Incipient electronics industry on the move
The sector is making modest but sustained progress, expanding production of essential items with a focus on conserving energy
21 de diciembre de 2016 - Taken from Granma
Talking about the electronics industry in Cuba may seem delusional, especially considering the rapid advance of this technology around the world and the gap that separates us from other nations.
In terms of progress, some may doubt the assertion that a take-off, albeit incipient, is underway in this sector in Cuba, but to paraphrase the celebrated Galileo Galilei, in regards to the electronics industry … "And yet, it moves."
Yes, it is moving at the pace allowed by the current obsolescence of our technology, a problem throughout the industry, rooted in the U.S. blockade, and financial limitations which limit access to prime materials.
The electronics industry suffered the consequences of the Soviet camp's demise in the 90s, as did all Cuban economic sectors, and still bears the scars of a period that decimated its manufacturing base. Then came a phase that could be described as "recovery," until the industry hit bottom in 2012, given its own economic tensions, according to Vicente de la O Levy, president of the Electronics Enterprise Group, affiliated with the Ministry of Industry, who spoke with Granma.
Since then, he explains, "Electronics has reinitiated its progress, to the degree allowed by the country's possibilities. Some advances can be observed, above all those linked to the introduction of new equipment in productive lines, such as induction stoves, high definition digital television sets, digital TV decoders, tablets, laptops, and most recently, washing machines."
Vicente de la O noted that, since 2012, all new products reflect a focus on energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources.
Funds have been generated, to sustain the growth achieved, through energy conservation savings, precisely because of this principle, he continued, since the allocation of resources is justified when activities produce benefits, without incurring higher costs.
In fact, he adds, the enterprise group is about to introduce another line of products which should contribute significantly to saving energy.
In addition to manufacturing and distributing energy efficient equipment, De la O Levy emphasizes the participation, since 2013, of Cuban engineers in the design of products, thus guaranteeing, to at least some degree, compatibility with the country's conditions, including patterns of use, voltage fluctuations, and humidity.
Beyond the figures noted on charts, demand for certain items remains much greater that the country's financial capacity, which is not the same as the production capacity, currently functioning at 70 to 72%, the executive estimates.
The case of LED lighting fixtures is illustrative. According to the 2012 national Census, there are 15 million fluorescent light bulbs that could be replaced with LED fixtures, and in state enterprises, some 20 million. Nonetheless, production in 2016 reached only one million. At this rate, De la O notes, it will take years to replace those identified, without considering replacements.
As part of the energy conservation program, in 2014, production of induction stoves and cookware began, the executive recounts. That year, some 80,000 sets were produced, and since then, the annual goal of 284,000 has been reached, although considerable unmet demand still exists.
At this time, he states, "The repair rate for the stoves has not exceeded .03% which has no relation whatsoever to difficulties with the cookware."
Vicente de la O highlights another product: the digital TV decoder, the value of which he believes has not been fully recognized.
He clarifies that the first 200,000 decoders manufactured in 2015 had problems regarding temperature, explaining, "The heat generated by these devices manufactured domestically is similar to that produced by the others sold in retail stores. But the Cuban decoder, being smaller and more compact, dissipated less heat. However, the temperature they can handle without damage is higher."
Along with this problem regarding the perception of heat, the remote control had technical problems. "This was a software problem that was quickly resolved by the engineers, who also found a way to lower the decoder's temperature a bit. The results were certified by the digital television laboratory at the Ministry of Informatics and Communications," De la O explains.
Nonetheless, he states, "Skepticism still exists when it comes to selling these devices, despite extending the guarantee period and improving availability of replacement parts."
For 2017, he reports, "We intend to manufacture 50,000 high definition Android decoders, which allow a television to be used as a computer, and if it is located within a wifi zone, it can capture the signal. It is of Cuban design, like the laptops and tablets, whose designers took into consideration the usage patterns to which these devices are subjected in Cuba."
With respect to televisions, Vicente de la O emphasizes as attributes the benefits of a domestically produced model, taking into consideration the savings achieved by eliminating transportation costs. Although, as far as the final customers are concerned, the people, these sets continue to cost as much as any other imported TVs, which incur freight charges.
Havana's Electronic Industry facility, where televisions are assembled, has a production capacity of 120,000 sets a year, according to general director Iván Barrera Fernández, twice the number actually produced in 2016.
Also located here is a modern plant where decoders have been built since 2015, and where the production of washing machines was recently begun. Plans for 2017 include the installation of equipment to produce small household appliances.
Steps which, Barrera says, will revitalize an industry called upon to expand its development efforts, and join forces with universities, to close the gap that separates Cuba from rapidly advancing technologies.