We asked one of our clients to give us their impressions during a China factory visit during a buying mission recently. Read below to get an idea of how they felt during this trip. This is one of a series of blogs that we will title: Buyer Diary.
This is probably one of my favorite entries throughout the entire buyer’s diary. Before embarking on the China factory visit, my expectation of the factory was like an automated system, whereby we just throw the goods into the machine. And after the entire process, the end product comes out just right.
Just like the Coca Cola factories –
Unexpectedly, it’s not the case when I first went to the factory with ODM’s staff – Patrick.
It’s a production line with much more complications. You’ll be surprised that 70% of the work is done manually. Now, let me bring you through the entire production process to manufacture a plastic toy.
First, the factory purchases all the materials required and it starts with molding. The PVC plastic is the main material required to manufacture the plastic toys – as you can see on the right of the photo.
Together with other liquid substances, the PVC plastic is poured into the machinery. After which the PVC plastic develops to liquid form and is ready to be molded.
As explained in China Factory Visit – Buyer Diary #5 Production Terms: What is molding? Molding basically means producing the shape of your product.
Usually, the first step of every product is the molding stage –
Take a look at the 8 holes that the factory worker is focused on during my China factory visit. Those are the molds required to make the toy. So liquid plastic is poured into the mold and after the high temperature processing, the toys have been molded into the required shape! This requires extreme high heat and is generated by both charcoal and electricity.
Press play and check it out!
The molding is not complete without trimming off the extra pieces of plastic popping out from the sides. An average factory worker is able to trim approximate 3,000 pieces every day. I once met a lady, whom had no experience. To my surprise, her productivity rate was at 10,000 pieces every day! That’s 833 in an hour and 13 every minute! That’s an average of 1 toy per 4 seconds! When you have such efficient factory workers, the factory can definitely save a lot on manpower.
Check out the difference!
Next up, we have the baking! Like cupcakes, we put it into the oven for baking so it gets into shape! Same for these plastic toys.
Similarly, the baker would have to confirm that these toys are well baked before proceeding on to the next step. Otherwise, we simply put the plastic toy back into the oven! On the average, 7,000 plastic toys can be baked per day! Of course, it depends on the size and thickness of the toy.
After baking, the plastic toy is ready to be ‘clothed’! Likewise, after baking, it’s time to put some icing onto the cake! We first start with the spray-on paint. This step requires a professional to execute, same for molding. Not everyone can do this, I’m sure.
The master is with his apparatus filled with yellow ink to be sprayed onto the toy. Well, this gadget works like the air-brush tattoo machine. To increase efficiency, one person is in charge of one color and therefore forming the production line. The toys are then passed down from one to the other until all colors are sprayed onto it.
After the spray-on paint, the toys in process of manufacture tend to get dirty. One important lesson in manufacturing is to correct the mistakes right away upon realization without having for it to continue to the next step. Therefore, we have the initial cleaning step that achieves 2 purposes –
- Clean away all the dirty marks and spots
- Lubricate and brighten the toy
Such cleaning can only be done with specific liquid – one to clean dirty marks and the other to lubricate.
This marks an end of the first half of the production process! As you can tell, production processes are not as simple as it seems. At times, it could be as easy as throwing the material into the machine and all you need is workers to operate the machines. Whereas others have many complicated steps just to manufacture a plastic toy, like what we’ve covered today.
We shall continue with the next half of the production process for the next buyer diary entry, stay tuned!