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The Making of a Motherboard at ECS 269

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the under-the-hood dept.
sheiky writes "Hardcoreware.net has posted a look at the manufacturing process of a motherboard at a new ECS factory in Shen Zhen. Unlike most factories, they build boards from the ground up at one location, starting with the PCB all the way to a finished product. They also talk a little bit about the working conditions they witnessed in China."
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The Making of a Motherboard at ECS

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  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:35PM (#15600903) Homepage
    ECS uses the "Grape System" to remind their employees not to slack off. For each day, there is a grape. Green means they had a perfect day, with no problems with work or otherwise. If an employee slacks off or shows up late for work, they get a red grape.

    And I toil for what?!? Not so much as a raisin!
    • by Herkum01 (592704) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:45PM (#15600946)

      I love thier last comment about the workers, "I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories". There is not a bit of biase there I tell ya!

      • Monetary value and living expenses are also quite different in China, so there's really no comparison there...
        • Monetary value and living expenses are also quite different in China, so there's really no comparison there..

          But not for long.... From today's Los Angeles Times [latimes.com], soon workers in China will reap the benefits of our glorious HMO medical care system, thanks to companies here in the US with double-plus-good names like 'Sunnylife Global', for which they're billed $375 per annum, plus copayments.

    • Where are the workers over thirty?
  • Dupe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ramble (940291) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:45PM (#15600947) Homepage
    Bit-Tech did this over a week ago.

    http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2006/06/16/ecs_shen_z hen_factory_tours/1.html [bit-tech.net]

  • by x_man (63452) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:49PM (#15600963)
    I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

    Yes, how dare those union workers try to get things like livable wages, child labor laws and health insurance. What were those silly Americans thinking?

    X
    • You have committed thoughtcrime. Unions doubleplusungood. -Republican Administration
    • Here, here! I nearly lost my lunch at the suggestion that taking lower wages for longer hours and with a public ridicule "grape" system is somehow more efficient? For whom? Your therapist?
    • by contrapunctus (907549) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:58PM (#15600999)
      I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.
      Yes, how dare those union workers try to get things like livable wages, child labor laws and health insurance. What were those silly Americans thinking?
      There was a show on PBS last friday about GM paying off workers to quit. One instance was a janitor (in a union) making nearly twice as much as me. I'm a college professor. Why did I go to school for so long?
    • Yeah! Let the unionized janitor make $20 USD per hour mobbing garbage while his company loses millions every year, eventually going bankrupt! The simple fact that he is alive and can walk and breathe gives him the RIGHT!
    • by ettlz (639203) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:05PM (#15601023) Journal
      As a Brit, I really cannot understand the crazy phobia (some) Americans have about unions and socialism. "Ooer! Reds!" Let's not forget these movements arose out of injustice. OK, so they got out of hand in the UK in the 1970s, but things are generally stable nowadays and we're not [yet] slaves to The Party. Many other west-European states have systems with a socialist slant, and they're not doing too bad either. Is socialism a dirty word, automatically equated with communism or something? Is it un-American to disclaim the class system, and ensure that one's neighbours do not starve or suffer ill-health?
      • As a Brit, I really cannot understand the crazy phobia (some) Americans have about unions and socialism.

        It's not a "crazy phobia" when the union is so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete with foreign ones. This, incidentally, is why Ford and (especially) GM are getting their asses handed to them by foreign companies: Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc. are building factories here that employ Americans at low, non-union wages, while Ford and GM are closing factories because they're drownin

        • "so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete"

          As you're handing out the criticism, dont forget to mention the other side of the coin. How about 'intellectual property legislation so out of control that domestic workers can no longer compete'.

          Unions arent alone in driving spiralling costs. Rent-seeking is rife in the whole economy.
        • by Skynyrd (25155) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:18PM (#15601540) Homepage
          It's not a "crazy phobia" when the union is so out of control that domestic industries can no longer compete with foreign ones. This, incidentally, is why Ford and (especially) GM are getting their asses handed to them by foreign companies: Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc. are building factories here that employ Americans at low, non-union wages, while Ford and GM are closing factories because they're drowning in pension payments to their unionized workers. The union is so powerful -- too powerful -- that it's actually driving jobs away and hurting both the economy and the workers themselves.

          How come you don't mention Daimler-Chrysler in your condemnation of the unions? DC has the same union contracts that GM and Ford have. They have the same "lazy union workers" that Ford and GM have.

          However, DC is making huge profits. Actually, the Daimler (Mercedes) end of the company is losing money and the Chrysler arm is keeping Mercedes alive.

          How do they do it with all those lazy, overpaid union guys? Perhaps they have good designers, managers, marketeers and engineers?

          If every GM car was as good as a new 'Vette or Cad, perhaps they'd be making more profit? Perhaps if they stopped making ugly, shitty cars that get bad mileage they'd sell a few more? No, it's easier to blame the unions.

          One more thought about lazy union guys.
          Bud, Miller and Coors make interchangeable products. Sure, there are slight differences between the three brands, but for the most part, the difference is the marketing, not the product.

          Since Coors isn't unionized, it sells for much less monry than Bud and Miller, right? And Miller is a little cheaper than Bud, because theire union guys make less than Bud.

          What? That's not the case? You mean that Coors makes more profit per can because they sell a product made for less labor cost for the same money and just keep the profit difference

          Fucking lazy union guys.

          I've worked union and non-union shops. Sure, there's some built in slop when you have a union. On the other hand, the non-union shops I've worked in are so dangerous it can be terrifying to work there. I've worked in education, IT and metal fabrication. I'm currently half owner of a family business, and we won't unionize because there's only an occasional employee. However, we treat them well, and pay them far more than prevailking wages.
      • Because most Americans can't make the distinction between Socialism the Government Model and Socialism the Political Party. And those that do know the difference think the latter's goal is to set up the former. In a nation where individualism is everything, you'll find greater resistance.
      • by coldmist (154493) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:44PM (#15601399) Homepage
        Yes, socialism is a dirty word, since it and communism have the same end goal, just different means of getting there.

        The problem with Unions, IMHO, is that they concentrate power, which in turn gets corrupted. Once a factory goes union, is there an option to "opt-out"? Do I have the "freedom" to not be union while my co-worker is? Since there isn't, that power tends to corruption. A classic example is teachers unions. The teachers are paid from property taxes (here in the US anyway), which they then pay Union dues. Then, if a lawsuit comes up, the state uses more tax money to handle a lawsuit which is being defended by money that came from taxes in the first place. The system just feeds itself.

        As a final point, you said "Is it un-American to disclaim the class system, and ensure that one's neighbours do not starve or suffer ill-health?"

        Well, the difference is we (speaking broadly here) would rather deal with a starving neighbor on a personal level through personal generosity and donations/gifts than to have the money taken by us through taxes, and then paid out to other people that might or might not deserve it or use it wisely. If I knew that an honest neighbor was starving to death, I would go to the store, by $100 worth of groceries for example, and give them to them. However, I would not do the same for a neighbor that is a drunk and is wasting his money on booze. What happens in socialized welfare is the government does not/can not make a distinction between the two and take $300 from me (the government programs are expensive to administer, right) and give $100 cash to each of my neighbors.

        See the reports about the money that went to Hurricane Katrina victims. See this article for a quick example: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la- na-fema15jun15,0,1306432.story?coll=la-home-headli nes [latimes.com]

        Ultimately, it boils down to the individual being responsible for ones own actions, having both the ability to succeed (like Bill Gates) and the possiblity of failure. You can't have one without the other. In a Union (at a factory level) or socialism/communism (a national level), a safety net is erected to prevent failure. The same mechanism also stunts success.
        • The problem with Unions, IMHO, is that they concentrate power, which in turn gets corrupted. Once a factory goes union, is there an option to "opt-out"?

          There probably is. Most states have a "right to work" law that says you don't HAVE to be in the union. But don't expect to be treated well.
    • ...is much, much smaller [64.233.187.104].
  • Unions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tinrobot (314936) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:53PM (#15600977)
    even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

    Not to get on too much of a rant... but we can thank unions for a lot of things... like weekends off and decent salaries. Without unions, we'd still be working seven days a week in sweatshops.

    Sadly, China has no unions, so they do have sweatshops and low wages. I'd argue that China's workers would be better off if they did form unions.

    (and... before everyone here starts moaning about their employers, yes, I know many of you do work very long work weeks in the tech business. I've worked for several startups myself)
    • Re:Unions (Score:3, Funny)

      by pete-classic (75983)
      China is still Communist, right? So the workers control the means of production. So who the hell is the union going to fight?

      -Peter
      • China is still Communist, right?
        Only in name. All that "communist"/"the people's" rubbish appears to be little more than goodspeak to avert a bloody uprising. The correct term, I believe, is "oppressive wannabe-capitalist hegemony".
        • Re:Unions (Score:3, Insightful)

          by grumling (94709)
          Perhaps you'd like to see China end up like the former USSR, with the mafia running the show, no accounting for weapons of mass distruction, and no economy? Bad enough with 300 million... how about 1.5 billion?
      • Re:Unions (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        China is still Communist, right?

        Wrong. China is a fascist oligarchy which is no closer to communism than America is. In fact, less so. Many workers in China's buliding industry are not paid at all until their (possibly years long) project is over, and the rural regions have been decimated by the withdrawl of all education and health services. Violent uprisings in China, by China's own figures, reached 87000 last year and have increased steadily by more than 10% per year for some time.

        China is on the edge

        • More info please. If China is really on the edge of civil war, the American propaganda machine would not let the Chinese propaganda machine keep it a secret.
          • Re:Unions (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            More info please. If China is really on the edge of civil war, the American propaganda machine would not let the Chinese propaganda machine keep it a secret.

            A good place to start is Antony Thomas' film "Tank Man" [pbs.org] about the famous film of the guy who blocked the tanks' advance into Tienanmen Square.

            The American propaganda machine is confused by huge amounts of money to be made out of China's slave labour. That's good for capitalism, just as it was under the Nazi's when Hitler's Germany was the only Europea

        • "China is on the edge of exploding into civil war and ... when it comes the people doing the rebelling will probably be fighting to establish communism..."

          Which means that we will be subjected to a bunch of crooked idiots expecting us to help out on the side of the fascist old farts that have been tyrannizing them all these years.

    • Re:Unions (Score:5, Informative)

      by thelost (808451) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:09PM (#15601042) Journal
      hardly surprising considering the whole article reads like a paid for advertisement and actually goes into little/no detail about the manufacturing process.
    • Re:Unions (Score:2, Informative)

      by wbean (222522)
      I think it's more complicated than this. Employers respond to the environment around them. They must offer pay/working conditions thar are good enough in comparison to the other alternatives to allow them to attract employees. They must NOT offer pay/working conditions that are so good that they drive up costs to the point where the firm can't function. It's hard to generalize but most employers that I know would like to be able to offer good pay and conditions. Often they simply don't feel able - I kn
    • Re:Unions (Score:4, Insightful)

      by grumling (94709) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:21PM (#15601097) Homepage
      Actually, Unions came into the picutre after the pay scale in factories went up. We really have Henry Ford to thank for high pay in factories, mostly because he couldn't keep people in his factories until he raised the pay scale... although one could argue that the high turnover was more due to the lousy working conditions than the low pay, but the pay seemed to work. It should be pointed out that most of his employees were sons of farmers (who weren't used to factory work), and craftsmen who put a much higher emphasis on quality workmanship over production output. Ford management was much more interested in output and price. In fact, Ford (the company) wanted a poorly built vehicle so to encourage more purchases (one of the first cases of planned obsolescence).

      We have Unions to thank for 8 hour work day (although it seems to have dissapeared over the past few years), bathroom breaks, and realistic expectations on production (at least in factories). Once the pay scale went up in Ford's factories, the output jumped up, since there was a better pool available. However, Ford and Wall St. expected the output to continue to increase year over year, and so the line was sped up. At one point the workers were not permitted to leave the line for any reason. This led to the famous piss cans, and ultimately to a strike, a union, and some really disturbing communist artwork.

      I'm really not suprised that people look at China and see "sweatshops" while totally ignoring the poverty level in the countryside. Perhaps they would like to see China have a second revolution to democracy, just like the former USSR? Yep, that would be much better than a measured attempt to introduce capitalist reforms to a broken system. At least Mexico might be better off.
      • Re:Unions (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:23PM (#15601563)
        Perhaps they would like to see China have a second revolution to democracy, just like the former USSR?

        Although I am too lazy to dig up links to the online citations - from what I have read - one of the largest causes of the economic problems in the former USSR was Wall Street & the US government's poorly conceived and even more poorly executed attempts to "jumpstart" a captalist system over there after the fall of socialism.

        In extremely simplistic terms, they simply threw money at the situation without much in the way of accountability. The end result, as is always the case when accountability is not a strong requirement, was endemic corruption.

        From the tone of the reports I've seen, Russia would probably be a whole lot more democratic with decently competitive free markets if the US had just left it alone to sort things out on its own after the revolution. Instead, they got the equivalent of the dot-com-bomb - tons of companies spending willy-nilly in order to "get in on the ground floor" who eventually abandonded the country to the aftermath of all that poorly spent money and political 'advising.'
      • What I really want is a world-wide minimum wage, in American dollars; a equal playing field for all.
    • Sadly, China has no unions

      What delicious irony! It's still, theoretically, a communist country: the biggest, most "fair" union of them all! Everyone in China is in the union, and it's a worker's paradise. No? Well, it's never that socialism is bad, of course, only that it's not being used thoroughly enough, on enough people, especially those that have some crazy notion about better-run factories/business units deserving rewards for being... better (how counter-revolutionary!). The PRC must be slipping if
  • Scary... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThinkingInBinary (899485) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (yranibnignikniht)> on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:54PM (#15600986) Homepage

    All of these motherboard factory tours (there have been a few) are pretty scary. We see the really cool equipment, and get to hear the tests each piece of hardware goes through, and then we hear about how their employees do really repetitive tasks, for low wages, with tough ("military-style"), if not abusive, bosses, in an insulting environment (the "grape system"?! What are they, kindergarteners?!?!). Sure, they're efficient, and the product is relatively cheap, but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

    • Re:Scary... (Score:2, Redundant)

      by seanadams.com (463190) *
      Sure, they're efficient, and the product is relatively cheap, but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

      Have you considered the alternative?
    • Re:Scary... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timjdot (638909)
      That's par for the course in manufacturing. Clearly the author never worked in a board plant in the USA - a few decades ago there were many. Interns and hourly Manpower workers did the repetitive tasks. The company where I worked tried automation and had a tour by Bush I - or maybe it was Reagan - about how great that was but in the end variances cannot be handled well by robots/machines and only certain tasks could be automated (wave solder, surface mount, moving parts from one line to another).
      From the lo
    • compared to what I saw with other factories in china, this one seems pretty clean and safe.

      The factory where they make Disney books [youtube.com] is much more scary.

    • Re:Scary... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mattkime (8466)
      >>but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

      The success of walmart would imply a resounding "Yes!"

      • Walmarts success is really the result of wage compression due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. The problem is wage compression is a self reinforcing cycle. Someone outsources, their goods are cheaper but the consumers now have less earning power to buy said goods, which puts more pressure on business to outsource. 30 years later, there are hadrly ANY manufacturing jobs.

        It also puts pressure on upstream businesses. Consumers don't have the money to pay for aything but the cheapest goods/services. A

    • Sure, they're efficient, and the product is relatively cheap, but do we want to support the ways these companies treat their workers, even if it's "okay" with the workers?

      There is a also a practical side to this. Allowing humans to be treated like parts of a machine slows down technological development. Why bother understanding what goes wrong or developing a robot when you can get 10 humans to do the same job at a fraction of the cost ? Humans might be slower than a good robot, but their cognitive abilit

    • Re:Scary... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sinbios (852437)
      How, exactly, are the workers being mistreated? Regular lectures? A merit system? Just because it seems scary to a Westerner doesn't mean it's scary to anybody else. In fact, the factory practices are pretty compliant with Asian values - merit and discipline. The entire Chinese education system was built around these values - every morning, we'd stand in neat rows and listen to the anthem, do morning exercises, and then get a lecture from the principal; in school if we do something good we receive a slip of
  • Slanted? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:56PM (#15600993)
    I think ECS' employees take great pride in their hard work, even though they are getting paid very little in comparison to bloated unionized factories in North America.

    They make it sound like a good thing! Unions get little credit (even in China) for the 40 hour work week, paid time off, or time off at all.
    • Re:Slanted? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:35PM (#15601145)
      You have to see it from the other side too. At United Parcel Service I saw firsthand how evil both sides are. I remember managers telling supervisors to do things that were just plain wrong. For example, packages would move down a conveyor belt at a particular speed. The guys at the end of the belt would need to wait an extra 3-5 minutes before packages started arriving to be loaded. For this reason, supervisors were told to stagger the start times of the back employees 5-10 minutes later to save a few dollars each day. This was so patently ridiculous but it was policy. Policy that was not always told to the employees. The reasoning was that they needed to be in their work area before start time and be prepared to load when packages arrived. In other words, work for free setting up for the first ten minutes because that's our policy.

      How about the union (Teamsters)? I visited a facility once dressed in a suit and tie (I was in IT). My job was to show employees how to work a bar code scanner for a new tracking system. As I was talking to the employee two large guys (also in suits) arrived and stood on either side of me. I picked up a Next Day Air letter to show how to scan (I thought they were managers checking my training procedure). Nope, soon as I touched the letter one guy shouts out, "What the fuck you doing? You're not supposed to touch packages." He tells me that he can shut down the entire facility in a second and that I shouldn't be touching packages. He's shouting two inches from my face. At this point the facility manager comes by and starts talking with the union guys to smooth things over.

      Management and unions (at least the ones at UPS) are just a bunch of pricks looking for money. They're both evil. The problem is that you let one group get the upper hand and it may be even worse (look at the current political parties in the US for a similar thing).
      • Teamsters are certianly an exception. They've done little to help the cause of labour in the past.

        However - for every union abuse I can find 10 management abuses.
    • Re:Slanted? (Score:3, Informative)

      by loraksus (171574)
      To say nothing of workplace health and safety standards. I'll put money down that 25%+ of those employees will have some kind of cancer before they turn 50 and 40% will be dead before they turn 60. Some of the chemicals used are pretty nasty shit.
      The "company store / housing" thing is also popular in China - the factory mandates that you live in their dorms and eat their food - even they are overpriced (hundreds of percent) and substandard. The article claims that the housing is "included" although you can
  • ECS at Frys (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:06PM (#15601033)
    I work a Fry's Electronics. The rurmor at my store is is that ECS is owned by Fry's. I have never seen or heard anything to validate or disprove that, so take it with a grain of salt.
    Anywho, regardless of ownership, ECS products are the favorite things to sell at Fry's. From the ECS motherboards to their Great Quality branded computers and notebooks.

    As an employee in the service department (and thus, responisble for repairing computers when they fail) I can tell you the anything made by ECS is complete dirt. The GQ computers are not too bad, but I have never seen so many DOA motherboards in my life. We had a customer buy a mobo/cpu combo last week and his board was DOA. We ended up going though SIX (yes "6") more boards before we found one that would actually work.

    DO NOT BUY ECS PRODUCTS.
    • Re:ECS at Frys (Score:3, Informative)

      by MsGeek (162936)
      Ex-Fry's worker over here. I doubt Fry's owns ECS. They're too cheap to do something like buy out a supplier.

      ECS stuff is CRAP though. Absolute fsckn crap. As well as ECS, "Great Quality" and PC Chips, stay away from anything labeled Amptron. Same company. Same "Great Quality" meaning none.
    • We ended up going though SIX (yes "6") more boards before we found one that would actually work.

      That's not really limited to ECS though - the rule for frys is that if you build a whole system, you're going back at least once to change a dead part. A good chunk of the shit on your shelf is defective and the return drones keep on tossing broken shit back on the shelf with those fucking stickers.

      There is a reason people call the store "Fry'd"

      BTW, "Great Quality" is an awesome name for quite possibly the worst
    • And Fry's pushes the ECS boards pretty hard too. I've bought several CPU/Motherboard combos from Fry's and the motherboard is always guess who.. ECS. Every time I think, well the CPU costs $180 on its own so for $200 I can get the motherboard and it's worth the risk if its a bad board. And guess what? Every time the motherboard has gone right in the garbage after a week or two. ECS motherboards, even when working, have always been extremely bafflingly unstable. I've replaced every one I've bought with
  • ECS Extreme (Score:4, Funny)

    by llZENll (545605) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:09PM (#15601045)
    "Once packaged, random boards are put through shock tests to make sure their lot will survive the shipping process. The number of boards that go through this testing procedure is higher for high end products such as ECS' "EXTREME" lineup."

    So if you buy an EXTREME board and get pissed at your computer, you can throw it a little harder against the wall. Cool!
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:10PM (#15601049) Homepage

    Here's are pictures from a US manufacturer of PC boards. [qacincorporated.com] Notice how it's done. No long row of women putting in components; it's one guy standing around watching the machines do the work. Automated insertion machines put in the components, and transfer conveyors connect the machines. That's the way it should be.

    Only the really low wages of China make labor-intensive manual assembly feasible. Even in Mexico, you'd use automated assembly. Assembly in Japan has been automated for decades. If the US imposed import duties on very-low-wage countries that equalized wage costs to even $1/hour, this excessive "offshoring" would stop.

    • Only the really low wages of China make labor-intensive manual assembly feasible.

      It's great here in America, we have these "Wal*Mart" stores everywhere... the "employees" are automated here too. When they wear out (or get sick), new ones automatically sign up to take their place. You don't have to worry about repairing the broken employees (i.e. health care); there's a constant supply of new ones. I'm not sure what happens to the worn-out ones; I think the government has some sort of program for recy

    • If the US imposed import duties on very-low-wage countries that equalized wage costs to even $1/hour, this excessive "offshoring" would stop.

      Is that a good thing? If the machines do most of the work, that means some human isn't getting paid for the work. Don't we want to pay people? Especially the poorest sorts of people in the world? Why aren't we thanking these manufacturers for giving these workers jobs, which are apparently better than any of the other opportunities which are available to them? I know

    • Through hole components can only be mechanically placed if the pick and place machine can physically process them. Not everything fits in a pick and place machine. The company I work for used to own a large contract manufacturing business. The answer to the problem of components that wouldn't fit the pick and place machines was easy - they didn't take the contract. The only case that I know of in which they did take the contract was to produce a motherboard that the company used in its own computer, and
    • http://www.hardcoreware.net/reviews/review-335-5. h tm [hardcoreware.net]

      The surface mount components are installed by machine. Large components cannot be inserted by machine.

      ECS is doing the same thing you see a picture of at that other site. They install some stuff by machine, some by hand.

      The machines cost about $100,000 (I asked when viewing a line). But they can insert a lot of components the one in the pic is inserting at least 40 different components (you can see from the reels), probably 100+ total SM components in the
    • BS! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @06:00PM (#15602111)
      Automated insertion machines put in the components, and transfer conveyors connect the machines. That's the way it should be.


      You mean, like this [hardcoreware.net]? Do you think these people [hardcoreware.net] make less than $1/hour? Do you think this kind of work [hardcoreware.net] is done by robots in the USA?


      Why don't you try to learn something about a subject before posting? You have no idea of how electronic manufacturing is done, either in China or US or Mexico or anywhere. Placing SMDs is never done by hand, no human being, regardless of salary, can place them with the needed precision in an assembly line. OTOH, there are many types of tests and inspections that need to be done by humans. Current artificial vision systems, for instance, are too unreliable to locate many types of failures that people see at a glance.

  • bad boards (Score:5, Informative)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <[terr] [at] [terralogic.net]> on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:22PM (#15601099)
    bad boards - how to recognise and avoid them

    http://www.redhill.net.au/b/b-bad.html [redhill.net.au]

    This section, however, is not about the normal variation in quality and reliability between typical motherboards. It is about plain old-fashioned greed, and the cheap, shonky boards that sometimes result from it. Here then, is a short gallery of the cheap, the nasty, and the outright fraudulent.

    To quote for the Red Hill web page:

    PC Chips fake cache 486

    Let's begin with the most famous of them all: the fake cache 486 boards that PC Chips produced in the mid-Nineties.


    ---------------

    From the PCCHIPS website we find: http://www.pcchips.com.tw/PCCWeb/AboutCOMPANY/Abou tCOMPANY.aspx?MenuID=8&LanID=2 [pcchips.com.tw]

    PCCHIPS has been a leading supplier of motherboards and PC peripherals since 1994. We are committed to provide products of superior value and exemplary customer service to our customers worldwide.

    http://www.pcchips.com.tw/PCCWeb/Legal.aspx?MenuID =8&LanID=2 [pcchips.com.tw]

    The materials ("Materials") contained in this web site are provided by Elitegroup Computer Systems Co., Ltd. ("ECS") ...

    I think these quotes speak for themselves.

    • Yep, PCChips = ECS

      I have a PCChips M830 motherboard, which is exactly the same as the ECS K7S5A

      It's a piece of shit. About once a month the CMOS clears (and no its not the battery, its a known bug in the board), it doesnt work with anything beyond a geforce2. It's incompatible with pretty much every piece of hardware.

      You can read abou thow horrible ECS/PCChips boards are at The PCChips Lottery [fernuni-hagen.de]
    • The site the OP linked to is really neat.

      Theres quite a bit of good PC computing history from a custom builder perspective. Translates well to the small shop or the lone self-service geek.

      More importantly there is some good commentary on how a buisness and its customers should work together.

      If I was in AU I'd be buying from RedHill.
  • Worker's Paradise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:29PM (#15601126) Homepage Journal
    The last page has the completely naive part about working conditions [hardcoreware.net]. The reviewer, Carl Nelson, has no way to know whether the redfaced employee was just embarassed at their bad day report being photographed, or whether there are severe punishments. China's mafia government executes people for software/content piracy, among other fascist means of keeping people in line with their "discipline". They routinely torture people for interfering with official government policy.

    (FWIW, I'm not comparing China to the US or elsewhere, where there is also too much torture and executions, for whatever reason. There is no relativism that justifies torturing people, certainly not over economics.)

    The first page has the claim that "Pretty soon every computer you buy is going to have an ECS motherboard in it!" Although that's probably just wrong, it shows how naive is the reviewer about the real world outside motherboard specs. If it were true, I'd be worried about a single company, a single factory (which can halt or be destroyed) representing a single point of failure for every computer in the world, or even (especially) in the US.

    That article is about as analytical as a videogame review. That is, not at all, after being bought off by a free trip to the factory where their toys get made.
    • Can you provide references citing your claims about executing people for piracy, and torturing?

      Your off-the-cuff claims and lack of cited references leads me to believe you have no idea what you are talking about..

      Please prove me wrong, I hope you can..

      Thanks
      • "When we find (piracy rings), we confiscate the products and the equipment they use to make them and turn to execute the persons [com.com] or organizations involved," said the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone's Jian."

        Chinese torture [google.com] is very well documented. Your inability to believe it when referenced in my simple, detailed post, and your failure to just google for details leads me to believe that you are either just in denial of Chinese tyranny, willfully ignorant, or just as naive as the reviewer I posted about.

        I would h
    • China's mafia government executes people for software/content piracy

      Please provide any evidence to support this. FUD does not help a single bit.
  • by EMacAonghusa (929754) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:09PM (#15601278) Homepage
    I've been to some of those factories in Shenzhen, been down around the manufacturing lines too. So here's a few general observations based on my own experiences - First thing that struck me is that this guy managed to get photos! The places I visited even our mobile phones were taken from us before we entered the manufacturing area, we'd be in deep shit with security if we pulled out a camera to take pictures. You'll also notice pictures of products there ... majour security breech in my opinion! - Secondly look what they're making, look at the cleanliness of the place. It's the reason many western countries are in trouble ... because in China they have the skills to make high-end products and they can do it cheaper and faster than the rest of us. Plus they are very highly motivated and their entire philospoy seems to be to get as much work from everywhere as they can, even if it means making a loss ... anything to take the work from us. That's why everything from the Playstation to mobile phones to the iPod is produced in China. - About working conditions ... China is one place you do NOT want to work. Workers do seem to be treated fairly well however they are not paid much, if they are not on specific shifts then they will work VERY long hours, even through holidays and very often through the whole weekend. Many of the places they live are really shit by western standards. Also, the working environment itself is often cramped. Much of the work is manual and there is little or no variation to it, so it's likely to make you brain dead after a while. Another thing that stinks is that you'll often find employees from Taiwan working there .. they will always be on a higher salary than the local Chinese, even if they are doing the very same job. Nice people though, they put up with a lot of shit.
  • by Vegeta99 (219501)
    I think I now get why China is so much cheaper.

    Look at the picture of the woman on page three. SHE'S WEARING FLIP FLOPS.

    If OSHA saw that here, someone would be paying bigtime! Morons.
    • Oh, and while I'm defending my country, you don't /need/ a goddamn "militaty-like lecture" in a 3-shift factory. I'm working in one for a summer job, and my day starts off "Hey, what's up. What machines am I running today?" and I CERTAINLY don't have to work in single-file lines.
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:31PM (#15601358)
    Since everyone else here decided to skip all the boring talk about the technology involved and jump right into a flamewar, I hereby submit my contribution.
  • by gorehog (534288) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:47PM (#15601419)
    Some people may question the working conditions in China. Well, there's a lot to question about human rights in China, but I won't get into that rant here. I can say from what I've seen, that the employees at ECS are efficient and hard working, but I don't think they are put through abuse.
    Followed by...
    Employees can work an 8 hour shift if they want, but most opt to work a full 12 hour overtime shift.

    Ever try working 5,6, or 7 12-hour shifts in one week? That's 60-82 hours in one week. Sevceral weeks in a row? And thats not considered abuse? What am I supposed to call it? Opportunity?

    And then there's this tidbit...

    There are several benefits and bonuses available for those who perform well, and housing is provided as part of their salary.

    I'll take for granted that the reward system is voluntary by the employer so as to keep the workers "motivated" and "guessing" about what their work is actually "worth". I am also sure that the quality of housing is not in line with that of an American Union worker who puts in a 60-82 hour workweek. And, I'll bet that the housing cost is figured in as part of their pay. We used to do this to coal miners in the USA, where they would go live in a house they rented from the company they worked for and bought their groceries at the company store. It's one of the reasons that Appalachia is so isolated from the rest of the USA culturally. Because the coal mines were in such remote places they had no other opportunities and as a result got locked into a cycle of employed poverty for generation after generation.

    And finally, I live in Poughkeepsie NY. Right near the heart of traditional IBM hq. We have chip fabrication ALL OVER this region with NO UNIONS involved. Where are the bloated union electronics factories he speaks of?

  • Anyone recognize the book which seems to be read to the workers?
  • If it was really a "from the ground up" factory, sand, crude petroleum, metal ores, and trees would go in one end, and finished motherboards in cardboard boxes would come out the other.

    Having a factory that takes in copper-clad FR4 boards, electronic components, solder, and printed boxes and turns out assembled PCBs is not particularly unusual. Most electronics manufacturing of cost-sensitive consumer products is done in exactly that way. I suppose if they made the chips too I'd be a little more impress

  • by ofcourseyouare (965770) * on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:42PM (#15601610)
    A number of separate issues are being fudged in some of these posts...

    Q1: Are working conditions in countries such as China perfect by our standards?
    A: Obviously not, too strict.

    Q2&3: Are working conditions good enough by their standards? Are working conditions better than, for example, working on a peasant farm?
    A: Yes, otherwise why would they work there? There's plenty of peasant farms in China -- people are leaving them in droves.

    Q3: Will working in such standards help raise the wealth of China so that in years hence they can afford to have our standard of living -- along with real unions, health care, etc.
    A: Yes - globalisation in East Asia has brought about the greatest mass liberation from poverty in the history of the planet. For interesting data, check out:
    http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/ [undp.org]
    Click on Human development trends 2005 NEW !

    Q4: How would China be without globalisation?
    A: Check out Burma or North Korea, both of which are following their own roads to paradise.

    Q5: Is the rise of such factories a challenge to labour in developed countries?
    A: Yes of course - globalisation is not a zero sum game -- it does make all coutnries better off -- but jobs will go where they can be done cheapest. And that does include a lot of skilled tech jobs.

    Q6: Is the rise of China accompanied by extra pollution?
    A: You bet.

    However, I believe it's worth it overall -- a country as big as China is never going to be raised from poverty through our charity. It needs industry. This will be accompanied, as it was in the West, by pollution, and also by job losses. But everyone reading this has reaped the benefits of industrialisation (computers don't grow on trees), now it's their turn.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:49PM (#15601820)
      However, I believe it's worth it overall -- a country as big as China is never going to be raised from poverty through our charity. It needs industry. This will be accompanied, as it was in the West, by pollution, and also by job losses. But everyone reading this has reaped the benefits of industrialisation (computers don't grow on trees), now it's their turn.

      You may believe that. I'm sure you do. But all I know is that I'm earning a lot more than I was when I entered the work force twenty-six years ago, yet have less buying power than I've ever had, and frankly don't perceive a future that's anywhere near as bright as you seem to make it. Sure, globalization may not be a zero-sum game ... but the net effect, at this point in time, is a massive transfer of wealth from the West to the East. That's just the way it is. And if you were to ask me if I'm happy about the ongoing decline in the United States' standard-of-living due to the destruction of our domestic industries by Chinese imports ... well no, I'm not, particularly. Japan started the process with our consumer electronics manufacturing, and now China seems poised to finish it with everything else. The article said it quite clearly: they'll do anything if it takes the business away from us. About the only thing in that article with which I agree, frankly. And your overweening concern for the plight of the Chinese worker is almost endearing but the reality is that China and the United States are locked a brutal economic struggle. China, for a number of reasons (first and foremost the remarkable ethical lapses exhibited by our various Captains of Industry and their paid government officials) is winning, and the outcome for the U.S. population will be serious.

      I've heard too many people carry on about the supposed benefits of what is variously termed "globalization" or the "global economy". I have yet to see any of these mythical benefits, in fact, so far as I'm concerned all that is happening is just an example of involuntary foreign aid from the United States to China. So be it. But don't try to sugar-coat what is really going on. China is not interested in economic competition with the United States. It wants to eliminate the U.S. from the world scene as a viable competitor.
    • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @07:05PM (#15602376)
      Q2&3: Are working conditions good enough by their standards? Are working conditions better than, for example, working on a peasant farm?
      A: Yes, otherwise why would they work there? There's plenty of peasant farms in China -- people are leaving them in droves.


      It's worth noting that this isn't an automatically safe assumption. Much of Africa, right now, has a huge influx of people from the farms to the cities, but there is little or no economic growth (often there's profoundly negative growth instead), and it doesn't seem increased job opportunities or quality of life are driving it at all. It also doesn't seem to be driven by agri-business taking over land formerly held by families, or any of the other causes usually cited in other cases. The same goes for parts of South America.
              One guess is that African urbanization is being driven almost totally by non-economic factors, such as fear of mercenary bandit forces invading rural villages. This is a very real risk in some places, but also an incredibly overhyped risk in others where it is geographically unfeasable and not historically seen, yet waves of rumors seem to spring up from nowhere, and people respond to them in states of near panic by moving to the citys even with no prospect of employment or socal services.
                China, and most of Asia, seems to be roughly following the model of the west, where flight to the urban centers is at least sometimes driven by desire to better oneself. However, they also have concurrent pressures the 'first world' didn't. In the US and Europe, we had songs and jokes (How are you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Paris?) ever since the 1910's, while big Agribusiness presures lagged that by 50 years or so. In China, the two are nearly running in sync.
       

  • Why do this reviews always strike me as having been written in the style of a sixth graders "What I Did On My Summer Vacation"?

    Is technical writing something we'll be farming out to China also?

  • by CCFreak2K (930973) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:54PM (#15601848) Homepage Journal
    As far as motherboards go (or basically just about any PCB in a home PC), ECS isn't exactly the best, but they also aren't the worst. What about companies like ASUS, or companies at the other side of the spectrum like PCCHIPS? How well do their factories and workers fare against ECS's standards?
    • ECS isn't exactly the best, but they also aren't the worst. What about companies like ASUS, or companies at the other side of the spectrum like PCCHIPS?

      I hate multi-page articles as much as anybody, but damn. In the SECOND SENTENCE it says in no uncertain terms:

      After merging with PC Chips, ECS has recently started pushing into the retail market;


      And for this, you got modded up. Wonderful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 26, 2006 @05:17AM (#15604150)
    1) kick people out of their homes and off their farms with the help of corrupt government officials and armed gangs - so the land for the factory is cheap. Promise compensation, but don't pay what you promised, or pay it late, or not at all. Bribe the local police to intimidate people who speak out.

    2) Build the factory using itinerant workers. Pay as little as possible by using sub contractors who rip off their staff, run off with their wages, fine them for being 5 minutes late for work (never hear about people getting a proportionate bonus for 5 min OVERTIME do you?)

    3) Staff factory with the people who lost their homes or businesses when the land was appropriated to build a new factory.

    4) Institute demeaning, draconian work practices. Fine workers who turn up late. Offer them Housing and meals, but deduct that from their paypacket (even Nokia's factory was doing this) work them 12 hours a day. Turn the local police (who are now in your back pocket) onto anyone who makes trouble.

    etc onward all the way to Walmart or wherever else you get a $100 DVD player. You people buying them (sipping your fairtrade coffee but snuggled up in your made in china Acrylic knitware) are placing yourselves at the end of a long chain of sufferring, exploitation and violence. www.theepochtimes.com and other people are risking their lives to try and inform the public in developed countries.

    Don't worry when you're neutered by an exploding MBP battery - finding donors for replacement parts is no problem!

    Ah - what the hell's the point? you people do care... but... $100... is just... so... damn... cheap.

"Morality is one thing. Ratings are everything." - A Network 23 executive on "Max Headroom"

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