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August 28 2012
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An intern’s insight into Chinese manufacturing

Our technical intern Paul Scopes got an amazing chance to travel to China with a project and work directly with the manufacturers. In this post Paul talks about his experiences of Hong Kong, working with Chinese workers and some of the lessons he learnt along the way.

After a year of working on a project as a PDD intern, I was given the opportunity to go to China with the project manager to oversee the first stages of production and work with the client on site. As well as appreciating the cultural differences on arrival, I was able to experience several days in a Chinese factory and gain a real insight into how products are manufactured in the world today.

About a month ago, the project manager approached me and explained that there was a possibility of embarking on a trip to China to help prepare a product for production. I was delighted with the opportunity provided by PDD, and looked forward to seeing the final stages of the project that I had worked on finally come together!

After a 12-hour flight and severe jet lag, I arrived in Hong Kong for a day of sight-seeing with our supplier – a great way to settle in and absorb the culture before starting work. The first thing I noticed about Hong Kong was the sheer amount of people – absolutely everywhere. I had known to expect a crowded city, but this was unlike anything I had seen before. It was also hard to miss the fact that all the streets were lying in the shadows of the enormous high-rise buildings above them. Looking around I had to admit, I was impressed.

On my first working day in China we drove from Hong Kong to a factory near Shenzhen. This was relatively small by Chinese standards, only employing about 100 people, certainly nothing in comparison to other huge industrial complexes that we passed on the way, which employ 1000’s of people who both work and live on site. This seemed to be a common occurrence amongst the Chinese working population.

During the project I was working with a small number of employees, overseeing them while they assembled the product. At first I found it difficult to communicate because their knowledge of English was limited and my knowledge of Chinese is non-existent. However I overcame this obstacle by first demonstrating the build procedure, and then relying on hand signals to show where it needed to be repeated when my manager was busy on other tasks. This method was effective and the product quickly took shape over the next few days. The Chinese workers were very enthusiastic and once they understood the product, they could assemble it to a high quality in a very short space of time.

The experience of working with the Chinese workers was an invaluable one. Firstly, by being on location at the factory every day I quickly came to understand its strengths as well as its limitations. This enabled me to assess what parts of our project could and couldn’t be done on-site, which in turn prevented me from wasting time making certain requests and allowed me to make the most of what we had to work with.

During the time I spent in China I think my communication skills improved dramatically – both in the way I learnt to speak to the workers there and in how best to go about further email communication with them back here in London. I understand now just how important it is to ensure my message spans the language barrier clearly and the work will be done correctly and to a high quality.

The opportunity to get a first-hand look at the manufacturing of a project I’d been working on has really been an eye-opener and I feel a lot more confident in the knowledge of the manufacturing processes, while I continue to work here at PDD.

Overall I found that my trip to China, although busy, was very interesting and I enjoyed the challenges presented to me. It has made me appreciate the scale of manufacturing in China and the possibilities that come with it, from the tiny street-side micro-manufacturing industries that may only contain a single milling machine to the huge manufacturing sites where employees live and work on-site. I can’t wait to re-visit China for another project or stage of work!

 

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@pddinnovation

Languages spoken: Global.
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
My dream project: A project that makes a difference in the world.
My obsession: Develop successful, award-winning and world-first products and experiences.

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