by Raul Menchaca
GUANTANAMO, Cuba, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese technology is helping automate Cuba's furniture manufacturing, which has picked up pace to keep up with the island's expanding hospitality industry.
Muebles Imperio, a plant in Cuba's eastern city of Guantanamo, exclusively supplies the growing number of hotels opening around the island as Cuba works to promote tourism.
The plant invested under a million U.S. dollars to acquire high-tech Chinese-made machinery and equipment to improve productivity and quality.
"Our clients approve of our products much more when the manufacturing is automated," employee Elias Ramirez told Xinhua.
Ramirez, who describes himself as "a pure-blooded Guantanamo native," is a carpenter and cabinetmaker who was recently trained in the use of a state-of-the-art sectioning machine made by Nanxing, a company in Tianjin city's Shuanggang industrial zone.
"For us workers, it is important because it humanizes the work while providing a much bigger advantage by increasing high-quality production," Ramirez said as he stood by the machine.
Mechanization has also helped save electricity, raw materials and time by automating or semi-automating other aspects of furniture making, with board edgers, a multiple drill, a paint booth, and a waste extractor.
A little over 10 years ago, Muebles Imperio was a struggling, debt-burdened company that had trouble meeting its production targets. But in 2006, the Ministry of Light Industry paid off the company's debts to suppliers, and the following year the Ministry of Economy and Planning offered the company a line of credit.
Chinese input caps the company's turnaround, said Pablo Alcantara, another Guantanamo native and employee benefiting from the new equipment.
The modernization of the plant "is very important for us, because we can fulfill all our objectives and the plans the country has for tourism," said Alcantara.
The machines "are highly efficient and precise, and have surpassed all our expectations" in improving quality and work conditions, he added.
Guantanamo's furniture making industry has become a good source of jobs. More and more young workers are being employed in the furniture manufacturing sector.