way to rapidly make contact with thousands of operators and provide them with eco-operator skills,” she added.
“It is now a valuable bridge between Volvo CE and operators to help us communicate and get Volvo CE and its products better known. The contacts made during the project have helped us build up an enormous database of more than 200,000 operators. These contacts could be very beneficial in the future as operators in China often have influence over their employers about purchasing choices.”