What's working in a Taiwanese/Far East Manufacturing company like?

The industry I’ve worked in for the past decade is developing IT systems for Manufacturing companies, but it’s been mostly small run, or relatively small volume outputs with only small routing variations based on the product being manufactured, therefore it’s usually quite specialist skills and processes required and with that the time given is relatively high as it’s just someone at a desk with an hours allocation.

I’m interested if anyone has any experience of visiting, or working in, manufacturing factories that make high volumes of stuff like computer chips, or any other mass production consumer item, and can describe the working conditions, and what’s expected of them?

I’ve heard about BoM scraping and such, where they review the bill of materials for the products and try to squeeze out fractions of pennies from the cost of sales to maximise profits, and that the timekeeping is really regimented, but would be keen to hear any thoughts on this topic.

Of course, as always, don’t say anything that might get you in trouble! But I’m keen to learn about the reality of the industry from people that have experienced it, without the marketing propaganda filter of photoshopped unmarked white clean corridors, etc.

Low pay, long hours, poor working conditions, little opportunity for advancement, zero appetite for innovation unless forced to because it costs money. The only real game is low cost. Otherwise you’ll lose the business to competitors.


What can you do?


Could you elaborate on this?

Could you please expand this question? Not sure what you are asking, or implying.

I might know people. Curious on what kinda job you wanna do and obviously what you’re able to do.

And the people I know don’t do stereotypical poor working conditions described above. There are, but it’s not everywhere.

Thank you, but that wasn’t the intent of my question in this case.

I’m just interested in what high volume Manufacturing “looks” like - one might think stereotypically (not specific to the Far East though) of massive factories hemmed with linear production lines and workers “sardined” along a conveyer belt, but from what I’ve heard and seen it’s actually more lots of small factories doing individual operations and it rolls up from there? Kind of a bit more of a “Lean” model? And the factory itself being effectively a machine which is built and run as-is until it’s obsolete and then replaced.

My experience is mostly in the West where you are given a lot of flexibility, and tea time is generally whenever you like, but again, I’ve never worked anywhere with an output of more than 500 products a day.

I don’t really know for sure but passing by so many factories makes me not want to work there.

For the most part there is no air conditioning, so try working for minimum wage (your wage will likely not exceed about 120% of minimum wage) and be sweating like a pig most of the year.

My experience with Taiwanese boss is that their demand is bottomless. You will never, ever make them satisfied regardless of your ability or how far above and beyond the basic job description you achieve. Those are expected of you and thus are not deserving of praise. However one mistake, even a tiny one and you will be “coached”. Raises do not exist, you only get a raise if the government raises the minimum wage above your present wage. Your performance will never justify a raise, the boss will see to that.

Probably one reason why most Taiwanese workers are unproductive. What’s the point?

Best you can do is work those jobs long enough to save up enough to start your business, but those wages are low enough that you’ll live paycheck to paycheck. It’s designed to maintain the status quo, not allow advancement. Advancement may be possible if you quit after a number of years and go into management.

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Not sure if it counts as “high volume”, but I’ve visited several EMS manufacturing lines in Taiwan and China (and for comparison: Germany). Products are PC/Server mainboards and smaller cards. Once I saw Gogoro electronics on the next line, so that stuff seems to be similar. The output would be a few hundred pieces per line per day, but with many parallel lines.

Here are some impressions (also includes some info from workers I talked to or dated):

In Taiwan, the operators are a mixture of Southeast Asians and some Taiwanese, the supervisors mainly being Taiwanese. In China, all are Chinese. Most of the workers doing the basic jobs live in dormitories, often on-site. In some cases the workers are not allowed to leave at all, in more cases they are allowed to leave on days off. Many SEA workers are young and female, and it seems the factories are very worried about them getting pregnant. In case that happens, they seem to be sent back to their home countries.

The factories often provides food. In China, I joined the operators in the company cantina, eating the same very cheap food. I liked it; it seemed surprisingly good (not just lunch boxes). Both food and lodging often seem to be paid for by the worker.

In China (also sometimes in Taiwan), the workers’ mobile phones are collected before starting a shift and only returned during scheduled breaks and after the workday ends.

Pay, training, safety equipment, quality of facilities, and so on at the factories I saw seemed the bare minimum. Each station would have instructions (SOPs) about the work steps to be performed there. Workers would be mostly standing. When sitting, it would be on non-ergonomic stools.

The way the supervisors treat the workers seems to be between not caring much and being very strict. The few workers I talked to in private didn’t mention verbal/physical abuse or disrespect by supervisors. In one case (Industrial mainboard manufacturer DFI), the workers felt quite positive about some of the non-supervisor staff at the factory. Like the elderly Taiwanese main gate guard that would be friendly to them and even support them to do stuff officially “forbidden” by factory rules (enter/exit times, using factory facilities on days off, …). They would reciprocate by sharing self-cooked food with them on days off, when they would do picnics near the factory/dormitories. The worst experience I’ve heard about was physical and verbal abuse by a Taiwanese boyfriend.

All of the above made me feel that the companies don’t care much about the freedom, safety, feelings, well-being, and so on of the workers – but instead, only that they work. The workers seemed to be treated as easily replaceable – almost like machines. Nothing like what I saw before in Germany for the exact same kind of work: somewhat valueing skilled workers and their experience, trying at least a bit to make them comfortable and keep them healthy.


Yea, in a nutshell if you are a low level employee, you are basically a machine and must behave as one.

Workers only become more valued if they become a supervisor or manager.


Thanks for all of your comments.

Sounds pretty intense, looking at a major hardware supplier as an example, it seems they have a fair number of mid-size factories, as opposed to the smoke-billowing forge factories which one might imagine from 18th Century Manchester, suggesting a leaner and more specialized (or perhaps product-focused) approach, meaning effectively the whole factory can be disposed (in the financial sense)

I worked in Taiwanese high-tech manufacturing companies for a while, over ten years ago, as a supplier (we installed machinery there).
While not up to European standards, I found the working conditions much better than elsewhere in Asia (where I performed the same work and thus had the same insights).
In general, Taiwanese are refreshingly open, pragmatic and (mostly) happy with their jobs. I liked to work with them!
The leadership style varied from hierarchic (“boss controls and decides everything”) to very co-operative - but in general the lower ranks (in my case engineers and technicians) have more responsibility and are trusted more than in, say, China, Korea or Thailand.


I think not so easy to describe the conditions as can vary greatly between companies. I also think is a matter of your perspective on what is construed as poor working conditions…if working conditions are a key point of your enquiry.

At the large ODM company I worked at within a large factory there are different types of jobs with a large difference in working conditions. My comments are related to factories in China. We also had factories in Taiwan, Mexico, etc.

To me many of the tasks were not overly strenuous. Yes, there are some very tedious tasks…and there are also some tasks like loading some automated equipment which is extremely easy. Most of the workers actually wanted to work overtime. They were living away from home and their key point was to make money. There was high turnover just because they were there to get some cash in their pockets and then move on.

As for living conditions I would bet that 80% of the workers living “on-campus” were probably living in better conditions than their original home. Of course, that is my guess. I say so because more and more workers are from the west. And the campus is safer than the neighborhoods around the campus. My company installed 10,000 air conditioners at the dormitories at one plant. Conditions are always being improved.

By the way, any large EMS or ODM company with U.S. or Europe customers are also facing a wide range of CSR (corporate social responsibility) requests from customers. They examine many parts of the operations and living conditions. An example…previously my company deducted food costs from all employees working on campus. Customers requested the company to charge per meal instead. Yes, more fair but not really many employees skipping campus meals. So, the company created a meal card to swipe at each meal then the cost deducted from salary.

There is so many aspects to consider. Of course, are good and bad issues at any factory.


I guess the difference is the governments here do not micromanage employment like they do back in the West. So companies will really only improve worker conditions if their client requests it. Since we’re talking multi billion dollar contracts, they are far more incentivized to comply than if the government went and forced them.

However I don’t know if this is good or bad because seems much more anarcho capitalist here than in the West.

Fact is 99.999999% of the people aren’t going to end up like Elon Musk or Facebook. I think if you want a government that serves the people, then things to help the common laborer is going to be necessary.

Texas is a crappy place to be a worker because of at will employment, and trickle down economics.

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