Have you ever wondered how a new LED television set gets put together? It’s becoming increasingly big business as several major Asian manufacturers have opened plants here in order to reduce the cost of import taxes and improve supply chains for the rest of the continent.
But when you look at all the screws, circuitry and tiny bits and pieces that go into making a TV, it seems baffling that they all fit together so well. Ever wondered how it’s done? We have, so we visited one of the few places where TVs get made in South Africa*, LG’s assembly plant in Germiston, to see exactly how the panels get put together.
Panels are prepped for production
The LED panels panels themselves are not made in South Africa, but are rather shipped here for assembly. In the first step of television creation, the panels are prepped with a number of screws, films and spacers.
First electronics inserted
Rolling further down the massive conveyor belt, two separate printed circuit boards are fastened to the back of the LED panel. These PCBs function as the heart of the television set, being responsible for things like volume, picture clarity, USB and HDMI connections and the delivering of the actual visuals.
Sound is important
After the brains of the television sets are inserted and screwed on, each unit gets a pair of speakers. These are simply screwed in place. Once those have been fitted the unit gets a remote receiver, and then all the wiring gets taped down. This is done so that when vibrations occur, the wiring doesn’t come loose and flap around inside.
Once the innards are securely set in place, one of the 100 staff members does a quality check on all the connections, making sure that they are inserted correctly. They then mark each connection as ‘checked’ with a black permanent marker, after which the unit’s serial number gets scanned into the system.
Closing the lid
Satisfied with the production so far, the LED panels receive a plastic back panel to cover the electronics. Using powerful screwdrivers, the back cover is screwed in place. It may seem like an easy thing to do, but LG assured us that it’s actually difficult to screw in all the screws in a matter of seconds.
Setting up the visuals
After the back cover is safely screwed on and in place, the panels are flipped over into a viewing position as it makes its way down the conveyor belt. The units are flipped into the right position so that workers can attach special cables to check the visual quality of the assembled panels.
First sign of life
Making their way down the line, the units are turned on by a specially-mounted remote control. This is the first sign that the panel is functioning. The screens are white, as they have only been given power with no visual source connected yet.
Testing the sources
From there, the panels are gradually connected to various visual sources, such as UHF and HDMI, by a worker behind them. While the panels are facing away from factory workers, a long row of tilted mirrors allow them to see that is on the television’s screen.
A television is now use of the colour scheme is completely off, which is why the units then make their way into a dark tunnel where sophisticated machines check and correct the white balance. Just before the end of the tunnel, workers access the unit’s tool options in the menu to make any adjustments. Because the environment is darkened, the same workers can also check for any light leakage.
First part of the boxing process
After the front panels are wipe off with a clean cloth, the television sets are dropped down to a lower level for the next step in the process. Here, the panels are covered with those white anti-static bags that most would be familiar with, and placed in a box.
Accessories are added
Once the panel has been placed inside the box, the unit gets a polystyrene stabilizers on each side to keep in sturdily in place, making sure that it doesn’t move around when transported or handled. Another worker immediately afterwards inserts a bag containing the manual, the remote control and cables, in the box. After that, the top part of the polystyrene stabilizers are inserted.
Off to the warehouse
Making sure that all the bits and pieces are correctly inserted, the box is sealed, serial number and labels checked, and prepared to storage in the warehouse. From there they will be packed and crated as needed by different department stores.
And that is how you assemble a LED television. Easy.
*Samsung has a similar plant in Durban, and Hisense has long had one in Cape Town too.