Made in China: Scale

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.

9 Responses to “Made in China: Scale”

  1. Kenny Luk says:

    For another look at the massive scale of Chinese manufacturing, check out Manufactured Landscapes, a Canadian made documentary on the Chinese manufacturing sector.

    The opening scene, without dialogue, is a 15 minute tracking shot through the endless rows of workstation in a small motor assembly station.

    Simply amazing.

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  4. allie says:

    Foxconn is a master of slaves. Fuck Foxconn.

  5. […] Scale: The size of the factories, iPod City’s own factory off-ramp, the enormous cohort of women workers in Shenzen — China’s manufacturing is at a scale that beggars the imagination. China, manufacturing, thoughtsPopularity: 34% [?]SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Made in China – part II”, url: “” }); […]

  6. eric says:

    You know, I actually used to work for the Longhua Branch of Foxconn, and you’re right: theoretically, you do require a passport to enter. However, if you are a foreigner and dressed nicely (and by that, at the very least wearing a tucked-in polo shirt) they will mostly let you walk right through. Foxconn is, however, pretty slave-driving…but hey, a job’s a job in times like these…

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