Visiting Asian Manufacturers

I have just graduated and will be travelling to Korea and China with an opportunity to visit manufacturers. The purpose of this trip is to network, make connections, and just get my feet wet when it comes to the manufacturing side of design.

my question to you guys is, what kind of manufacturing is most seen in industry (product design), thus most helpful/useful to be exposed to?

I have family that produces footwear, coaxial cables, and security cameras, so I will be touring those factories. I will probably have time to see 2-3 more factories after that… but what do you think will be most useful as a resource and as a contact as I begin a design career?

injection molding, blow molding, extrusion, electronics, textile cut and sew… anything!


Injection moulding will be a big eye opener I guess, if you start working for any large companies then you’ll be dealing with them all the time, them lot are taking over the injection moulding industries, so it will be good to have and understanding of what goes on.
Well,that’s what I’d do.

what’s your email?

i definately have injection molding on my list. i do also want to check out an assembly plant of some sort.

any other suggestions?

cut and sew, for sure, and perhaps some place where they still spray Polane (sp?) paints, super toxic stuff they spray without masks and has been illegal in the US for years.

but I think I’d most like to see a sewing factory because the sneakers and soft goods are the easiest places to start for a company wishing to carve out a brand in the “lifestyle” market. these factories (I’ve heard) employ hundreds, making largely the same product for a dozen big US brand names, separated by canvas curtains to “preserve brand integrity” between the factories’ clients.

injection molding you can see in the states.

if you can get to a carbon fiber manufacturing facility, that’s something that is rarely done in the US except for aerospace and military, and would be pretty cool to watch. Contrary to the high-tech appeal, the layup process and finishing are VERY low-tech.

anything would be useful though. don’t turn a tour down. ask questions and take lots of photos of the abundance of labor doing the work of machines and tightly-spec’d tolerances.

I am currently in Hong Kong, but on a job search. I have been to many factories in China. Cut and sew is always very interesting. If you can get to a factory that makes toys and/or baby products you will ba able to see a lot of processes in one place.

Good luck.

There are many large manufacturers who will have injection moulding, metal pressing, spraying, printing, production lines and even a tool shop all in the same factory.
This would be the best use of your time because you can see it all come together.

I appreciate all the feedback.

I am in Korea right now and will be travelling to China next Thursday. I haven’t visited any factories yet, but I’ve already learned alot about footwear manufacturing.

The largest fixed cost for footwear production are the molds for the sole. it costs approximately $1500 per mold, and you have a bottom mold (tread) and a top mold (i.e. arch support), multiplied by about 10 different sizes. Now, this cost also varies depending on the degree of complexity of the sole. Apparently, all you need is about $100,000 to start your own shoe line! (well, to get your first batch manufactured, anyways… marketing and distribution is a whole nother story). This fixed mold price is one of the biggest reasons for price disparity in the footwear industry. (meaning, larger targeted market=larger sales volume=lower average fixed cost per shoe=lower retail price… and vice versa)

Another bit of info: retail prices are about 4x the manufacturing price. Once manufactured, the value of the good rises about 150% as the importer takes their cut. The value rises again by 150% because of the distributors. Finally, the prices goes up by another 150% once the good hits retail.

Food for thought, huh?

try to see an electronic assembly plant, especially smt, pay particular attention to how the circuit boards are assembled into a housing

smt = surface mount technology

don’t do this.

check out plastics.

injection molding in particular. almost anything you work on when you go into a typical product design job, you’ll deal with injection molding the most.

take tons of pictures! to share!
(anything interesting, even if its not product design related… )

is it japan that has school girl panties vending machines?

don’t forget about the urea-based wood finishes and glues…and water buffalo hides.

hmmmm…great in the morning.

I would say look around for OEM or ODM products if you are intending to start your own business. Buying off the shelf, saves you a whole ton of money on tooling.


why wouldn’t you do this?

you can see injection molding done here, also, GE has a great plastics research lab in the states

do take lots of pictures and see finishes, carbon fiber, etc

he has an opportunity to see first hand ASIAN manufacturing, the most common for us being injection molding, he is straight out of college, he has maybe 2-3 days max. to check out places. and who the hell is going to pittsfield mass to GE plastics for leisure? why go to asia in the first place, there are asians here also. make sense please.

anyways bRHEE, stick to lookin at and learning about how they do typical processes, forget all these 2 percentile alien carbon fiber circuit board self healing microballs catalyst processes… as if, you’re gonna flip through the phone book to squirrel out specific cutting edge technology places 300 miles from where you’ll be, all in 2 days.

today i visited a security systems manufacturer. i didn’t get to see the factory, but i met with the owner and spoke with him for a few hours.

what i realize is, this is an OEM manufacturer. he has the technology in place. he has systems theory down pat. his products are state of the art. he has developed a wide variety of capabilities. they range from motion sensor activated, motion following, remote access, to b/w night vision rivaling the visibility of infrared.

what he lacks is retail distribution. this is where design can have a great impact. looking over his product line, i realize that these manufacturers see design as a value, as “the next step,” but do not have the means or well established contacts to do so. design education, as it seems, is fairly new in asia. with a little business savvy, an american designer who understands and can identify available markets can approach these types of manufacturers and act as the designer AND importer/distributor of these goods. this distribution is where the money is at. asian manufacturers are extremely eager to gain access to the american market, but often times, their products lack that ‘design savvy’ to become widely successful.

check out the ‘CCTV Camera’ section and click on ‘Board.’ these are miniature camera components that measure 42mm x 42mm x 47mm down to 32mm x 32mm x 26mm. imagine the possibilities. you can do anything with a component that small.

as designers, we now have the opportunity to step out of the bounds of an ‘employee’ and into the realm of being a business partner. it is the power of design that will enable OEM companies to transition into the OBM realm.