Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Working in China

Factory food

I had a tour of several Chinese factories. An area that has factories will be filled with identical five story buildings. Lots of the buildings will be empty, some of them may even have signs of people living in them (I saw a few clotheslines). What space is occupied by manufacturing will be simple and spartan, and run down. Big windows are used for light during the day, fans provide cooling, and nothing looks brand new.

It's gives them flexibility. If a business needs to expand, they can take over floors in nearby buildings. If they need to shrink, there isn't much to get rid of. Nothing there is permanent, I was told it is normal to have three different jobs in a year.

The vast majority of the workers I saw were young people, who are their mobile workforce. Most of them wore polo shirts with company logos, but a few wore shirts with brand names like Fendi or Polo. Lots of men had extravagant haircuts, kind of goth, a few people even had their hair bleached to a light brown color. Almost everyone was standing.

I used to look at plastic molded objects with a few parts and wonder what sort of machine was able to put them together. Well, I have seen where they come from, and there isn't any machine. It's mainly done by hand. People will stand together in a group making an object. Each person will have a part in the process. Some of them have simple machines, some of them manipulate the object somehow, some of them are doing the packaging. You give them a bunch of parts and they hand you the finished product, ready to appear on the shelf, inserts and all. They work as fast as the slowest person can go; only if a person is working at a machine making a part might they be stockpiling anything. And they all seemed pretty happy.

The picture you see at the top of the post is what is served in a factory cafeteria. (Everybody took more than I did.) I got to eat in the executive cafeteria, which has an air conditioner, but serves the same food as everyone else eats. We picked our plates, ceramic, chipped, and miss-matched, out of a pile, still wet from being washed. One day was rice, sweet corn with bits of broken pork bones, green beans, some sort of light stew, greens, and bitter-melon soup. The second time I ate there I had what you see in the picture.


Pete said...

Fascinating stuff, Jason. Were you there witnessing your company's overseas operations?

El Pollo Real said...

It's mainly done by hand.

That explains a lot of their success and also why we've become the Devil's workshop.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Were you there witnessing your company's overseas operations?

Yes, and if you ever have a chance to tour a Chinese factory, do it. Just not right after lunch, because they have an hour long sleep break.