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Siemens factory:
production of DECT phones

October 19, 2001



The plant where Siemens produces DECT phones is located in Bocholt (Germany), an hour of driving from Dusseldorf. It is the only plant of the company that manufactures DECT devices, and one of a few in Europe. The town the factory is situated in is not large, there are only 40,000 inhabitants. The plant employs 3,585 people, where 2,734 are workers and others are administrators, developers and engineers. The plant was founded in 1941 and worked for the German army. In the end of the war the factory was severely damaged and was recovered only in 1946. By 1948 the production of wired phones was set going, mainly thanks to the help of local people. In general, they were specialists which had been working at the plant from the very beginning. The factory worked without any changes up to 1997 when a new production shop, 10,000 sq. m., was built. The new facilities appeared due to a growing popularity of the DECT standard and DECT wireless phones. Let me dwell on the history of development of Siemens' DECT phones.

In 1991 the plant was still producing analog devices of the Megaset series (Models 900 and 910). Two years later a new series, Gigaset, was added to its arsenal, and the first model - Gigaset 1000 was released. As the product turned out to be successful, next year the company launched its modification - Comfort which possessed several new technical characteristics. At that time there were primarily two basic types - Classic and Comfort, which didn't differ much from each other (the differences related only to the convenience in use). In 1998 Siemens developed a new model - Gigaset Pocket, the first DECT phone of small dimensions (110 cu. cm.) comparable to contemporary cell phones in this parameter. The Micro line extended this direction. In 2000 the DECT standard began supporting a lot of other products apart from phones. The brightest example is a home automatic telephone exchange supporting up to 10 receivers and 2 ISDN lines. Today there are many devices using the DECT technology, for example, Siemens Simpad SL4 web-pad. The DECT line now includes Siemens 4010, 4015 of the Classic, Comfort and Micro series.

The first thing that catches your eye is a great deal of ads of cell phones manufacturers. On the photo you can see a huge advertisement hoarding mounted against the entrance. A great variety of smaller posters are spread all over the territory of the plant.

In the checkpoint hall there are several stands with different phone models and a screen which plays ads of new handsets. In the office building you can see a phone made of unbroken wood.

Having put on overalls we take a few steps and get into a production shop. It is rather quiet here, the floor is covered with antistatic coating since components of phones and assembled devices are sensitive to statics.

The first line produces phone cases. In fact, all lines can manufacture any current model. On the photos below you can see how presses form blanks which are afterwards driven to the production line by conveyers. The front panels are manufactured in two stages as they have dirrerent trims; they are also pressed but at the second stage.

After that cases are checked to meet the quality requirements and then delivered to the next pipeline to get labeled.

You can draw any mark you like, but it will be profitable only if there are not less than 50,000 phones. The largest part of investments is required not for changing a logo but for changing information in all Siemens' catalogs.

Another line deals with processing of printed-circuit boards for future phones. One plate houses 8 blanks. The boards have 6 layers, at the first stage they are covered with conductor lines and then with solder to fix components.

In front of the production lines you can see an amusing poster with a an appeal to increase labor productivity.

After that small components are set onto the boards; they are put into tapes wound round reels. First these minor details are not soldered to; on the photo you can see how small they are. Then it is a turn of larger components and only after that all of them are soldered to the board. By the way, the machines installing the components on the boards are developed by Siemens and are said to be quite popular with various firms and companies all around the world.

In a special chamber the solder melts and gradually fixes components. The temperature increases in 8 steps, then drops in 2 steps and then the plate is sawn into 8 boards. The quality control is carried out at each stage. The lines are almost completely automated, and in case of any problem they either produce a signal or stops working until an operator solves the problem. Above the most of the lines there are three-color lamps looking like traffic lights. If everything is OK, the green is on, in case of an uncritical fail (for example, components are over) the yellow gets on, and the red will inform you about serious troubles. The side effect of automation is reduction of the stuff.

The finished boards are packed in trays. Of course, all of them are tested, and defected samples are weeded out. On the next line the boards are set into cases: first come small details, for example, speakers, then key-pads and after that - the boards. Finished phones proceed to inspectors who pack them into soft paper. Then comes the final packing and the phones go the the stock. The workers covering phones in paper examine for any scratches or abrasions.

Then we saw how packages of the phones were stored, and how chargers were put into the boxes.

Boxes with chargers proceed to a small line where workers put wrapped phones into them. After that the sets are driven by the conveyor to the last selective check-up and then go to the stock. If a worker forgets to put some accessory such box returns as there are electronic scales which collate weights of the boxes with the standard one.

Here is a cart with new phones.

You see, the production process is very simple and highly automated. The corporate culture is of the greatest importance here which means the through control from the very beginning up to the end. Phones produced in Europe and Asia often differ in quality. While the technologies are the same, it is the corporate culture which is often lacking. It is well known that European product is almost three times dearer than a similar one somewhere in Asia. The Siemens' representatives say that the Bocholt's plant won't be moved anywhere in the near future. During the last year the factory produced about 12 million DECT phones. The lines work 24 hours a day, 6 days a week or sometimes 7 days. This is another evidence of wide popularity of these devices.

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