Honor, formerly under the aegis of Huawei, welcomed us to its Intelligent Manufacturing Industrial Park, located near Shenzhen in China. We had the opportunity to explore their new assembly lines, their research and development center, as well as their own quality testing protocols.
Visiting smartphone assembly factories in Shenzhen, China, we’ve already done it. At Oppo, for example, we wrote, at the time, “ It’s surprising that human labor is still used for such simple tasks, perhaps because it’s cheaper than designing, building and maintaining robots. “.
Five years later, the same city, the atmosphere is completely different in the Honor factory, because the objective here is to automate everything. Factory Intelligent Manufacturing Industrial Park produces all the smartphones Honor sells, including folding smartphones, in a large building complex on the outskirts of Shenzhen.
By entering theIntelligent Manufacturing Industrial Park by Honor, we are immediately struck by the ballet of robots at work. These machines are capable of performing complex tasks, from high-precision optical sensing to delicate component assembly. The integration of sensing technology and artificial intelligence enables perfect synchronization between each step of the manufacturing process, making such a level of automation possible.
The production line extends over 150 meters, an impressive space where the smartphone takes 12 hours to go from a simple PCB to a finished product, carefully packaged and ready for sale. On this line, the human presence is almost discreet: only 20 people work there. This discretion is explained by the fact that the entire production line is 80% automated.
This is quite astonishing, because ultimately, the only positions occupied by humans are there to monitor key stages. I am convinced that if we come back in 1 year, there will be even fewer humans. We can really see the progress of the material from machine to machine.
Automation on this scale has several clear benefits. First, precision: robots, unlike humans, have no “off-duty” days and can perform the same tasks with unparalleled accuracy. Additionally, this ensures uniformity in production, where each device meets the same quality standards. Finally, efficiency and speed are increased, as evidenced by the impressive cycle of producing a smartphone every 28.5 seconds.
Standing in the middle of the factory gives a surreal feeling. The gentle hum of machines and the glow of touch screens contrast with the deafening noise and bustle typical of traditional factories. The few workers present seem more to be supervisors or specialized technicians, ensuring the proper functioning of the machines rather than the direct assembly of the products.
Honor’s factory provides a glimpse into what the future of large-scale manufacturing could look like. If the advantages in terms of efficiency and quality are undeniable, we ultimately wonder if we are winning.
Fewer humans, much fewer, and more quality steps. But, no one wants to work in a factory: repetitive tasks in a noisy environment and often under constant pressure to meet deadlines.
In my previous visits to other factories, I noticed a predominance of young Chinese people, probably attracted by the need for stable employment, but faced with the monotony and challenges of factory work. This reality strongly challenged me at the time, making me think about the dynamics of the industry and the social implications of these workforce choices.
So I might as well tell you that I see this automation favorably. If it ensures good output, better quality and, above all, allows humans to be relieved of the most difficult and monotonous tasks, then it is a step forward that must be welcomed.
In this production line the Honor Magic 5 Pro was assembled. However, what piqued my curiosity was that on the upper floors, another row was dedicated to the all-new Honor Magic V2, just announced.
In Honor’s laboratory
The rest of the visit took us to the laboratory, the true beating heart of innovation at Honor.
Here, each table, each shelf was the scene of tests. One of the technologies that particularly struck me is that of foldable screens. Honor doesn’t just use existing technologies; the company is trying to differentiate itself. They created a non-Newtonian fluid for folding screens.
Its viscosity changes depending on the force or stress applied, meaning it can act like a solid under some conditions and like a liquid under others.
When flexing the screen, the fluid can help evenly distribute stress across the entire surface of the screen, minimizing the chance of permanent wrinkles or deformation.
When the screen is suddenly closed, the fluid instantly increases its viscosity to become more solid, thus providing increased protection against potential shocks. Conversely, when the screen is gently folded, the fluid maintains its liquid consistency, ensuring a smooth and smooth closure. This is exactly the technology of the Magic V2.
The carbon silicone batteries were another revelation. Extremely thin, these batteries seem to be one of the solutions to the challenges posed by foldable smartphones. Their thinness in no way hinders their power: used in the Magic V2, these batteries, despite their reduced size, are capable of handling an impressive load of 66 watts each.
The tour culminated in specific areas of the factory: an entire floor reserved for essential testing that ensures product compliance with various regulations, standards and requirements specified by operators. Nothing is left to chance: whether it is sound quality, 5G, Wi-Fi, autonomy, product durability or even exposure to waves. Honor is clearly determined to demonstrate her seriousness.
And, to end with a bang, we were introduced to what Honor describes as “the brain.” Perched at the very top of the building is a massive data center, armed with phenomenal computing capacity. This digital brain is essential for performing detailed simulations, addressing and solving complex design and reliability dilemmas. With this impressive computational power, the company can optimize its processes, saving both time and significant amounts of money.
By setting foot in their facilities, we realize to what extent Honor is reinventing itself. Standing out from Huawei’s shadow. Our visit revealed an Honor in the midst of a renaissance, seeking to define its own imprint.