During the Great Recession of 2008, in the United States engineering companies began closing down. General Motors in Dayton, Ohio, was one such company that had to shut its doors due to the economic downturn.
This meant a factory was left empty and ready for a new tenant, and 2,000 workers were out of jobs.
Eventually, a new tenant from 7000 miles away, made their way into town in 2013. This was Fuyao Glass Industry Co. Ltd., a company owned by a Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang.
Fuyao is China’s largest automotive glassmaker that exports to both Chinese and international regions.
The factory takeover is the focus of a new documentary, ‘American Factory.’ It is the first film produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company and was released on Netflix.
The documentary delves into the several complexities an engineering workplace would naturally see when two cultures meet. Factory workers used to an American leadership style quickly learn the intricacies of having Chinese managers presiding over them.
In the film, a newly employed American Furnace Supervisor is taught how the factory works by a young Chinese Furnace Engineer named Wong. Wong has 20 years of experience with furnaces inside glass factories.
The two are compelled to build up a working relationship. Mandarin-speaking Wong has to train English-speaking Rob.
“Wong and I have spent a lot of time together with him teaching me everything. Mother’s Day, we spent the whole weekend working together with our little translators talking back and forth. That’s when they told me that they had to be here two years, away from their family, no extra pay. That really made me start thinking and appreciating what they’re doing for us more and more,” Rob, the Furnace Supervisor in the documentary, said.
Automating the factory
The documentary ends with the directors guiding the attention of the viewer to the rise of automation that the world is seeing today. Inside Fuyao’s factory in Ohio, KUKA Robots have replaced some of the workers in the factory.
Workers who once picked and placed glass panes are no longer doing the job. The documentary shows a statistic about how automation is automating-out some of the workers in factories across the globe.
“Up to 375 million people globally will need to find entirely new kinds of jobs by 2030 because of automation. How workers, governments, and businesses tackle these seismic shifts will define the future of work.”
The globalization of engineering companies has led to a fusion of workplace cultures and labor practices around the world.
“American Factory.” Netflix Official Site, 21 Aug. 2019, www.netflix.com/watch/81090071.
Mui, Ylan Q. “A Chinese Billionaire Is Staking His Legacy - and Thousands of American Jobs - on This Factory in Ohio.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Oct. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/26/a-chinese-billionaire-is-staking-his-legacy-and-thousands-of-american-jobs-on-this-factory-in-ohio/.