This week, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and representatives from several N.C. commodity groups are visiting Beijing on a trade mission. Andrea Ashby, NCDA&CS assistant director of public affairs, is also in China and is posting periodic updates of the visit.
Commissioner Troxler and members of the trade team toured China Tobacco’s Beijing Center cigarette processing plant Thursday. The year-old, state-of-the-art facility produces 20 billion cigarettes a year and includes robotic technology that retrieves and moves around containers of different types of tobacco to be mixed together to create the blends for each specific brand of cigarettes.
The robotic lifts move independently to retrieve tobacco from storage spaces and will even stop when they sense the presence of a person or another lift to avoid accidents in the workspace.
On the campus of the Beijing facility is also a distribution center that is responsible for handling all distribution to Beijing. For distribution purposes, the city is broken down into 16 districts.
Seventy-eight call center representatives call retailers, take orders and log the information into a computer for processing. There is a five-carton minimum for orders. Each person averages calling 100 retailers a day, and 6,000 to 8,000 cartons are sold each day.
One of the most fascinating things about the facility was the recreation area for workers. Workers in the plant have an hour lunch break in which they can eat or work out in the recreation area. In addition to treadmills and weights, the area also includes billiards and snooker tables, table tennis and even a one-player table tennis table so workers can practice returning serves.
Computerization allows the company to monitor and track many phases of production.
Thursday marked the end of the Beijing leg of the trade mission. Members of the cotton, soybean and wheat teams departed for Hong Kong and Vietnam.