Interview with a factory worker for the new iPad: much easier than making iPhone 4S
“I thought it’s called iPad 3, we always call it that before.” Li Qi (not his real name) looked at the news about release of the new iPad on the Internet, felt proud and somewhat worried. As a Shenzhen Longhua Foxconn factory worker, he was involved in the production of the iPad 2 and the new iPad.
He is worried about the iPad sales, if sales do not increase, he might be sent to help the iPhone production. He said in an interview with First Financial Daily, right before announcement of the new release, their production line can produce 150 units of the new iPad in an hour. Currently, he takes one day off per week. When he worked on iPhone 4S, he only took 1 to 2 days off in a month and often worked overtime until 8 pm. Ever since March he and his workmates already took three days off. Which he felt a little uneasy about it.
In Foxconn, Longhua site, where Li Qi worked at has the iPad assembly section and test section. His daily job is to assemble the keys and cables into the new iPad. “Other than this level, there are several other buildings are also in production of the new iPad, workers on each level have somewhat different jobs. Some are responsible for assembling, packaging and some are responsible for the warehouse.”
“The new iPad” was in mass production starting the beginning of this year. Initially, each assembly line took one class (of workers), that is, production of 1000 units within every 10 hours. However after the Spring Festival production gradually increased to 150 units per hour. Li Qi works 6 days a week and takes only one day off. Recently he worked 80 hours of overtime each month. His base monthly salary was already adjusted from 900 yuan to 2350 yuan, plus the overtime money, now he can get 3500 yuan after tax.
From Li Qi’s point of view, the new iPad is similar to iPad 2 which he worked on before, at least the outside look similar, but the new iPad has more powerful features and functions. “Comparing these two generation products’ pipeline work station setup, now there are over 30 of them. There were not that many for iPad 2.” Typically, in each workstation one given action is performed – for example assembling particular connectors or gears.
He told the reporter, iPad production lines are strictly managed. He has to wear anti-static clothing, and walk through security doors. Inspection procedures are more than any other division. They are not allowed to talk during work, and definitely no slacking off. “But compare to iPhone 4S production, it is much easier.”
In May last year, Li Qi and his workmates participated in the Conference to support iDPBG held by the Office of Human Resources. iDPBG is the place of Apple iPhone production. They were told, from September 13 to December 31 to help support the latest generation of Apple iPhone, which was the iPhone 4S production. Foxconn Technology Group Vice President Zhao Shanping said on behalf of CEO Terry Guo, “Due to mass production of mobile phones, the company need to drawn from iPad production line to support it.”
Before going, Li Qi was very excited to enjoy the benefits of free accommodation and salary increase etc. and also get to see the Apple iPhone. “Apple iPhone was already very well-known at that time.” This is his first time in contact with other cell phone production line other than Nokia. He wrote in his dairy, “First time work closely on iPhone 4S, it is really the best smart phone of the world, both hardware and software are great.”
“We basically worked on Apple’s Tablet PC but never on iPhone before. As a newbie, we learned by doing. Already afternoon, the production line I worked at only made over 100 phones.” After a week, Li Qi fond that the production of cell phones is much more tiring than production of Tablet PCs, the dormitory environment was also worse than before.
“Start working at 7 am, have to get up before 6 am everyday. Not even 10 minutes of break during a day’s work, 3 hours in the morning and 4-6 hours afternoon.” Li Qi said, at the iPad production line, there are 2 to 3 10 minute breaks other than lunch time.
Another factory worker Wang Hua (not his real name) at Guanlan district working long term on assembling iPhones told the reporter, each production line will produce more than 3500 phones in a day. No days off at the factory plant is already the norm.
Transferred back to Longhua iPad production line, Li Qi still recalled in his memory of that period (working on iPhone 4S) as “extremely hard.” However, he also made the highest wage ever since he worked at Foxconn in the past two years – 5000 yuan after tax. Considering Li had just bought a house in his hometown in Hubei, it is actually quite a gratifying thing.
Li Qi does not want his life to change too much. According to his observation, in recent weeks, another 100 workers left the Shenzhen iPad production line, going to Chengdu factory district. “This is a signal, if we continue to take days off, our division will for sure be transferred to other departments or leave Shenzhen.” This is obviously not something he can control.