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DESPITE ON-TIME PRODUCTION Only 10,000 poll machines to arrive by year-end

Posted on: December 15, 2009

DESPITE ON-TIME PRODUCTION
Only 10,000 poll machines to arrive by year-end

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:49:00 12/14/2009

Filed Under: Technology (general), Elections

MANILA, Philippines—Automation technology provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) would be able to ramp up on-time 42,000 poll machines included in the first delivery schedule but only one-fourth will arrive by year-end due to shipment delays, a spokesman said.

Freight delivery services “cannot accommodate” the delivery of 42,000 poll machines to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) because the shipping lines have already “reached full capacity” due to the high volume of shipments this holiday season.

Smartmatic-TIM instead would deliver the remaining 32,000 units between the first two weeks of January next year, spokesman Gene Gregorio said.

Production of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines have started December 1 and at a rate of 3,000 units assembled per day, Smartmatic-TIM’s manufacturing arm Qisdi Suzhou in Shanghai, China would ramp up over 42,000 units by year-end and another 40,000 for the second half of production before February 21 next year, said Gregorio.

“With 3,000 units produced daily from our four assembly lines, we have over 15,000 units and we would have produced 42,000 units by end of the year,” Gregorio said.

“However, all shipping lines and freight services have reached full capacity due to the increased holiday traffic so we would be able to deliver only 10,000 units by month-end, half of which would arrive this week or the next,” he told INQUIRER.net

“The rest of the 42,000 machines included in the first shipment will be delivered between the first two weeks of January, to be followed by periodical shipments or deliveries before February 21, which is a week ahead of the final delivery schedule agreed by the company and Comelec on the contract,” he added.

The spokesman dubbed that the unintentional “partial deliveries” seem to be “more preferable” for the part of Comelec since the compliance testing cannot be implemented all at once for each machine that will arrive.

“The project management office (PMO), which heads and overseas the poll automation project, would seem to prefer partial over bulk deliveries so as not to be overwhelmed by the end-to-end testing to be done for each machine. As for the time line of activities, we are currently revising the schedule of the two-part deliveries into periodic deliveries to account for the changes. We would release the revised time table by this Friday,” he said.

Last week, Comelec sent a three-man team composed of the poll body’s information technology (IT) head Jeanie Flororita, Comelec IT consultant and Ateneo Professor Renato Garcia, and Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) Commissioner Tim Diaz de Rivera, to inspect the production facility in Shanghai.

All three are members of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) that would hold end-to-end testing of each machine and would certify that the poll machines meets the requirements set by Comelec based on Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law.

Gregorio allayed fears that this delivery issue signals a looming failure of the project and noted the three Comelec representatives have seen that the Qisdi facility is “on-time in the production schedule,” with its 250 personnel manning the machine production in four assembly lines, 12 hours a day and six days a week.

Gregorio stressed that Smartmatic pushed through with pre-production activities such as the acquisition of components for the machines despite the Supreme Court case filed by lawyer Harry Roque that delayed the preparations by a month.

He added they foresee “no further issues delaying the PCOS production,” which is proceeding smoothly due to “improved supply chain of the 12 PCOS components” when the assembly was moved from Taiwan to China.

In another interview Cesar Flores, Smartmatic president for Asia-Pacific, assured that Comelec chairman Jose Melo and all Comelec officials need not worry because its Qisdi facility is “bigger and has more capacity” to meet the production targets.

“Chairman Melo should not have worries regarding the delivery. Although we might have delays in the start, we are always able to meet the delivery schedules,” said Flores, citing the delivery of 20 prototype PCOS units and 100 machines to familiarize and educate Comelec personnel and voters on the automated poll system.

Smartmatic-TIM will hire 50,000 technical or IT personnel to assist in troubleshooting the poll machines once they are deployed for use in the May 2010 elections, he added.

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