Probably one of the most stunning things about working in China is the sheer scale of the place. I haven’t been to an auto plant in Michigan, or to the Boeing plant in Seattle, but I get the sense that Shenzhen gives both of those locales a run for the money in terms of scale. Shenzhen has 9 million people, and most of them are women (something like 7:1 women to men). Despite the popular wisdom that China has net more males than females, it’s no surprise that the region of Shenzhen has all the women. Once you see the gender ratio of a major factory, such as the New Balance factory below, you’ll understand. The factory employs 40,000 people and has a capacity for over a million shoes a month. I estimate that from raw fabric to finished shoe, the process takes about 50 minutes, or about $1.80 in labor costs.
(Below are some videos, you will need Flash 8 or better to play them…)
[Youtube link for whose who cannot view embedded SWF]
That’s right…everyone of those perfectly stitched bundles of plastic and leather are sewn by hand. You can see a detail of the process below. Each station is designed so that each worker takes about thirty seconds to do their job.
[Youtube link for those who cannot view embedded SWF]
Now, you know you are big when you have your own exit off the freeway:
Foxconn is where all of the iPods and iPhones are made. It’s a huge facility, apparently with over 250,000 employees, and it has its own special free trade status. The entire facility is walled off and you apparently need to have your passport and clear customs to get into the facility…just short of the nuclear-powered robotic dogs from the nation-corporation franchulates of Snowcrash.