Learning nothing from Icarus

December 3, 2008 at 5:22 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment
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Having recently stood in the shadows of two of the tallest buildings in the world (over in Shanghai), I honestly can’t understand why they are moving forward with plans to build one twice their size right next to them.

shanghaitower2

My only thought is that maybe they are trying to build a skyline that, when viewed from our western lands, looks like a giant middle finger.

To us.

Greatest American Heroes

November 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Faster, Better, Cheaper

Our first business meeting in Shanghai was with Covidien, an American company that had spun off from Tycho Healthcare a few years back. They exist in China to develop local sourcing contracts for their global business and accelerate material cost out opportunities. 

They described their strategy and their progress to us in detail; they are closing and relocating factories to China over a time frame of ninety days. Anyone that has ever attempted to execute a manufacturing transfer of work will read that last sentence with nothing short of holy reverence. 

They went on to explain how they had refocused all of their engineering and R&D dollars into the development of new product and new product alone. They are not focusing any time or energy towards product redesigns with the intent to take cost out of existing products.

I actually had to ask the speaker to repeat this.

The idea is so antithetical to how my company does business that they might as well have been telling us that they had built a distribution strategy around leprechauns and monkeys.

Breaking Ground

Our next meeting was with Diageo, a company focused on the marketing of a variety of international alcohol brands to the burgeoning Chinese market. They described their research, their strategy, and their methods, but perhaps what struck me most was the description of their problem.

They are attempting to market Smirnoff Vodka to a country that is not only unfamiliar with the Smirnoff brand, but also the type of alcohol it even represents. Their customers don’t understand what vodka is. 

It’s almost as if they are attempting to market a Buick to a country that hasn’t yet invented the wheel. I honestly can’t think of anything more exhilarating.

Comforts of Home

I had the opportunity, in the evening, to have dinner with a few ex-pat’s from my company. I honestly didn’t know, until this moment, how much I missed being around the people I worked with.

After seven years with a company, you develop a language, a speech pattern, and a frame of reference that is honestly not available to you outside of the bounds of those whom work there with you. Session C. Session M. TOW. PSI. PLP. NPI. PCTO. CLP.

Ahhhh. Like sweet nectar to a bee. I fear for the day I have to leave the bosom of this great company.

Crazy Hat Party

Our last real night in Shanghai brought with it a sense of release that had been absent throughout the rest of the trip. 

I don’t really have much to say. There was a cover charge. Admittance came with the condition that you would wear this crazy hat. Chinese men danced about on stilts. It all seemed to make sense at the time.

Crazy Hat Fun Time

Journey to the Center of the Earth

November 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Heavy Truck Fail

On our last day in Jinan, we visited a heavy truck assembly factory. This company, responsible for the manufacture of an absurd amount of heavy trucks (read: big) in the world, was a study of manufacturing inefficiency. 

Twelve to fifteen workers in a cell. Ball peen hammers applied to metal assemblies. An utter lack of worker protection or process. Metal on metal, controlled chaos, unfathomable quantities. It was, in a word, China. An obscene amount of labor thrown at any and every problem in an attempt to solve for a variable that remains unknown.

Yesterday and tomorrow meeting in a maelstrom that produces what this country calls today.

Gap Gap Gap Banana Gap

They are all selling the same thing.

I just don’t know how they are producing the revenue required to justify their existence. At any given time, you will walk down a street with shops on either side, abutting and facing, that are selling the same wares are products. How these people make their buying decisions must be haunting the nights of retailers and brand marketers across the world.

The Plane Lands

We arrived in Shanghai late in the evening, or, rather, Shanghai arrived on us. 

The pollution cleared, the sky opened, and the light of the world shone upon us. This city is astonishing.

Gone are the third world streets and the poverty stricken vendors. Absent is the sense of shame and progress presented in the same breath, replaced instead with the sense that these people are, in fact, capable of anything.

We have, I fear, already lost..but seeing what I see tonight, I think that the world may be better for it. It is that amazing.

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