1,000 PCOS machines produced daily
SUZHOU, China - The 3-man team sent by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to China concluded on Friday its inspection of the assembly line for the Precinct Count Optical scan (PCOS) machines for the May 2010 synchonized national and local elections in Qisda factory in Suzhou.
The team, composed of Comelec information technology (IT) head, Jeanie Flororita, Comelec IT consultant Professor Renato Garcia, and Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) Commissioner Tim Diaz de Rivera inspected areas in the Qisda factory dedicated for the PCOS machines' plastic molding, plastic injection, metal tooling, metal stamping, assembly lines, raw materials storage, completed PCOS machines packing and storage, diagnostics tests, laboratory tests and surface mounted technology lines.
Thirteen plastic components and 23 metal components of the PCOS needed its own mold before it could be mass produced, said Jorge Vasquez, Smartmatic vice-president for operations.
"We are fortunate that we do not have to outsource these parts because Qisda has these large factories inside their 84-hectare compound capable of creating the molds and toolings. That is an advantage of this facility over others, it speeds up production. Some of these molds and toolings are very expensive. I can cite one that costs US$1 million, but it is worth the investment because we are doing it here and we are doing it ourselves," he added.
Smartmatic officials say this is one thing they want the people back in the Philippines to know: that components are mass-produced at a very fast rate because machines are the ones that do it. And all that Qisda factory workers have to do is maintain stringent quality control at every phase of the project by carefully inspecting factory machine outputs.
CICT Commissioner Tim Diaz de Rivera said his group is happy that the mass production of the PCOS has started. "What concerns us now is for them to meet deadlines, complete the machines on time vis-a-vis quality standards. Quality should not be compromised," he said.
Professor Renato Garcia said the challenge now is to achieve the earlier targetted full-production capacity of 3,000 PCOS per day.
"The machines should arrive in the Philippines right on schedule, that is what Comelec is expecting. And we hope they meet their target of full-production capacity at 3,000 PCOS per day so we won't have any problem achieving that," he added.
This is the first week of the PCOS mass production at Qisda. Smartmatic clarifies that the full-production-capacity target cannot be abruptly achieved especially on the first week. Rather, daily increases on assembly output is imposed on the four assembly lines at Qisda dedicated to the Smartmatic-Comelec project.
The assembly line is composed of 250 personnel responsible for putting the machines together on a 12-hour, 6-day shift. More shifts will be in place in January.
As of today, the assembly lines' output is 1,000 machines per day with a total of more than 6,000 completed PCOS machines at the Qisda warehouse. Each machine takes 10 minutes to complete.
"How it works is we give each assembly line a daily output target which is reflected on an electronic board they can see. Also on that board are the number of machines they should be completing at a given time of the day, their actual output, and then their deficits or extra machines produced," said Ernesto Vecchi of Smartmatic.
These four assembly lines compete with each other on the speed by which they are able to assemble the machines. The best-performing line gets incentives.
Smartmatic, however, clarifies there are diagnostics tests along each phase of the assembly line. Paper feeding with the use of a specially designed diagnostics ballot, for example, is done ten times before a temporary serial number of approval is stamped.
Vasquez says this makes it easy for them to trace any machine anomaly since serial numbers can hold accountable the specific assembly line responsible for putting together the problematic machine.
At the rate mass production is going, Smartmatic President for Asia, Cesar Flores, said they can confidently meet completion deadlines. Smartmatic assures all 82,200 machines will be completed by February 8. A shipment of 3,200 PCOS machines will arrive in Manila on December 27. Deliveries are expected to go full-blast after the holidays since December is a peak season for international shipment services.
"We are subjecting the completed machines to very stressful reliability, diagnostics and laboratory tests and there are no problems. the machines are performing above expectations. For example, at random we put a PCOS machine under humidity test at 95% humidity for 24 hours straight. That is way above the average humidity in different parts of the country. But we want to be sure that's why we are stressing these machines in these tests," he added.
Flores said these tests are necessary because smartmatic cannot compromise its international certifications.
Also present during the Comelec China inspection were Smartmatic-TIM Chairman Jonji Villa, Alberto Castro, Smartmatic-TIM project director, and this reporter.