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Mauro Dallora leads the I-Connect007 team through the Dongguan Somacis Graphic (DSG) PCB Co. Ltd. facility in China, lays out the company’s strategy for becoming an Industry 4.0 smart factory, and explains the current ongoing major expansion. Read about various topics in this factory tour and interview.
I-Connect007 first visited DSG about eight years ago. At that time, DSG was four years into taking on the challenge of building a PCB manufacturing factory from the ground up in Dongguan, China. As a joint venture between SOMACIS SpA and Graphic Plc, Mauro was charged to handle the enormous project, and he did just that.
Giovanni Tridenti, Mauro, and a few young guys arrived at the dirt lot in Dongguan with a suitcase, a checkbook, and a lot of ideas. Then, they got started. Two years and a million decisions later, the showcase factory was tooled with state-of-the-art equipment, well-thought-out systems, and an entire team of exclusively Chinese workers producing world-class PCBs.
At that time, most of the employees lived at the company’s newly constructed on-site dormitories. Mauro was also responsible for training his team on not just the process of building a board but also how to take care of customers, the facility, and process equipment. Aside from all of that, he also had to build a cafeteria to feed and nourish the workforce properly. Again, this was from the ground up in a China that was very different from today.
China is a rapidly and ever-changing environment from business to social issues. It was not that many years back when a large segment of the population relied on bicycles as their primary mode of transport. Today, the roads are congested with private cars and ride services, and all are filled with people connected on their mobile devices. Not only are the roads congested, but factories are now faced with a new problem—parking. Since most factories were built before the boom in privately owned vehicles, allowing space for employee parking was not a consideration. In my recent visit to DSG in Dongguan, China, that’s exactly what Mauro commented on:
Mauro: Look at the cars. When we started the facility, there were two cars—the company cars. Now, operators come in by car, and you can see the road is full of our employees’ cars.
Barry: Parking space for cars isn’t the only change facing Chinese companies; wage pressure is a growing and ever-present concern. What have wages been like over the past 13 years, and what sort of percentage increase has there been?
Mauro: Wages increased from 20–25% year to year. The labor cost is a big matter because you have to spend on recruitment and for them to go through the procedure including taking them to a hospital for examination. Then, before they can do any operation, they must take at least one month of training in the factory. It is a big investment.
Now, after 13 years of meeting all of the challenges with success, Mauro and the leadership of DSG recognize their factory will be less and less competitive if they do not make some serious changes. This is much more than updating a few pieces of equipment; it starts with the idea of becoming a leading 4.0 smart factory.
The goal is to be a factory that will meet the needs of future technology and increase capability and yields while counteracting the demanding wage pressure and other rising costs faced in China.
To accomplish this new manufacturing model, Mauro is again leading this major project to retool and expand the entire factory. The plans have been made, the smart systems have been mapped out, new equipment has been ordered, and the ground has been broken.
As you would expect, the new digital smart factory will be managed in real time. Every item will be tracked and monitored throughout the entire process from planning to shipping. Automation will take over, and process operators will become a thing of the past. Incoming work will be uniquely marked so the machines will automatically adjust their parameters accordingly.
All of this automation will be supported with high-level mechanization to keep it a hands-off process virtually from start finish. Mauro describes it this way:
Mauro: We are talking about a smart factory—Industry 4.0. Each piece of equipment will be able to read and record every single panel in real time. We will no longer manually record process by process; instead, every single board will have identifying marks, and everything will be done automatically. We will have a central control room where we have access to all of the information, and we will have full traceability in real time for every single board not only for us but also for the customer.
Also, we have a commitment to double the size in revenue in five years. In South China, if you have a company that strategically fits with the region’s growth plan, you get support from local government. If you’re not strategic, forget Guangdong because the labor cost will be too high, fewer people are available to employ, and there are tough environmental regulations and social requirements. There’s no way you can make clothes or garments here anymore.
To read the full article, which appeared in the March 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.