OPPO landed in Europe last June with an all-out event in which they announced the OPPO Find X, their current flagship. The Chinese company was virtually unknown in the old continent even though in 2016 it had already been cast in the top 5 of manufacturers worldwide. We already talked about OPPO, its beginnings and philosophy, and recently we had the opportunity to meet it “in person”.
OPPO was founded in Dongguan, China, the city where the company’s headquarters are located and one of its six factories also called ‘campus’. The OPPO campus in Dongguan is not just a factory, but rather a mini-city. In addition to the production and assembly lines, it also has playgrounds, nurseries, restaurants and much more. This is the OPPO factory inside.
Before entering flour, let’s see some information about OPPO, starting with its position in the market, both local and global. According to the latest data from Counterpoint, in China, OPPO is the third manufacturer behind Huawei and Vivo, with whom it tied with a 21% market share in the third quarter of this year.
OPPO is the third manufacturer in China and the fifth globally, according to Counterpoint.
If we look at the complete picture, worldwide OPPO is in fifth place in the ranking with a 9% market share, also according to Counterpoint. At the beginning of 2017, OPPO came in fourth place according to IDC data, but before the end of the year they were advanced by Xiaomi, another Chinese manufacturer that also started its internationalization recently. Currently, OPPO is present in 31 countries, most of them in Asia and, since last summer, also some Europeans.
With respect to the factories, OPPO has nine production plants, six of them in China and the other three in Indonesia, India and Algeria. We visited one of the plants in China, the one in Dongguan, which is also one of the six R & D centers around the world. And now, let’s see what the OPPO campus is like in Dongguan.
First stop: quality laboratory
The first part of the visit was spent in the quality control department, where the devices are tested to see how they respond to different situations. In other words, it is where mobiles are subjected to all kinds of ‘tortures’.
Each model passes more than 150 tests that are divided into three blocks: electrical performance tests, structural tests and environmental aging tests.
The falls are one of the most common hazards faced by our smartphones and OPPO devotes a good part of its laboratory to test the resistance of its products. In the GIF on these lines we can see the test of “microcaídas”, in which it is tried to simulate soft blows, like for example when leaving the mobile on a table without much care.
This test has different variants depending on whether the mobile falls with the screen, with the back or with the sides. The height is 7 centimeters and the total number of repetitions is 42,000 per device.
The quality laboratory could be called a torture room; microcaídas, blows, torsions, wear tests …
There is also a stronger fall test in which the device is dropped, first from a minimum height of 1 meter. If it does not suffer damage, a second test is done where the height is increased to 1.5 meters. In this case also the test is repeated from all sides of the terminal, both screen and rear as all its sides and corners.
This test is much more violent since the machine that elevates the terminal not only lets it fall, but pushes it against the ground so that the impact is quite strong. The flexibility of the terminal is also tested with a torsion test.
Another problem facing a device such as a mobile phone is the continued use. In the laboratory tests are also carried out to determine the resistance of certain components. For example, the sliding mechanism of the OPPO Find X is operated without stopping to see its degree of resistance. According to OPPO, it will hold up to 300,000 repetitions without breaking.
With the physical buttons, resistance tests are also done to see how many pulses it supports before failing. Specifically 100,000 beats are made with a pressure of 1 kilogram. If we press the buttons 50 times a day, to reach that number we would have to wait six years.
There is more wear test such as the one that connects the USB-C cable repeatedly or the one that tests the resistance of the cable to continuous twisting with weight on one end.
Finally, we saw several machines for tests that simulate the response to external agents such as extreme temperatures, humidity, dust and water. To test the resistance to water, the devices are placed inside a chamber and rain is simulated. Then check that all functions are normal and open the device to rule out corrosion in the internal components.
In this area tests are also done with salt water and a liquid that simulates sweat. In this particular test, the device is wrapped in a cloth soaked in this artificial sweat and placed in a chamber with high temperature and humidity where it takes at least two days.
Second stop: assembly line
After attending all the described torture sessions, we went to one of the 26 assembly lines that the factory has. Specifically, we were in one of the lines where the OPPO R17 was being assembled, a model that arrived in Europe last November as OPPO RX17 Neo.
In this part of the factory there are different positions where the main pieces are assembled, both by automated machines and manually by employees. For example, the back cover is placed by an employee but then goes to a kind of press where it ensures that the piece is well attached to the back.
On the assembly line there are automated processes but there are also many positions with employees who assemble the parts manually and supervise that everything is correct.
During the process the operators perform many ocular checks, as happens with the camera where two employees watched carefully that the app worked well and compared two models at random in search of color deviations or other failures.
Speaking of the employees, there was a detail that drew attention in the visit and is that in China it is customary to take breaks in one’s job. Those responsible for OPPO told us that due to the repetitive nature of the work on the assembly line, it is usual for employees to take breaks in which some take advantage of a little nod resting on the table.In this part of the visit we also go to the area where all the work of circuitry or PCB is done. The most curious thing is that to enter this area we were first made to go through a kind of air shower to remove possible dust particles that we had attached to the clothes. The reason is that it works with tiny components and any contaminant could cause problems in the printing of the circuits.
The OPPO factory in Dongguan has the capacity to produce 311 mobile phones per minute, or 18,660 per hour.
As I said, in total there are 26 production and assembly lines in this factory. Only this plant has a capacity to produce no less than 311 mobile phones per minute, more than 18,600 mobile phones per hour. Almost nothing.
Third stop: a walk around the campus
But the OPPO factory in Dongguan is more than just a factory. Many of the employees live within the area called campus, where they have facilities of all kinds that make it almost a town within the city, and not a small one. They did not specify an exact figure, but between 15,000 and 20,000 employees work at the plant, which is said soon.
The OPPO factory is almost a town within the city that houses between 15,000 and 20,000 employees and has all kinds of facilities.
At the end of our visit to the facilities we went to eat at the restaurant Ollie, the only place to eat a la carte. The vast majority of employees eat in one of the canteens where different menus are served and the prices are more adjusted. In total, there are 7,000 square meters of surface for food where up to 2,000 employees
can eat simultaneously.
After lunch we visited some recreational areas, including a playground for employees with small children and a room with arcade machines and billiards. In addition, they indicated that there are bookstores, gymnasiums and sports surfaces such as basketball courts, badminton and even a football field. By the way, curious that on campus on Wednesday afternoons as a day of exercise for employees.
There are also seven dormitory buildings for employees who live inside the campus, because not all of them are housed in the interior, there are also those living in the city of Dongguan that has more than eight million inhabitants.
Our visit concluded in one of the office buildings where we attended a workshop on Super VOOC, the brand’s rapid charging system. We could not see everything but in the time we were there was enough to get an idea of the magnitude of this factory and, above all, the mini-city that surrounds it.