Beijing factories and Olympic red tape
Many of the rules intended to make the Olympic Games run smoothly have ended up disrupting the well-oiled production processes of several factories in Beijing.
By Sigrid Deters
Steven Brader, general manager of the NXP semiconductor plant in the Chinese capital, found himself forced to improvise to keep production rolling. Now that the games are underway, he can take stock.
The machines are being started up again and the blue uniformed Chinese workers are checking the conveyor belts. On those belts are the loose components for loudspeakers for mobile phones that will be fitted together when
they reach their destination.
A modern factory-plant in Beijing ( photo © Alexandra Moss)
The factory has been idle for a week. Not because of orders from on high, but because of overproduction caused by the approach of the games. Steven Brader explains:
"The idea was to ensure that we can always maintain deliveries to our clients. But some of our clients increased their orders before the Games began so they would have enough products in stock. But now the games are here, there's a lower demand for our products, one we
can meet from our existing stocks, and that means the factory doesn't need to operate at full capacity."
Old Beijing - street scene by William Henry Jackson, 1895 (LOC)
The Beijing business community had been eyeing the approach of the Olympic Games warily for at least a year, after it become clear that the city intended to do everything it could to ensure that the games passed off as smoothly as possible. Even if that came at the expense of the business community.
Several of the most polluting factories were closed, while other production centres found themselves lumbered with regulations that hampered the supply and transport of their products.
Fearing possible shortages, Steven Brader's factory purchased in advance an extra large supply of the chemicals it would need for its production process. But later, these turned out to be the very chemicals listed as products forbidden under a security measure designed to foil possible terrorist attacks. (Photo right: Workers at NXP ©Sigrid Deters/RNW)
Mr Brader was also worried about logistical problems. Polluting trucks have for sometime already been banned from entering the capital during the day. A few weeks ago, the rule was introduced that on even days of the week, only cars with even number plates can enter Beijing. Vice versa, on odd days, only cars with odd number plates are allowed in. But the anticipated inconvenience turned out to be less than expected because everyone - including the transport sector - has found ways round the regulations. As it turned out, Mr Brader's factory has actually benefited from the measures.
"We use buses to bring our employees to the factory. Because the amount of traffic has been reduced, those buses get to work earlier. What that means is that during the two weeks of the Olympics, our people can set off for work later because the buses are leaving later, because there's less traffic on the roads."
The machines in Mr Brader's factory are coming back into operation with jerks and jolts, working their way up to running as smoothly as normal. Within an hour, they'll be producing 13 loudspeakers a second once again, just as they did before.
From pain to pleasure
Steven Brader is satisfied as he looks back at how his company has survived the Olympic red tape.
"We made sure we took a lot of extra precautionary measures. But actually, if you look at how everything's turned out in practice, our business hasn't suffered and, on a personal level, we're all enjoying the Olympic Games now that they're here."
Steven Brader (photo © Sigrid Deters/RNW)
So, for Steven Brader too, the games have turned from being a pain into a pleasure.
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[Copyright Radio Netherlands]