Archive for ‘Manufacturing’

31/01/2015

Panasonic withdraws from TV production in China: source | Reuters

As we said with the reduction of workforce at Foxconn, this could be the beginning of the end to off-shored manufacturing.  Time will tell if we’re right or not.

Panasonic Corp (6752.T) has stopped making TVs in China and plans to liquidate its joint venture in Shandong, a company source said on Saturday, the latest in a string of Japanese electronics companies exiting overseas TV markets amid strong pricing pressure.

Exhibitors prepare the Panasonic exhibit space ahead of the International Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 5, 2015. The show officially opens on January 6. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)

The source, who did not want to be identified because the move had not yet been announced to the roughly 300 workers at the Shangdong plant, said Panasonic ended production there on Friday.

The Nikkei earlier reported that Panasonic would withdraw from TV production in China and Mexico. The report said the company was expected to sell the Mexican plant, which has produced about 500,000 units a year, most of which were shipped to the United States.

Reuters could not confirm the company’s plans to exit Mexico. It currently has two plants in that country, part of the company’s nine TV manufacturing plants, excluding Shangdong.

A fierce price war has made the global TV market unprofitable for many Japanese electronics makers. Panasonic said in late October it was transferring its unprofitable Sanyo television unit in the U.S., which supplies sets to Wal-Mart Stores, to Funai Electric (6839.T) in return for royalties.

Toshiba Corp (6502.T) said on Thursday that it would stop making and selling TVs in North America and was considering similar exits from other countries.

Sharp Corp (6753.T) has licensed its TV brand in Europe to Universal Media Corp Slovakia as part of an effort to trim costs and pull back from loss-making operations. Sony Corp (6758.T) has spun off its struggling TV business into a separate entity, although CEO Kazuo Hirai has said the company does not plan to sell or shut down the unit.”

via Panasonic withdraws from TV production in China: source | Reuters.

27/01/2015

Apple supplier Foxconn to shrink workforce as sales growth stalls | Reuters

Is this the beginning of the end for off-shoring manufacturing?

Taiwan‘s Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, will cut its massive workforce, the company told Reuters, as the Apple Inc (AAPL.O) supplier faces declining revenue growth and rising wages in China.

Employees work inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province in this May 26, 2010 file photo.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Under its flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW), the group currently employs about 1.3 million people during peak production times, making it one of the largest private employers in the world.

Special assistant to the chairman and group spokesman Louis Woo did not specify a timeframe or target for the reduction, but noted that labor costs had more than doubled since 2010, when the company faced intense media scrutiny following a spate of worker suicides.

“We’ve basically stabilized (our workforce) in the last three years,” Woo said. When asked if the company plans to reduce overall headcount, he responded “yes”.

Revenue growth at the conglomerate tumbled to 1.3 percent in 2013 and only partially recovered to 6.5 percent last year after a long string of double-digit increases from 2003 to 2012.

That decade saw the firm ride an explosion of popularity in PCs, smartphones and tablets, largely driven by its main client Apple, but now it is feeling the effects of falling growth and prices in the gadget markets it supplies, a trend that is expected to continue.

Growth in smartphone sales will halve this year from 26 percent in 2014, according to researcher IDC, while PC sales will contract by 3 percent.

Similarly, the average smartphone will sell for 19 percent less in 2018 than last year’s $297.

“Even if technology is improving, the price will still come down,” Woo said. “We’ve come to accept that, our customers have come to accept that.”

Automation will be key to keeping labor costs under control in the long-term, Woo said, as the company pushes to have robotic arms complete mundane tasks currently done by workers.

But Woo noted that company chairman Terry Gou‘s previously stated goal of 1 million robots was “a generic concept” rather than a firm target.”

via Exclusive: Apple supplier Foxconn to shrink workforce as sales growth stalls | Reuters.

04/12/2014

Intel to invest $1.6 billion in China factory | Reuters

Intel Corp (INTC.O) will invest $1.6 billion (1 billion pounds) to upgrade its factory in the city of Chengdu in western China, the latest sign of how the chipmaker is deepening ties in a market that is proving increasingly troublesome for some U.S. technology peers.

Indonesian youth walk past an Intel sign during Digital Imaging expo in Jakarta March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Beawiharta

As part of the upgrade, Intel said in a statement on Thursday it would bring its most advanced chip-testing technology to China. In exchange it will receive local and regional government support for construction.

“Deploying our newest advanced testing technology in China shows our commitment to innovating jointly with China,” Intel executive vice president William Holt said in the statement. “The fully upgraded Chengdu plant will help the Chinese semiconductor industry and boost regional economic growth.”

The announcement comes three months after Intel purchased a minority stake in a government-controlled semiconductor company to jointly design and distribute mobile chips, an industry that China considers to be of strategic importance.

Intel’s fortunes in China contrast with the travails of its rival, Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), which is expected to announce in the coming days a potentially record-breaking settlement with Chinese antitrust regulators.

China’s investigation into San Diego-based Qualcomm, as well as a spate of recent probes against firms including Microsoft Corp, have prompted an outcry from foreign business lobbies. They say the Chinese government is increasingly adopting strong-arm tactics to yield technology-sharing or other arrangements beneficial to domestic industry.

The government, meanwhile, has defended its regulatory scrutiny as even-handed. It has pointed to a history of Qualcomm and Microsoft facing similar antitrust probes in Western countries.

Analysts say there is a broad recognition that foreign companies must do more to stay in China’s good graces.

via Intel to invest $1.6 billion in China factory | Reuters.

03/12/2014

Under Pressure: The 10-Story Machine China Hopes Will Boost Its Aviation Industry. – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The engineers started closing the rollerdoor the moment they saw a foreigner walking toward them.

Standing around laughing in blue overalls and yellow hard hats, they went quiet the moment I started walking up the drive. I asked if I could take a peek behind the door. They said it was a secret.

Still, I managed to catch a glimpse of two floors’ worth of the 10-story-tall machine Beijing hopes will play a major role in driving China’s aviation and aerospace industries: an 80,000-ton closed-die hydraulic press forge.

Repeated requests for a tour of the forge were declined. Both Zhang Jian, the head of propaganda at Erzhong Group, the company that built and operates the forge, and Wang Yu, the secretary of the board of directors of Erzhong’s Shanghai-listed unit, said that the forge is “confidential.”

It’s not immediately clear what about the machine – which is painted green with Erzhong Group printed across it in red Chinese characters – is so secret.

The machine is the biggest of its kind in the world. The biggest forge in the U.S. can exert only 50,000 tons of pressure, and is operated by Alcoa AA +0.93% in Ohio. France has a 65,000-ton machine, and Russia has a machine capable of exerting 75,000 tons of pressure.

But the technology China is using is nothing new. It is based on modifications of Russian designs from the 80s, according to a person involved in the development process.

More sensitive is was China can potentially do with it.

Press forging involves shaping a piece of metal under high pressure by squeezing it into a mold. That alters the flow of the metal’s grain – its internal structure – allowing engineers to create stronger and lighter components than would be possible by just beating them into shape or welding them together. Greater pressure results in stronger components.

The Erzhong forge can exert up to 80,000 tons of downward pressure using five columns. Flipped upside down, it could lift China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier, with room to spare for a handful of submarines. Airbus is using the Russian forge to make landing gear components for the A380, the world’s biggest passenger plane. Having the world’s biggest forge should allow China to produce large components of higher strength than possible elsewhere.

The technology was pioneered during WWII by Germany, which didn’t have a sufficient supply of steel and so had to mold its air force out of more brittle, but lighter metals, according to Tim Heffernan, a writer who has researched the U.S. forge program. The end of the war brought the start of the jet age, and the U.S. government provided support for the building of forges around the country, so that the country was able to produce light planes that were sufficiently strong to withstand supersonic speeds.

Alcoa’s forge has been producing parts for Boeing and Airbus for decades. The company says it supplies almost all forged wheel and brake components for U.S. military aircraft and helicopters, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the U.S. military’s newest fighter jet.

Erzhong hasn’t explicitly said what the forge will be used for, but academics involved in its development process said there are potential military applications.

The first component produced by the forge at its official launch in April last year was the landing gear for the C919,  China’s long-awaited and much behind schedule narrow-bodied passenger aircraft being built by the Commercial Aircraft Company of China.

via Under Pressure: The 10-Story Machine China Hopes Will Boost Its Aviation Industry. – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

21/11/2014

China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek

Even as northern China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province, continues to suffer from hazardous air—“people with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors or wear protective masks,” the official English language China Daily advised earlier today, Nov.20—some relief may be on the longer-term horizon.

The Baosteel Group Corp. facilities in Shanghai, China

Chinese authorities in Hebei province, one of China’s largest steel-producing regions, announced they plan to relocate steel, cement, and glass factories overseas over the next decade. The many industrial factories that surround Beijing and Tianjin are known to be a major source of the lung-choking smog that periodically smothers much of northern China. Hebei province alone produces 200 million tons of steel annually, or about one-quarter of China’s total production.

“The initiative comes at a time when local steel, cement, and glass producers are struggling, with sluggish growth in the world’s second-largest economy crippling demand for their products. In many cases, it has led to severe overcapacity,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 19.

By 2017, according to Hebei authorities, Hebei plans to move 5 million tons of steel production capacity, the same amount for cement, and 3 million “weight boxes” of glass production (a weight box is roughly 50 kg, the paper explained). Much more will be moved in the following six years, through 2023, including 20 million tons of steel, 30 million of cement, and 10 million weight boxes of glass production, Xinhua reported.

While steel manufacturers will be encouraged through unspecified preferential policies to relocate some production in Africa and Asia, cement and glass producers will go to those two regions, as well as South America and Central and East Europe.

“Hebei is a major source of industrial pollutants blamed for the notorious choking smog that often spreads to neighboring regions like Beijing,” Xinhua reported.

via China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek.

11/11/2014

Modi’s Make in India Push to Take on China Faces Red Tape – Businessweek

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to turn India into a global manufacturing hub by curbing red tape. Tell that to Tata Steel Ltd. (TATA), which closed one of its largest iron-ore mines in September over permit delays.

Close up - Clothes marker - Made in India

India’s largest maker of the alloy isn’t alone. Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) shut one of its top-yielding quarries the same month pending renewal of its lease. JSW Steel Ltd. (JSTL)’s plan to start mining in eastern Jharkhand state has been hampered by a probe begun last month into mine allocations.

Modi is set to trumpet his “Make in India” initiative at the Group of 20 summit in Australia this week as he vies with China to woo manufacturers. The mine closures show lingering bureaucratic obstacles to his push, stemming from court rulings and officials in India’s 29 states that lie beyond Modi’s direct control. India slid two places to 142nd out of 189 economies in the World Bank’s latest ease of doing business rankings.

via Modi’s Make in India Push to Take on China Faces Red Tape – Businessweek.

11/11/2014

Airbus aims to double China component sourcing value to $1 billion by 2020 | Reuters

European jet maker Airbus Group NV (AIR.PA) aims to double the annual value of aircraft components it sources from China to $1 billion by 2020, the firm’s China Chief Operating Officer, Rafael Gonzalez-Ripoll-Garzon, said on Tuesday.

A flight test engineer holds an Airbus Group flag after the first flight of the Airbus A320neo (New Engine Option) in Colomiers near Toulouse, southwestern France, September 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The Airbus executive’s comment, made on the sidelines of China’s premier airshow in Zhuhai, came as the European firm’s chief rival Boeing (BA.N) said it’s also seeking to ramp up China component sourcing.

Kent Fisher, Boeing Commercial Airplane’s vice-president and general manager of supplier management, said that over the next few years his company is looking to double the $2 billion worth of aircraft parts it has sourced from China in total over the last 30 years. Fisher was speaking at a separate press briefing at the air show and didn’t provide further details.

Boeing also said it had signed a deal with Aviation Industry Corporation of China to produce composite tail parts for the Boeing 777 program, beginning in 2017.

Airbus and Boeing have been competing fiercely in China, which will need over 6,020 new planes worth $870 million the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s latest forecast.

Both have been increasing their sourcing in China, using locally made composite materials and parts like emergency doors in aircraft like the Airbus A330 and Boeing B787 jets.

via Airbus aims to double China component sourcing value to $1 billion by 2020 | Reuters.

11/11/2014

China unveils sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft | Reuters

China unveiled a sophisticated new stealth fighter jet at an air show on Tuesday, a show of muscle during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.

A J-31 stealth fighter of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force is seen during a test flight ahead of the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

China hopes the much-anticipated J-31 stealth aircraft, developed by the Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic), the country’s top aircraft maker, will compete with U.S.-made hardware in export markets.

The twin-engine fighter jet was unveiled at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in the southern city of Zhuhai, an annual event at which China shows off its military technology, a Reuters witness said.

The J-31 conducted a demonstration but was not put on display afterwards although a mock-up version was on show.

via China unveils sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft | Reuters.

07/11/2014

India vs. China: The Battle for Global Manufacturing – Businessweek

With its chronic blackouts, crumbling roads, and other infrastructure woes, India should have no appeal for John Ginascol. A vice president at Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Ginascol is responsible for ensuring that the company’s food-products factories run smoothly worldwide. He can’t afford surprises when it comes to electricity, water, and other essentials. “People like me,” he says, “dream of having existing, good, reliable infrastructure.”

Yet Abbott has just opened its first plant in India, and Ginascol says there haven’t been any nightmares so far. In October the company began production at a $75 million factory in an industrial park in the western state of Gujarat. The factory is producing Similac baby formula and nutritional supplement PediaSure, which Abbott plans to sell to the growing Indian middle class. The plant will employ about 400 workers by the time it’s fully up and running next year. As for India’s infrastructure, Ginascol has no complaints. The officials in charge of the park “were able to deliver very good, very reliable power, water, natural gas, and roads,” he says. “Fundamentally, the infrastructure was in place.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping other executives will be similarly impressed with the ease of manufacturing in his country. Before Modi took charge in New Delhi, he headed the state government in Gujarat, and during his 13 years in power there he made the state an industrial leader. Manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of Gujarat’s economy, compared with 13 percent for the country as a whole, and a touch less than the 30 percent figure for manufacturing titan China.

via India vs. China: The Battle for Global Manufacturing – Businessweek.

05/11/2014

Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek

Before he took his life in late September, 24-year-old Xu Lizhi was a regular contributor of poetry to Foxconn People, the internal newspaper at his sprawling factory complex in Shenzhen. Only after he died did his writing find a wider audience, as factory friends collected his poems for publication in the Shenzhen News.

Safety netting posted around a building in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China

Like millions of other young Chinese, Xu left his home in rural Guangdong province in 2010 to find work in the big city; he had been working intermittently on Foxconn (2317:TT)’s electronics assembly line for four years.

Following a series of 14 suicides in 2010, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant installed safety nets to prevent workers from jumping off dormitory roofs at its Shenzhen plant. It tried to improve life for its workers: The company raised basic wages and installed basketball courts and Olympic-size swimming pools for recreation. Worker suicides declined but did not disappear.

Xu’s poetry gives voice to the alienation he and many others of his generation feel on the assembly line: “I swallowed a moon made of iron/ They refer to it as a nail/ I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents/ Youth stooped at machines die before their time/ I swallowed the hustle and the destitution/ Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust / I can’t swallow any more/ All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat/ Unfurling on the land of my ancestors/ Into a disgraceful poem.”

A frequent theme is how he felt the monotony of factory life sapping away “the last graveyard of our youth.” In one poem, Xu wrote: “With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust/ They have stomachs forged of iron/ Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric/ Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall.”

Xu also described the desolate conditions of his rented room: “A space of ten square meters/ Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year/ Here I eat, sleep, sh–, and think/ Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die/ Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot.”

via Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek.

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