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Lenovo Announces Grand Opening of US Manufacturing Facility 153

Posted by timothy
from the unstealing-our-jobs dept.
Kohenkatz writes "Chinese PC maker Lenovo had a ceremony [Wednesday] to mark the official grand opening of their new manufacturing facility in Whitsett, North Carolina. The 240,000-square-foot facility, located approximately 10 miles east of Greensboro, NC, was already being used as a Logistics Center, Customer Solutions Center, and National Returns Center, and is now also being used for Production. While actual line operations began in January 2013, the facility is on track to reach full operation by the end of June. The facility is equipped to build several types of Think-branded products, including desktops, tablets, and ultrabooks. Note that due to the extensive use of automation, the factory only adds 115 manufacturing jobs at the facility."
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Lenovo Announces Grand Opening of US Manufacturing Facility

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  • Recovering ground (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chas (5144) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:30AM (#43924455) Homepage Journal

    This is probably aimed at some of the issues Lenovo's been having with people inferring that, because Lenovo's a Chinese company, that the Think line of computers are now unsuitable for business and government purposes due to the possibility of back doors and spyware build directly into firmware/hardware.

    • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:37AM (#43924547)
      This has to do with government mandates that discourage purchasing computers manufactured in China. This does nothing to prevent the existence of back doors or spyware, but it makes the politicians feel good.
      • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:21AM (#43925041) Homepage

        A computer built in the US and shipped via American carriers is significantly less likely to be tampered with in transit. In China, you're trusting that there are no "stops" between the factory and the dock.

        It's just a step in the right direction. In that sense and that sense alone you are more correct than wrong.

        • What are the odds that the parts that are shipped from China will be extensively checked for malware by the US employee assembling the computer on behalf of the chinese company?
          • There are several security loopholes here that China could theoretically exploit. Lenovo moving some manufacturing here is an attempt by them to deliberately close one of the big ones, which is what happens to goods in transit between them and their customers. The Chinese intelligence services are extremely unlikely to send people to US soil to pull some stunt because the last thing they'd want is for people connected to a program to sabotage American computer products to be practically in the federal gover

            • Lenovo moving some manufacturing here is an attempt by them to deliberately close one of the big ones, which is what happens to goods in transit between them and their customers.

              Two problems with your theory:

              1. You assume a chinese company is immune from influence from chinese government. Lenovo is based in Beijing.

              2. You are only considering the product that is assembled within the US and not the components that are imported.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          A computer built in the US and shipped via American carriers is significantly less likely to be tampered with in transit. In China, you're trusting that there are no "stops" between the factory and the dock.

          As someone who's had to follow DSD (Defence Signals Directorate) security policies, no OEM software ever survives. For sensitive computers we bought new hard drives and DBAN'd them before running up our SOE. We even had our own management cards (ILO/DRAC) for servers. To make sure the hardware wasn't suspect, random samples were disassembled. It didn't matter where the computer came from, it was made secure by us.

          Mandating that the secretaries computers in the department of land management cant be purcha

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        It also has to do with costs. A LOT of companies are moving production back to the US due to the cost. Business people are starting to clue into the fact that Chinese production isn't actually all that inexpensive when you factor in R&D, communication with the factories, Q/C, product lifecycle, shipping costs, and just general, overall ROI.

        For instance, Whirlpool has made a corporate commitment to move all Chinese manufacturing back stateside. They've already re-engineered a great number of their produc

        • by mlts (1038732) *

          Don't forget transportation costs. Fuel prices are in no ways stable, so we are hitting the point where it is cheaper for places to set up shop here in the US just so that things made are sent by rail or semi, compared to the cost of shipping them from the factory, then all the work with getting them on a ship and all the diesel the freighter uses.

          I wouldn't be surprised to see this happening more and more as fuel costs go up.

        • Q/C

          This is the real value, as far as I can tell.

          I've gotten some good quality stuff from China, but also some really abysmal stuff.

          We got a John Deere lawnmower yesterday. The ticket says it was assembled stateside. I know that means the parts came from China (we got a low-end one) but I'm comforted knowing that somebody under a US QA system saw the parts before bolting them in. I'd like to think that any with serious metal voids or poor machining went into the rejects bin. If the finished goods came fr

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I hope it will fix their crap quality. We have T30s that are still fully functional, save for being woefully outdated and bad batteries. On the other hand T61s have had their screens replaced every 18 months or so until the warranty runs out and then they are just unusable.

      The T line is unsuitable because the quality went straight to poop.

      • Pardon my ignorance but aren't LCD manufacturers mostly Taiwanese and Japanese? It's not like they're switching from Chinese panels to American ones (if there is actually such a thing as an American LCD panel).
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Probably, but this is not a panel issue.
          The problem with these is the low quality backlights.
          Not sure where they get them, but decent QA would have found the issue and selected a different vendor.

      • I'm still using my old 760XL running Windows 98SE.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          You should tell you boss to buy you a new computer, or are you a masochist?

          Windows 98SE was bad enough when it was new, it must really suck to use today. Heck, I bet most webpages would take ages to load.

          • I never said I was using it as my main desktop computer. The thing is connected to legacy CNC hardware via the parallel port and the laptop isn't even connected to the network. Files are copied via CompactFlash cards and a PCMCIA adapter.

        • by mlts (1038732) *

          I still have a 365XD with an old RedHat distro with custom pcmcia-cs code. Still has a 1.5 MB (yes, megabyte) PCMCIA flash disk from Sun drive (not Sandisk), and a combo 10baseT Ethernet card/modem that worked quite well as a smart firewall for a couple years until DSL was available.

          I would pay a price premium for something as solid as those old laptops, although I want one with a TPM chip [1], and Macbooks don't have that available.

          [1]: The technology cuts two ways, but with BitLocker, I can just enable

    • No, they're unsuitable for business because they're shit.
  • Oh, hell... (Score:5, Funny)

    by geminidomino (614729) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:32AM (#43924493) Journal

    It's actually happened...

    Now Chinese are outsourcing to us

    • It's actually happened...

      Now Chinese are outsourcing to us

      This is the first thing that came to my mind. :-) Mind you, you could have ended up a lot worse: The Chinese could have outsourced to India and the Indian subcontractor could have outsourced it to the US. *That* would have been a sight.

    • Re:Oh, hell... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:56AM (#43924759)

      They're outsourcing to robots really, not to us. It just happens to be convenient for the robots to live in North Carolina in this case, probably due to regulatory issues in some governments/businesses over purchasing Chinese-made computers.

      • They're outsourcing to robots really, not to us. It just happens to be convenient for the robots to live in North Carolina in this case, probably due to regulatory issues in some governments/businesses over purchasing Chinese-made computers.

        I'd imagine that this facility probably helps with turnaround time on custom orders as well. Popping in CPUs and option cards isn't terribly demanding work; but if you give customers the option to choose exactly what CPU/RAM/cards combination they want you either have to be really good at guessing ahead of time, willing to quote lead times based on container-ship speeds, or relatively close to the customer.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The interesting thing is that robotics are something the US is very good at. Vehicle production is mostly automated.

        Of course, sometimes robotics get hair-pulling in ironic ways. I was trying to find a maker that could build me the mechanism for a raw hard drive autochanger (where it would take hard disks without any enclosures and mount/dismount them), and the only game in town was Siemens, and they were asking $10,000 a unit.

        I still wouldn't mind making a hard disk library that didn't have to have speci

    • by Megane (129182)
      Yo dawg, I heard you like outsourcing, so I outsourced your outsourcing so you can outsource while you outsource.
    • by Mark4ST (249650)
      I hope this new plant begins to make system boards for Thinkpads and the like. Right now they are made by Quanta (Taiwan), and the BGAs are terrible. Quanta has still not come to terms with lead-free BGAs, and it's been going on for years.

      Hopefully they can consistently make a system board that will last for more than 2 years.

    • by GodInHell (258915)
      I don't give a shit why -- one of the issues that bothers me about outsourcing is the loss of manufacturing capacity within our own borders. When it comes time to convert manufacturies into war production facilities -- having them in China likely won't help us. Assuming that we ever have another war that will require a full national push.
      • Despite all the hype of recent years China's exports have not surpassed the US manufacturing output.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)

      It's actually happened...

      Now Chinese are outsourcing to us

      [Insert "In Soviet Russia" joke here]

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Now Chinese are outsourcing to us

      Now that we've driven wages down, destroyed the unions and saddled our youth with hundreds of thousands of dollars of college debt so they're scared to death and desperate to take any job, we've finally made it cost effective for China to bring their Foxconn work camps here.

      Progress!

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:38AM (#43924555)

    If the 115 employees all work the same shift and are uniformly distributed, then each would have 2086 square feet of floor space. That's a minimum spacing of 45.7 feet (13.9 meters) between employees!

    Correction: 45.7 feet between the _center of mass_ of each employee. So if we further assume the employees are spherical ...

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:50AM (#43924695)

      Based on what I see from the average american that seems like a totally reasonable assumption.

      My guess is that much of this will be automated and the humans highly concentrated at steps that cannot be automated for one reason or another.

      • Unions require employes to have breaks, lunch time and vacation. Since the automated equipment was willing to work 24/7, they had to hire 115 people because the law requires factories to have at least one floor employee for every 2086 square feet of floor space.

    • I think you are coming up with the maximum distance, not minimum .The minimum space is if management packed everybody into a closet and put a bear outside so the employees won’t mess with the robots.

      I would guess a large chunk of the factory floor is given over to inventory – either coming or going so employees would be backed slightly closer. I also assume each employee maintains multiple robots so they are probably not working elbow to elbow.

    • by Beorytis (1014777)

      So if we further assume the employees are spherical ...

      A much more reasonable assumption with American employees than with Chinese.

  • You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aaron H (2820425) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:48AM (#43924677)
    They're probably just trying to take advantage of that cheap American labor...
  • Does this mean the jobs are washing back over the Pacific? But... I only got replaced by an Asian worker being paid one tenth what I was for a third the quality of work a half a year ago! Guess my vacation is over...
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      A small amount of the jobs. Expect maybe 10% of the jobs back, automation has made the rest unneeded, if you did factory work.

  • You know the US has hit rock bottom when the Chinese start opening factories here because of cheaper labour. :)

  • Now, let's get some design and engineering departments out here because they obviously don't know shit about it out there. Seriously, have you *seen* the atrocity that is the current iteration of ThinkPad?
  • these arent really the kinds of jobs americans need. these will be 115 individuals of borderline cognitive function that load dispensers, change lightbulbs and drive forklifts. the jobs wont pay anywhere near a living wage, will likely specify "mandatory overtime" and preferentially select individuals who either have no concept of formal unionized labour or have had the notion beaten out of them from years of walmart servitude. Turnover will be high, regulation will be sparse. in this case the local gov
    • by mlts (1038732) *

      It depends... Robots break, and someone clued enough to know what components need replaced can be fairly difficult to find. With computers, it is fairly easy... something on the motherboard dead, pull the board. HDD dead, pull that. With a robotic install, just ripping the robots out of the factory floor and replacing them if there is a hiccup isn't going to work.

      Automation eats jobs, but I don't think it is a bad thing. I'd rather see a robot be turning screws 24/7 than having to force a human get RSI

      • by RobinH (124750)
        Ok, but if pretty much everything manual is automated, what is the person just getting out of high school with no college prospects supposed to do? Soak in the welfare?
  • Employment in manufacturing is down against steady and healthy growth of the industry in the US due to automation. If you open a manufacturing plant you're going to get a small number of jobs for an operation of such size and cost, maybe some local robot purchases if you're lucky. If you want jobs, buy some time by finding an industry that can't be automated so easily. We don't rely on farms or textile plants for jobs anymore but nobody got the memo about manufacturing in general. I know it has that nice fo

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