Dicovering low-cost production

By Giulia Lécureux July 17, 2019 Discover NOX project

Yesterday, we visited the PCB factory in the surroundings of Shenzhen.

And thanks to that, I finally understood what the engineers in our team were working on and talked about.

From CNC machine cutting cooper to the quality control check and the chemicals baths and fabrication steps, we saw it all.

But, being out of the craziness of the Shenzhen’s city center and its maker spaces everywhere, we were in an industrial factory. And some aspect of it impressed me, but also made me think a lot.

Everyone has heard about worker conditions in factories in China or other emerging markets, but to have seen it with my own eyes gave me a whole new perspective on it.

First, the factory streets are old buildings, with massive rusted air-coolers running all days. When the city center is brand new, the surroundings look more to how we imagine the factories and mass-production.

The machines constantly make noises, there is dust in the air, in some rooms the temperature is above 30 degrees, and the chemicals smells strong.

And in the middle of that, people have no ear-protection, no protection glasses, and the masks do not retain any particles. Some workers are also doing some repetitive tasks, pieces by pieces, hand by hand.

To see the work condition here and especially be able to feel it with my own sense, even if it was for a short moment, really disturbed me.

However, in comparison with last year, they told us that they invested and bought a lot of new machines to automatize some tasks. For instance, one of the many quality control processes has been automized. The workers have just changed jobs: they became controller and manager of these robots’ machines.

This visit made me think about ethics, work condition, and what I’ve learned in a class on this topic, and how we have a different completely different perspective about it in Europe. A few years ago, I visited a factory in Germany and was amazed by how it was working and how the company’s culture focused on the well-being of its employees.

In China, my vision has changed, or at least it takes another perspective. And it made me think how as a young swiss and European girl, gave us a different perspective about works conditions, and how I imagined it.

Seeing some of the innovations that are being developed in Shenzhen, and discovering startups looking for solutions for a better and greener future, is inspiring and push us to go in this direction. There are so many possibilities and solution to find to produce better, and so many opportunities. We just have to start it.