Mobile phones have become much more than just mere communication devices. We use them for internet browsing, shopping, photography, gaming, reading, music and even finding our soul mates via several social networking apps available these days. Name it and your smartphone will have an answer for what you are looking for or intend to do.
While we do understand how these pocket marvels function and what are their software-hardware features, what we don't know or have very little information is the technology and efforts put behind in their manufacturing process.
That said, one of India's leading smartphone maker- Intex took us to pay a visit to company's Noida facility to demonstrate how the company manages to manufacture 2 million smartphone units a month.
We also witnessed the rigorous testing procedures that the production team applies to test the durability of the products. Sounds interesting? Read to find out more.
5 Manufacturing Units across India
Intex has total of 5 manufacturing facilities in India; 1 in Jammu, 1 in Baddi (Himachal), and 3 in Noida. These manufacturing units give employment to over 5,000 employees across the country. We visited two units in Noida, one looks after mobile peripherals such as earphones, chargers, batteries, etc. and the other is solely for feature phones and smartphones.
Both the facilities have dedicated test labs where the employees conduct rigorous tests on the devices in making on various design and manufacturing processes before they pass the final stage of being called a finished product.
Here's a closer look at the manufacturing process of the smartphones.
A complicate process where components play a vital role
Creating a phone from scratch is a complicated process and involves manufacturing and assembling of sophisticated components. Intex follows a standard phone manufacturing process that most leading smartphone makers follow around the globe. The company has its own design team and also takes care of component level manufacturing, which allows it to control the overall manufacturing process at each level.
Intex develops PCBs (printed circuit boards) based on the smartphone model and a dedicated team use soldering technique to fix the various components on the board such as camera module, vibrator, RF module, speakers, etc.
Stage-wise evaluation to reduce the reduction rate
The design team works closely with the manufacturing and assembling department to find out the loop holes. All work in sync under a defined test procedure to evaluate the stage-wise development to encourage improvements in design and to ease up the assembly process.
The above picture shows two modules of same product where the PCB (printed circuit board) on right is an improved version of the left. The image also talks about the improvement in a smartphone's component functionality upon making the change and the level by which the reduction rate has been reduced.
Detailed analyses of phone's PCBs for defects
The assembly line analyzes the PCBs manually to find defects with the help of a sophisticated in-house software. The non-functional soldered components are dismantled if they are not working properly and sent back to get fixed by the team in concern.
The development in each stage and the information about the defected component on PCBs is stored on the software. The results are then saved on server where they are accessible to teams for future analyses and to keep an eye development progress of PCBs.
What happens in Test labs?
A total of 8 machines are installed in the test lab that runs the durability test on smartphones and feature phones. These machines are deployed to test the durability of battery, display and other smartphone components in various conditions. The machines include:
Crush/Nail Penetrating Tester: Nail penetrating and crush test to ensure durability when subjected to high pressure during storage or transportation
Short circuit tester: Ensures battery explosion during any short circuit.
Impact tester: Ensure battery explosion during any de-formation impact
Free Fall tester: Ensure battery explosion and leakage during drop from any angle
Low pressure tester: Ensure the battery functionality at high altitude and low pressure
Vibrator tester: Ensure battery does not explode or short circuit when vibrated
Overcharge and Discharge tester: Ensure the capability of battery during over current
Thermal Shock Tester: To ensure capability of cell average distribution of working temperature
The Final checkpoint
The assembly line also has an IMEI dispensing machine, where every assembled unit is cross-checked with pre-fed IMEI data. After successful checking, the unit is sent to packaging area for final wrapping and to dispatch to the retailers.
As informed by Intex, the company aims to achieve a production rate of 1 smartphone unit per 15 seconds, i.e. 2,200- 2,500 phones in one shift depending upon the complexity of the handset model.
Intex manufacturers its own batteries and even sell them for other feature phones
The second facility in Noida has a full-fledged lab where the company builds battery units for smartphones and feature phones. The batteries are tested in a number of machines as per their product's lifecycles and goes through a rigorous test procedure where they are put to testing methods to test the durability in extreme conditions.
Besides manufacturing the batteries, Intex also sells them to other feature phone makers in country. The earphones and chargers are also manufactured in this unit on the assembly line as per their smartphone model.
Intex also design and manufactures wearables- iRist and iRist Junior, LCD, LED TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. The company is setting up a new plant in Noida, specifically to manufacture washing machines and has its own design teams that allow the company to have a better grip on the products manufacturing process.
The company is manufacturing about 2 million phones per month in five of its manufacturing units across the country and further plans to meet the demands of consumers in the Indian market by expanding its product portfolio that also includes digital services ecosystem and value added services (VAS).
90% of Intex's smartphones are 4G-enabled and company plans to introduce the new 4G feature phones to gain from recent developments. On an average, Intex feature phones contribute 30-35% to our overall revenue generated through mobile segment.
The company currently has over 30 running models in the smartphone category and over 60 more models in feature phone segment in India.
Intex plans to strengthen company's feature and smart phone segment through services in the year 2017. The smartphone maker's focus would be at strengthening its digital services ecosystem and VAS which as per company will be more deeply integrated in their upcoming mobile handsets.