Today’s adventure featured two company visits: TE Connectivity and DuPont.
TE Connectivity’s international headquarters are 15 minutes from my house, so it was interesting visiting a branch of the company in a foreign country. Once we arrived at the company, our large group squeezed into a conference room where the head manufacturing engineer discussed the branch’s purpose, operations, and facilities. This particular branch of the company was a manufacturing plant that specialized in molding, stamping, assembly, and plating. Furthermore, the plant focuses on creating parts for consumer electronics and mainly sells to Chinese companies.
The manager disclosed to us that originally the plant had a few thousand employees but now only has around 700. This is largely due to the downsizing the company underwent a few years ago, something I was familiar with as many people in my area lost their jobs. Since this downsizing, the factory relies mainly on robots to assemble its products.
Going into the visit, I knew TE Connectivity manufactured a variety of electrical parts like connectors, wires, sensors, and terminals to name a few. I never had the opportunity, however, to see how these products were made. It was cool to see machines cutting intricate designs in soon-to-be electronic connectors and robot arms rhythmically assembling electronic components one after another. Although there were a few machines that scanned and analyzed the fit of the comments in completed modules or the accuracy of dimensions of the freshly cut connectors, most of the quality control was performed by factory workers.
After the visit to TE Connectivity, we ate at a Cantonese restaurant. It was fun to try yet another style of Chinese food and notice the differences in flavors as compared to our past meals. I had the privilege of eating at the same table as Dr. Li who explained to us some aspects of restaurant culture in China. For example, waited will never come check on you to ask how you are doing and if you need anything you must wave them down.
After lunch we traveled to DuPont for our second company visit of the day. I discovered that DuPont was founded in the 1800s, making it the oldest Fortune 500 company.
This particular Shanghai location of DuPont acts as one out of over 150 research centers for the company. The facility also featured an innovation center where we got to see and touch some of DuPont’s inventions. I was astounded by the massive amount of products (many I use in my own life) that were created by this company.
An interesting application of their current research, that I found especially interesting as a bioengineer, was the development of ways to increase food production and safety. DuPont has don’t this by innovating high-efficiency ingredients. One of their products that incorporates such ingredients is yogurt with a longer shelf-life. I thought this was an interesting, but even more intriguing was the the role Chinese culture played in the development of this innovation. This product was created to be sent to underdeveloped areas in the country with lack of good distribution access. Because of the lack of resources in these areas, the yogurt needed to remain edible for a longer amount of time and to not need refrigeration (since in most convenience stores and homes in China, refrigerators are nonexistent). To me, this was an example of the intimate relationship between culture and engineering.