Introduction

Last year, we took the opportunity to travel with EliteGroup (ECS) and take an in-depth tour of their production facilities. On that tour, we had the chance to see PCB and motherboard assembly, as well as system building and testing. After receiving such warm response from that article, we jumped all over the opportunity to visit Abit's Chinese production facilities.

Although motherboards in and of themselves are quite fascinating, the underlying political struggle between China and Taiwan lays the framework for a more interesting modern issue. As we mentioned in last year's ECS factory tour, political indifference between Taiwanese and Chinese governments prohibit Taiwanese companies from investing large amounts of money into Chinese assests; this includes factories, warehouses, etc. Traditionally, companies like Abit simply incorporate the factory as a completely autonomous corporation. Abit uses the corporation, ANCO (now ANCO-Rolly), to outsource production of their motherboards. Even though ANCO-Rolly is a separate corporate entity, they can best be described as Abit's near exclusive business partner for production. Corporations like Rolly operate constantly in sync with Abit, selling assembled boards back to the Taiwanese company at cost. On paper, these companies are technically and completely unaffiliated with each other, but off the record, they behave together like a single conglomerate.

More recently, companies like TSMC have contested Taiwan's limitations on factories in China, but it will be some time before we see smaller companies like Abit make such leaps.

Rolly (pronounced like "Raleigh") sits across the street from ASUS' Chinese production facilities, and down the street from Canon's assembly plant in the Jiansung providence. Even though people commonly claim that these factories are located in Shanghai, they are actually about an hour west of the city in the industrial work district, called Suzhou. Like Shen Zhen, Suzhou is a special city inside China where companies like Abit and Canon are allowed to practice more capitalistic business practices not typically sanctioned in communist China.



A model of the factory
Click to enlarge.


The plant was built in 1999 with Compaq when Abit received a contract to produce components for Compaq in Southeast Asia. Rolly has 12 SMT lines, about average for a production facility of this size. Most of the practices adopted by the factory in 1999 were revolutionary at the time. Compaq, one of the most conservative and diligent OEMs at the time, worked with Abit to set up one of the most stringent QA programs in the motherboard industry. For those who follow Abit's track record closely, around late 1999/early 2000, Abit's quality in motherboards increased tremendously.

SMT
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  • fengpc - Sunday, August 22, 2004 - link

    Visited Suzhou two times, it's a nicer area than ShenZhen IMO. The industry zones look cleaner and more organized. However I believe they will have power issues just like other mfg zones in China soon. Nice article, enjoy reading it. Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/motherboards/a...


    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Glenngalata - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    An excellent overview of what is involved in the motherboard manufacturing world.

    The key point to this article is the availability of cheap labor. There would never be a way to produce an American made motherboard product that would be cost effective against the the far east produced items which is unfortunate.

    Another key point to the article is the comment of the ABIT quality control being obviously tighter than that of ECS. Anyone who has owned an ECS product can attest to the fact that the lemon rate for their products distinctly shows the quality difference going against ECS. They may be a larger company but they did not get there by catering to buyers who care about any level of satisfaction. Maybe this is why ECS was voted one of the worst quality control entities in the entire motherboard segment.

    The choice is yours but ABIT scored my vote on this one.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    yeah please, whats the url? Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - link

    14: I have it - its 23MB though. send me an email, i will drop it somewhere you can pick it up.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • manzana - Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - link

    Interesting article. Wish there was a video of that person building the pc within 1 minute ;) Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    very nice article, makes me miss my days in the industrial automation field, but not the pressures :) Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    Jaramin,

    Like i said in the ECS article also, workers work about 8 to 9 hours a day and are provided with meals/housing. There is very little variation between any company that operates out of China; its kind of all about standardized. If you have any other specific political or economic questions feel free to ask.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Jaramin - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    It would be nice if some more information about the ethical or human ressource aspect of the manufacture would be included. The only thing that was provided here is that the workers are paid 100$/month...

    Some of us like to know what is the actual human cost of a product. Knowing that company A offers better working conditions than B could certainly weight on my choice of boards.
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, June 14, 2004 - link

    While I don't really have anything of substance to say, I would like to say that this is one of those "wow, that's cool" kind of articles that are always great to see. Kudos for doing these kinds of things, guys. Reply

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