Saturday, July 19, 2008

Which is your factory?

First of all, let me say that the below picture is not meant in any way to degrade Chinese factories. I want to illustrate the vast differences that one may encounter in China. This picture is of a fairly typical, high-pressure aluminum die-casting plant. There is no central melt system, machines are fed with hand ladles, and more importantly, mould maintenance is sometimes minimal.

The next picture is a fairly new automated heat treating line.

The pictures are of very different technologies, but I want to illustrate the difference in cleanliness, organization, and quality of equipment. And yes, the air really is that bad in the first factory!!

So which one makes the best parts? Well, both. You have to know the capabilities of the factory that is making your parts, and how those capabilities match up to the specifications of your parts. If your definition of good is parts that meet your requirements, and you know that the plant's processes are capable of making parts inside your specifications, then either plant will do nicely!

This returns us to the point I am always driving at, that you must do your homework before you begin. First, you must have a clear specification, and it must be clear to your Chinese partner. Second, you must audit the factory you are working with. Third, you must have a systematic process to qualify both the factory you will use and the parts they will make.

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