This week on Best in Manufacturing, get an inside look at Chinese smartphone maker Oppo's factory in Shenzhen, learn about 3d printing toys and more!

Best in Manufacturing – July 23, 2017

Each Sunday, we publish a list of top articles and other content related to manufacturing in areas like quality control, product development, supply chain management, sourcing, auditing and law.

1. Take a tour of a gigantic Chinese phone factory

If you’ve ever been curious about how smartphones are made, this is the article for you.

Juan, the author of this featured article, went to visit the factory that produces Oppo’s R11 phones in Shenzhen. He took a 360° video of the entire tour, which allows you to look at the factory almost as if you were there yourself.

Tour of Chinese phone factoryThe video reveals a few interesting points:

  • Although the workers knew they were being watched and might’ve behaved differently than normal, this Chinese company seems to care about quality – you can see quality assurance taking place at several different stages
  • While automation is certainly apparent on the production line, the majority of assembly is still done by manual labor
  • Workers look like they’re working hard – it may be tedious work, but assembling the same components every day for extended periods of time requires stamina and a work ethic

The next time you see a smartphone on a store shelf, try remembering everything that it went through to get there. Doing so might just make you appreciate your smartphone a little more.

To see the video for yourself, check it out in the link below:

Manufacturing the R11: Shenzhen Oppo Factory Tour – 360° Video – Juan Carlos Bagnell,

2. Trump and his effect on international sourcing efforts

Globalization has faced a little bit of pressure over the past year or so. With the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and the election of Donald Trump to President of the United States, the politics of globalization are front and center in the minds of many people in these countries and throughout the world.

President Trump, for instance, has outlined how he plans to put “America first” on numerous occasions. What does this slogan mean? Bringing back manufacturing jobs, for starters, and renegotiating trade agreements more to America’s liking. While the slogan certainly has other implications as well, these two are likely the most glaring for importers of any size.

And although the slogan is intended to benefit American industry, it can (arguably) hurt and help it simultaneously. As this featured article reports:

Many companies that lose access to less-expensive overseas workers will respond by accelerating the automation and digitization of labor-intensive services.

On the one hand, facing higher costs for using cheap overseas labor might hurt some businesses in the short term. But because of this pressure, these businesses might be forced to innovate by using more automation in their manufacturing.

To respond effectively to protectionist sentiment, the author suggests 3 steps:

  • Review your outsourcing contracts
  • Evaluate the impacts of reshoring
  • Leverage digital solution

And in addition to these steps, you can check out the free sourcing calculator we mentioned in last week’s Best in Manufacturing. Combined with an awareness of national policies, this tool can help you determine whether offshoring or reshoring is right for you.

To learn more about these steps and what to do in the current global sourcing environment, check out the full article in the link below:

Trumpism and Global Sourcing – Vinay Couto, IndustryWeek

3. A warning to toy manufacturers and importers

Legos, slinkies and all sorts of action figures. What do they have in common, aside from being toys? They’re all currently made in a manufacturing facility controlled by the original developer. But as more and more everyday consumers adopt 3D printing, these toys, and many others, could eventually be produced at home.

Tour of Chinese phone factoryCompletely eliminating toy manufacturers is unlikely (for now), as not everyone will want to dabble with 3D printing. Still, it’s not so hard to hook up a 3D printer and get designs for toys. Websites like MyMiniFactory offer a wide selection of designs for toys and gadgets that can delight consumers as well as, if not better than, products purchased off of store shelves.

Personally, if I were a parent, I’d think it’s pretty cool to 3D print a toy for my son or daughter. It would bring them the satisfaction of a new toy and also introduce them to a novel technology. And on top of that, it would save me some money. By 3D printing toys, the researchers featured in this article found that there were,

…significant savings -- typically between 40 to 90 percent -- even with complex toys like chess sets, math puzzles, toy trucks, action figures and board games.

I think it’s impossible to fight the switch to 3D printing in the toy industry. When more people catch wind of the savings, customization and convenience that 3D printing can offer, major companies will be forced to change their business models to survive.

What do you think companies can do to last in the era of widespread 3D printing? Let us know in the comments section below!

To read more about toys and 3D printing, check out the article in the link below:

3D printing Sweeps Toy Manufacturing off the Shelves - Michigan Technological University via Science Daily

4. Consumer desire for domestically made goods

Would you pay more for domestically made products? If yes, how much more?

Companies all around the world that have manufactured products must grapple with these questions. Protectionist sentiment can influence consumers significantly, making them strongly consider only products that are manufactured within their own borders. But by looking at a recent poll of Americans, it’s clear that this sentiment can only go so far.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 70 percent of Americans surveyed think that it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” to purchase goods that are made in the U.S. Regardless of this feeling, 37 percent of respondents said they would “refuse to pay more for U.S.-made goods versus imports”.

Of course, the decision to manufacture within your own borders sometimes has benefits, notably:

  • Being able to say your product is domestically manufactured
  • Being able to respond to trends faster
  • Getting products to warehouses sooner
  • Visiting your supplier more easily
  • Avoiding any cross-cultural problems

Yet what undermines all these benefits is price. Despite the hassle that overseas sourcing sometimes poses, if it can offer consumers a lower price, then to some companies it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Each business, ultimately, needs to do what it feels is best for its own situation, whether that means going abroad, staying home or using a mixture of both of these procurement strategies for their operations.

Where do you stand on paying a premium for domestically manufactured products versus paying a lower price? Let us know in the comments section below.

To learn more about the Reuters/Ipsos poll and get an idea of consumer sentiment toward price vs. manufacturing origin, check out the full article in the link below:

Americans Want U.S. Goods, but Not Willing to Pay More: Reuters/Ipsos poll – Timothy Aeppel, Reuters

5. The right to repair

If your stapler breaks, you’ll probably try to fix it. After tinkering with it for a minute or two, you find the problem, correct it and before you know it you’re stapling again. While the concept of fixing something that breaks is easily applied to an item like a stapler, that’s not the case with some electronics.

Tour of Chinese phone factoryFor example, smartphones have complex manufacturing processes. Repairing them can be daunting due to all the components involved. But on top of that, sometimes OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are reluctant to help end users. They might not want to provide components or instruction manuals to assist with repairs.

This reluctance can be annoying, to say the least. Imagine: pay $15 for a new phone screen or $400 for a brand new phone. Thankfully, this example doesn’t frequently play out (I think) due to the work of many repair businesses that somehow acquire the right parts and specialize in providing affordable after-sale service to customers.

But how should importers and manufacturers feel about customers repairing goods after the original sale? Of course, providing components and support to the repair industry and individuals might take away a portion of the OEM’s own revenue. However, this featured article points out how,

…our research suggests that companies can take a different approach – designing and building products that can be refurbished and repaired for reuse – while building customer loyalty and brand awareness.

By making it easier to repair a product after it’s been sold, customers might feel better about the OEM because of its helpfulness. And it’s this sort of gesture that might cultivate a loyal fan base of customers that know their OEM has their back when they need assistance.

To learn more about the “right to repair”, check out the full article in the link below:

Why Can’t We Fix Our Own Electronic Devices? – Sara Behdad, The Conversation

We’re constantly scanning the web for top manufacturing stories and news. If you’d like to submit an article for consideration for our weekly Best in Manufacturing, send us a message and let us know.

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