As part of the process of digitalization of Cuban society, an unprecedented project has emerged: the assembly of latest-generation laptops and tablets in Havana. Leading the initiative is Fernándo Fernández, who spoke with Granma International.
How did this project emerge?
It emerged as one of the development projects that the Electronics Group has undertaken to strengthen the Revolution's aspirations regarding the secure digitalization of Cuban society. On this basis, work and cooperation agreements were signed with the Chinese company Haier and with the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), for the development of all the applications and software that could strengthen a greater integration and provide more added value to the products created. Thus we would have the chosen hardware with domestically produced software.
What is the role of each of the parties participating in the project?
According to the agreement, Haier will be responsible for providing all the prime materials for the first years of production, in addition to the technology, that is, the production line, with a certified testing locale, and its supply, in general. It is likewise responsible for training related to the entire project and the productive process.
The UCI will create all the software and applications, both for the NOVA operating system (in the case of laptops) and NOVADROID (with respect to the tablets), as well as applications for the productive process itself, the software for controlling serial numbers in order to track the final product.
The Informatics, Communications, and Electronics Industrial Enterprise
(GEDEME) will have all responsibility for the productive and sales cycle, wholesale in the first stage, fundamentally through, Cuba Electrónica, and state bodies and entities.
What characteristics does the factory have?
This was a pretty rigorous project, during which we visited Chinese facilities where this type of production is done. The line we acquired is very competitive per international standards; it is very malleable, that is, it can be used for the production of any high-tech electronic device, with the exception of servers which require another type of technology.
What projections have been established for the factory?
Today we have a production capacity of 120,000 devices annually, that is laptops and tablets, making approximately 500 devices a day, with 80 workers as a maximum.
Our aspiration is to be able to continue working and reach this productive capacity, and deliver this quantity to the market. At this time, this is limited by the country's ability to acquire financing, but the capacity and the training are available; the staff is ready.
What is the sales strategy?
In the first stage, we are joining national distribution projects, via wholesale chains, fundamentally Copextel and Cuba Electrónica, and our production will be destined toward national entities; for another type of market, there would need to be other conditions.
What are the prices for the tablets and laptops?
It depends on the cost of acquiring prime materials, entirely imported and supplied to us by the Chinese provider on credit and via financial mechanisms the country has. But it has been projected that, by 2018, the prime materials for packaging - cardboard boxes, plastic bags, polystyrene, shock protection - will be produced here.
What are the products' characteristics?
They are commercial products, not high performance, because these are expensive. We sell three models of sixth generation laptops with different configurations: Celeron, Core i3 and i5, all with 500 gigabyte hard drives, four gigabytes RAM (working memory in computers, tablets and smart phones), with all connectivity amenities like wifi, bluetooth, HDMI port and USB 3, that are standard technical characteristics similar to any other such product on the international market.
In the case of tablets, we are selling two models fundamentally, of eight and 10 inches, with octa-core processors, two gigabyte RAM, 16 gigabyte of storage, and in the case of the 10-inch model, with accessories like a keyboard and light pen. It also has a USB port, mini HDMI, and can handle a terabyte of information from an external drive.
Could you tell us about the production line in the factory?
The process includes a clean room used for the production or finishing of all laptop and tablet tactiles and screens. From there the flow of production begins on semi-automatic lines.
First we work on the product's assembly. Then the device goes down to an aging room where its is subjected to trials and stress tests to each of its parts and components for two or three hours, in accordance with the agreement with the client, and after having passed all these tests, detailed performance tests are conducted on every one of the devices. Approximately 35 quality tests are conducted there.
Next comes the packing and sealing process. Along with the production line, the certification testing site was acquired with six specialized machines to do the tests on components and the device, both mechanical and environmental. We have a machine devoted to testing the hinges; another to test all the USB connections on tablets and laptops; another specialized one to test the tablets' control buttons. We have an oven with controlled temperature and humidity, as well as a salt spray chamber that simulates our country's natural salinity.
How many workers are currently on staff?
This year we have planned the production of 50,000 devices; the workforce is adjusted to this quantity. At this time, there are about 32 workers, with an average age of around 26, a very young group that went through a very selective hiring process. For this, we contracted the national software company Desoft , that specializes in these selection processes.
Psychometric, skills, interpretation, and concentration testing was conducted, and we chose the workers in accordance with these results.
How is the factory doing at this time?
The facility was inaugurated December 23, 2016, with the participation of Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers. To date, 2,000 laptops have been finished, which are waiting to begin sales this month, and 1,700 tablets. These figures should rise over the rest of the month.
What benefits does the factory provide the country?
This project comes as a result of the Digitalization of Cuban Society Program, and the first great benefit is to provide our country with a product more appropriate for the nation's environment and current uses. But the fundamental objective is to become the providers of this type of equipment for the country, and entirely replace imports.