Your computer, brought to you by Shanghai

Chances are that you are reading this on a computer that was made somewhere near Shanghai.  On our Asia trip, we visited three different factories around Shanghai that are related to computer manufacturing. Those fashionable blue suits you see are anti-static!

Sunrex supplies nearly 80% of all keyboards used in notebook computers.  They also make most the the keypads in thinks like remote controls and cell phones.  Believe it or not, companies like HP, Dell and Apple do not actually make their own keyboards (or their computers for that matter). Companies like Sunrex have perfected the process, and can produce keyboards at an alarming rate!  Once complete, they get shipped across town to another company that does final assembly (also not HP or Dell).  We visited Wistron as well.  They are one of the largest contract manufacturers used by the major computer brands for the actual assembly.  Wistron specializes in notebook assembly, and has agreements with Lenovo, HP and Dell (among others).  What is even more surprising is that those US brands may use many different assemblers.  I guess this diversification helps hedge against defects, or problems that might shut-down operations.  Both supplier and vendor would benefit from spreading this risk around, but I was really surprised to learn that most of the US brands don’t require their contracted manufacturers to communicate and coordinate processes.  What this means is that if you buy two of any given major-brand computer they might have been made by two completely different manufacturing companies.  Of course, they should be standardized, and virtually identical, but no process can be perfectly duplicated, especially when management styles and systems differ across companies.

I wonder how many defects or problems arise from this?

-Austin

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