produced a total of 400 million cell phone cases

July 02 [Tue], 2013, 15:13
The event became known, formally, as the Frankfurt Declaration of 1993, with all the United Nations import the name suggests. The content of the Frankfurt Declaration is called New Management, its principles distilled into a 200-page book that’s distributed to all Samsung employees. A stand-alone glossary was later published to define the terms laid out in the first book. Workers who weren’t fully literate were given a cartoon version. Lee went around the globe, evangelizing his gospel to all corners of the Samsung empire. “He conducted a lot of lectures,” recalls Shin. “It comes to 350 hours. We transcribed those events; it took 8,500 pages.”

And so, just across from New Management Hall at the HRDC in Yongin, is the hallowed Frankfurt Room. A tour guide proudly notes that everything in the room―including the chairs, drab pink tablecloth, and a painting of Venice―are the originals from the room in the Kempinski when Lee delivered his declaration. Samsung had all the furnishings shipped back to Korea and recreated the room precisely.

New Management is centered around a number of central slogans: “Fostering the individual” and “change begins with me” are commonly heard phrases. Perhaps most important, it deals in quality control, or “quality management,” as it’s called within the company. All of that is vividly on display at another Samsung holy site, the Gumi complex, located about 150 miles south of Seoul. Gumi, Samsung’s flagship cell phone cases manufacturing facility, is where Samsung built its first mobile phone: the SH-100, a Brobdingnagian handset that rivaled Gordon Gekko’s Motorola DynaTac 8000 in tonnage.

The first thing you notice about Gumi is the K-pop. Korean pop music seems to be everywhere outside, usually coming from outdoor speakers disguised as rocks. The music has an easy, mid-tempo style, as if you were listening to a mellow Swing Out Sister track in 1988. The music, a Samsung spokeswoman explains, is selected by a team of psychologists to help reduce stress among employees.

There are more than 10,000 workers at Gumi. The vast majority are women in their early 20s. Like most twentysomethings, they move in groups, often with their heads down as they look at their phones. Workers wear pink jackets, some wear blue―which color is a matter of personal preference. Many of the unmarried employees also live at Gumi in dorms that have dining rooms, fitness centers, libraries, and coffee bars. Coffee’s big in Korea; the coffee shop on the Gumi campus has its own roaster.

Inside, Gumi is surprisingly warm and humid. The factory is part of a global network of Samsung facilities that, in 2012, produced a total of 400 million cell phone cases, or 12 phones every second. Workers at Gumi are not on an assembly line; production is done on a cellular basis, with each employee standing within a three-sided workbench that has all the necessary tools and supplies an arm’s reach away. The employee is then responsible for the overall assembly of the phone. Computer stations located throughout the assembly facility can call up real-time manufacturing data from any Samsung facility in the world.
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