Finnish manufacturer Nokia Corp.’s handsets continue to rule the Indian market, despite the recent explosion of new brands in the lucrative mobile phone market.
Nokia was the first manufacturer to enter the country, and a visit to its only manufacturing plant here (one among nine worldwide)—in Sriperumbudur, around 45km from Chennai—takes you to a bustling special economic zone, with the firm’s over 8,000 employees walking in for their shifts in white and blue coats. Most of them have joined after finishing school or are diploma holders, and they are responsible for the plant having produced roughly 350 million mobiles from January 2006 to April 2010.
There are two separate stages for assembling a Nokia phone—the “Engine Operations” come first, where the “engines” of the phone are produced using a printed circuit board (PCB), creating the foundation on which the other components can be mounted. These are then sent to the “Supply Operations” side of the facility, where the mobile phone is assembled, packed and shipped for sale.
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In the first stage, an area out of bounds for photography, the PCBs are loaded in groups of four on to a “printed wiring board” loader and various components, such as resistors, capacitors and vibrators, are embedded in the PCB with the help of a viscous paste. At this stage, around 90% of the components required are embedded in a phone.
This is followed by an inspection process where the 200-odd components (a figure that varies from phone to phone) are checked. After this, they are subjected to a specific temperature to solder the components firmly on to the board.
Then, in a step that was performed manually until last year but has now been completely automated, the phone’s liquid crystal displays (LCD) are fixed. The four boards are separated and the thin layer of cover found between the front and back shells of the cellphone is fixed. Finally, the basic user interface is tested. If any problems are identified, it is worked on again. It takes around half an hour to produce one “engine”, depending on the model.
Thereafter, the “Supply Operations” commence, described here with the aid of photos.