Revolution of China Assembly Line

In the 50s, most blue collar workers are drawing relatively low wages but compensated with full benefits of the state own and operated factories. Common practice of subsidies of utilities, provision of room and boards and upgrading option availability when one is getting married. In addition, in house facilities ranging from hospitals, nursing homes to vocational schools are fully commissioned to cater for the physical and emotional needs of their staff and families with all necessary living needs being taken care of from cradle to grave. Factory workers then take high pride in themselves going all out for their respective unit in a “all for one, one for all” manner. Most enjoyed highest level of work  satisfactions and family fulfillment in the perceived strong mandate of fair and equal treatments across the boards from the janitors all the way to the factory manager.

Fast forward to modern days, hundreds of thousands of factory operators  repeating the same monotonous meaningless process day in and day out churning out millions of block buster consumer and industrial products feeding the global insatiable demands. Unlike half a century ago, most of these factories are now privatized and profit driven leveraging on the massive abundant availability of affordable human capitals creating impressive economic miracles for the past 3 decades. However, as the only thing constant is “change” in the world of rapid development, the once working formula now needs urgent tweaking as a young generation of Chinese factory operators had spoken to fight for the fair treatments and opportunities instead of being taken hostage in the name of world factory. There is couple of complications of being number 1 in the world of contract manufacturers. 1. Lack of grooming and prospects for its fleet of workers. 2. Being isolated in the rootless world shutting out from realities. 3. Deteriorating continuity of the villages and hometown where the labor force hailed from.

Despite increasing basic wages and improved benefits, hundreds of thousands of assembly line workers had lost the passion and dedication in their jobs as most couldn’t see long term visible career prospects ahead as the middle age management failed to cater to the distinct desires and needs of the generation born in the late 80s and 90s on their pursuit of autonomous, recognitions, respects and significant. Military style management and no nonsense output driven culture didn’t help elevating the general sense of discontent in these factories and as a results, total lack of sense of belonging led to low productivity and although many of the production house are high technology in nature but the micro manufacturing flow had its process broken down in minute steps where one couldn’t easily associate with the finish goods and see the great products they are making and over time distant themselves from the company’s grand mission and overall performance.

Huge dormitories and corresponding facilities of canteens, leisure halls, laundry rooms and so on built right in the massive factory compound creating a self sufficient mid scale community of its own kind catering for all the imaginable needs for its workers creating a systematic and pressurized seamless flow from works to play and rest. This had cut off the accessibility of a reasonable living standard expected from any typical young man and women. 24 hours production shift and paranoid nature of individual competitiveness had failed to foster a decent family like and caring environment communities overlooking the basic fundamental craving of friendship, courtship, privacy and breathing room. A series of unfortunate incident of suicides since 2010 had rang the alarm bells to the society and management and despite remarkable upgrading and rectification progress, psychological and emotional  needs of the operators, line leads, technicians and many others still got plenty of room for improvement.

The pulling effect of comparable high salary from these giant scale factories and pushing pressures from the seemingly boring and less competitive villages and hometown mostly scattered in the lesser developed inner Chinese states had quickly drained of the vitality and continuity of young people very much needed to carry on the family small and medium enterprises in the home ground, as the young and physical competent man and women had to relocate thousands of miles away to seek employment and many of the town simply couldn’t sustain itself without the missing generation, it had also produced family and social challenges where young children are being left alone back home under their grandparent’s care while both parent are outstation preoccupied of generating the much sought after wages to sustain the living expenses for all.

In summary, the much enviable status of world assembly line has been taking advantages of the human capitals and resources from all over China in an increasing unsustainable and unjustifiable fashion and a revolution had begun transforming itself destined to be successfully as it had done so well in the past by allocating resources in a more corporate responsible way.

In fact, strong committed initiatives of deploying millions of automatic handlers and robots to revolutionize the manual repetitive process in the assembly line is in the motion, instead of blindly adding the increasing scarce and costly labor force to cater for capacity bottleneck, productivity improvement had taken priority. Reformed and fully automated plant will need only a fraction of human operators as before, new breed of workers will be highly trained and paid well to operate and maintain the machines, most should only be recruited locally to keep sanity in balance, they go home to their families after works, assuming full ownership of meeting work targets, taking full pride in doing their parts for the ultimate goals of the company, contributing to their local economics by raising a family with clusters of extended family supports right in their hometown not unlike back in the 50s where majority of the workers led a sustainable, decent and work life balance lifestyle.

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