FiiO Factory Tour 2016

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  1. chowmein83
    Introduction, Factory Front and PCB Area
     
    Recently, I had the chance to go on a trip to China. I also happened to be visiting in the Guangzhou, Guangdong area (very southern part of China, little bit north of Hong Kong) where FiiO was located. Realizing there was an opportunity, I contacted the company and managed to set up a factory visit. Thanks to Sunny, James, and the rest of the staff at FiiO for being accommodating and making my visit a pleasant one!
     
    Some notes before I begin – I only had a point-and-shoot camera on me for convenience. Combined with my non-professional shooting skills, I apologize for any bad quality photos.
     
    I also apologize if I seem to ramble or for any poor organization in these posts – it’s my first time doing such a thing!
     
    Also, these are only some of the photos that I took while there. If anybody has requests for anything else they would like to see, I’ll see if I took a picture of it and post it up later. If anybody has any questions in general, feel free to ask.
     
    This is the first post in a series of posts. To jump to any other posts, click on the links below.
     
    Post 1: Intro, Factory Front and PCB Area
    Post 2: Final Assembly Area
    Post 3: Repairs, Final QA, and Stress Testing
    Post 4: Offices
    Post 5: Chat with James Chung, CEO of FiiO
     
    Factory Front
     
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    FiiO’s factory is located in a nondescript building in a somewhat out-of-the-way area. This is how we know we’re here!​
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    Right next to it is a statement of FiiO’s company culture and values​
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    Assembly Floor 1 - PCB Area
     
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    Attaching screens to X1 PCB’s to facilitate loading of firmware. Screens will later be taken off before final assembly, where they will be put back on.
     
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    X1 PCB’s being inserted with firmware. At this point screens are temporarily attached to PCBs to facilitate this process and to catch any potential problems with those parts now.
     
    Faelix, leobigfield, Brooko and 2 others like this.
  2. chowmein83
    Final Assembly Area
     
    On the day that I visited, X7s and second gen X3s were being built, each on their own assembly line. FiiO has the assembly lines set up so that they can be flexible in what they are making on any given day. For example, on one day they could be making X7 and X3 2nd gen units. But if for some reason they needed to make some E12s and X1s immediately the next day, they could do so.
     
    One thing to note before I go on is that FiiO provides its employees with regular breaks, something that I personally witnessed. Every so often, someone would be relieved by somebody else and go to take a break. After all, as FiiO says themselves, (besides just being good to your employees) it would not be great to drive them to the ground because that’s how quality starts to go out the window.
     
    Before we went in, we not only had to wear special clothes, hats (to cover our hair), and shoe covers, we also had to step through a special chamber which essentially blew as much dust off of us as possible.
     
    In the factory floor, FiiO aims to maintain dust conditions of 1000 pieces / m3. There’s a special area in the factory where this is lowered even further to 100 pieces / m3. For reference, the repair area (shown later) has about 10000 pieces / m3, while FiiO’s offices (also later) have about 300000 pieces / m3.
     
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    Looking over the general final assembly area.​
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    X7 Assembly/Testing
     
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    This machine actually applies the needed pressure for the X7’s screen to be attached to its metal backing, after another machine applies the glue to the metal support.
     
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    The X7 assembly line on my visiting day.​
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    Checking each X7's USB DAC functionality.​
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    Checking Wi-Fi on each X7 unit. For each unit, they conduct 20 trials. If the average Wi-Fi speed of those runs is ok, the X7 unit passes.
     
    X3 2nd gen Assembly/Testing
     
    The X3 goes through many of the same tests as the X7, so here I’ll just show some of the finishing assembly touches.
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    Putting the center button on the X3ii units.​
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    Manually entering in which X3ii unit goes with which FiiO authenticity code on the box.​
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    Burn-in
     
    FiiO does some burn-in in the factory to catch any potential problems before the units leave.
     
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    X1s playing music as part of burn-in process.​
     
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    An employee checking on some of the units as they are being burned in.​
     
    Special QA
     
    Another curiosity is a movable room on wheels located on the assembly floor. This is a soundproof and specially treated room designed to inspect if the audio output on each unit built is within spec.
     
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    The room in question.​
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    An employee specially testing the outputs.​
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    Mshenay, Steve80 and Brooko like this.
  3. chowmein83
    Repairs, Final QA, and Stress Testing
     
    FiiO’s factory isn’t only home to its assembly lines. These are some of the other areas of the factory.
     
    Repairs
     
    FiiO specifically has a room in which it makes repairs for its products (under warranty, etc.).
     
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    Overall view of the repair room.​
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    Focusing on repairs.​
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    Testing to see if repairs were successful.​
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    Final QA
     
    Units are spot checked here after assembly.
     
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    Overall views of the final QA room.​
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    Stress Testing
     
    FiiO has a room where they specifically perform stress testing. Every so often they’ll pull an assembled production unit for stress testing to see if there might be anything wrong on the production line. They also use this room for durability testing when developing new products.
     
    These are a few of the machines used in this process.
     
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    Static generator. Used to shock electronics to simulate when one receives a shock when touching something metal.​
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    Adjustable temperature and humidity chamber for testing. For example, FiiO needs to test batteries in a variety of conditions to see if they will still hold charge and work properly. They would need to test something like high temperature (40 degrees Celsius) with high humidity (95%), and low temperatures (-10 degrees Celsius).
     
    They also have a designated area here to perform drop tests, but I couldn’t quite get a good photo of that.
     
    Currawong and Brooko like this.
  4. chowmein83
    Offices
     
    FiiO’s offices are located in a separate building, away from the factory.
     
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    The reception area once you enter their offices. Hopefully the FiiO logo clues you in as to where you are. [​IMG]
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    One of the meeting rooms.​
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    Main area where most people in FiiO’s offices are working.​
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    R&D Room
     
    FiiO specifically has a room for research and development (R&D) within their main offices.
     
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    Overall look at the room.​
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    The Audio Precision APx555 - used for testing products in development.​
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    CEO’s Office
     
    This is where the CEO of FiiO, James Chung, works.
     
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    Lounge
     
    If you happen to end up at FiiO’s main HQ for whatever reason, not to worry. There’s quite a nice lounge for you to not only relax, but to also sample their products with a wide variety of headphones and IEMs.
     
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    Main listening station.​
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    Rest of the lounge.​
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    Why not have some tea too, from this nice-looking tea-set?​
     
  5. chowmein83
    Chat with James
     
    So while I was there, I also had the chance to sit down with James Chung, the CEO. James is a relatively easy-going and approachable guy. He’s not the most outgoing guy, but seems to talk rather honestly and humbly. He really doesn’t beat around the bush too much.
     
    We had a very long conversation, covering many different topics. So while I won’t bore you with the entire talk, here are some parts (paraphrased and summarized by me) that I thought might be interesting.
     
    Before I continue any further, I must note that what I am about to write sounds a lot like what Jason Stoddard of Schiit Audio has written in his chapter, “The Big Elephant in the Room.” Funnily enough, I conducted this interview with James several weeks before Jason wrote his stuff. I find it amusing that both FiiO and Schiit have come to the same conclusions independently and that their overall goals are similar.
     
    Earlier in our conversation, James talked about the founding of FiiO and how those circumstances have contributed to the company culture today. I’m not going to go over how they started in detail (FiiO themselves have already done that on their website and did a much better job than I probably could), but I wanted to mention certain apsects.
     
    James mentioned that founders were all engineers. He says that this is probably one of the reasons why there is a “looser” culture at FiiO, as in there is no extremely strict hierarchical structure. Employees don’t have to punch in time cards. There are no bosses over other people in the traditional sense, in that everybody there is able to offer some kind of input for whatever they do. Thus, there is also an emphasis on teamwork and getting things decided through a democratic process, which has also led to high morale among FiiO’s ranks. All employees, as long as they’ve worked long enough there, actually have some kind of stake (like with shares) in the company.
     
    According to James, FiiO is now the largest personal-audio focused company in China. However, he also notes that they are still very small when compared to the largest Chinese companies in general. And it is somewhat strange how FiiO is now in this position, considering that James didn’t exactly study headphone, portable amp and DAC design in his education. In fact, FiiO at first didn’t really focus on its current market of high-fidelity portable audio devices. It was after the creation of the E3 portable amp and its surprisingly good sales that FiiO started to seriously hone in on what they make now.
     
    What also surprised FiiO at the time of the E3 amp is how many of their sales came from outside of China. This is something that has only gotten stronger with time, and James plans to have FiiO put an even greater focus on the international market.
     
    James also noted that he tries to be consumer-oriented, which has carried over into how he has led FiiO. As we have seen for ourselves on Head-Fi, James and FiiO are pretty willing to listen to consumer feedback, and are very focused on consumer satisfaction.
     
    This is a part of FiiO’s mission (according to James) of making affordable, great-sounding products in order to get as many people as possible to be able to really enjoy their music. To do so, they focus on selling products at whatever products are actually worth, and not engaging in what they think is overpricing by some.
     
    James notes that charging absurdly high prices for audio gear, and thus effectively restricting the hobby to the rich will only lead to the death of the Hi-Fi market. According to him, there is a vicious cycle in play. First, by originally setting the price very high, not many people will buy the product. To make up losses, the company might set an even higher price per unit. This leads to even less people buying the product, and so the cycle starts again.
     
    FiiO wants to avoid that (and instead, perhaps expand the market) by making affordable products that not only sound good, but are also reliable, easy-to-use, and just overall good. This is also a reason why they haven’t created any extremely high-end products as of yet, even though James says they could.
     
    To top it all off, James views this mission not merely as a hobby, but as a duty for him to fulfill. He is serious about creating products that will allow everybody to listen to their music in good quality.
     
    Overall, I was actually impressed with FiiO after being able to talk to them and visit their premises. While everybody acted professionally while I was there, at the same time they were also all very friendly and approachable. I guess James really does look after everybody and rub off on them, like Sunny said to me.
     
    Not only were the people great, but I was also impressed with their operations. What especially astounded me was how much quality checking was going on. There were quality checks when PCBs were first prepared, quality checks at final assembly, spot checks even after final assembly, and apparently even some quick spot checks before units actually leave FiiO’s premises. No wonder I’ve never had a FiiO product fail on me.
     
    I would like to thank James, Sunny, and the rest of FiiO for allowing me to come and take a look at their factory and offices, as well as to take many pictures. They were all very welcoming and were glad at the chance to show to others what their workplaces actually looked like, as a part of their beliefs to be as transparent as possible.
     
    I hope this is an interesting look into FiiO!
     
    Mython, Ultrainferno, aangen and 11 others like this.
  6. TheoS53
  7. howdy
    What an experience to have!

    Very cool of James and FiiO to give you a Tour and to take pictures as well.
     
  8. Dobrescu George
    So much win! 
     
    Looks very nice! 
     
    I did not know that parts of assembly were done by hand. 
     
    Seems Fiio has very good QC. 
     
  9. ngs428
    Thanks for the information. Very interesting!
     
  10. Jess70
    Thanks for that tour.
     
  11. Skullbox
    Yes! nice opportunity tour you got, in the heart of FiiO factory!
     
  12. seanwee
    NICEE!!!![​IMG]
     
  13. mochill
    So great
     
  14. duyu
    Great post. Very informative.
    Good to know more about FiiO's manufacturing process.
    Also, James is indeed a very nice person.
     
  15. lurk
    No selfies with James? :joy:
     
    Edric Li likes this.
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