Thursday, June 4, 2009

China: June 3

Last time I wrote I mentioned the apartment we stay at here in Tonglu. It is very nice, although it is definitely a bachelor pad. You can really tell that only guys stay here. From the bed that doesn’t have a fitted sheet, to the tin poster of the Three Stooges, it is all dude. Ashley, you would probably pass out. But there are all of the copies of Maxim and Motorcycle Weekly that you can read. I am going to leave the copy of Wood magazine that I brought with me to really round off the dude magazine collection. But the couches are comfy and they have thick foam pads on the beds to make them more comfy. However, we make the trips to the apartment as few as possible. This is because it is located on the 6th floor of the apartment building and there is no elevator. Quite a workout if you do it a few times. The first night trying to get my suitcase up there was really fun.

The first day in Tonglu was mostly a meet and greet. They took us on a tour of the facility and we met many of the office staff. The first stage of the facility is up and has been running for a few years now. It is 4,000 square meters (about 42,000 square feet). They are building on an addition that is another 6,000 square meters which will make it nearly 107,000 square feet. In addition to that, there is still enough land to add 6,000 more if they need it in the future. It’s a big facility. It is still smaller than the plant in Prairie du Sac (about 180,000 sq ft). We only have machining and assembly operations here. All of the castings and forgings are purchased. We have about 120 people working here.

After meeting the office staff and taking a tour of the facility, I sat down with Jelit (the quality manager here at MTV) and he walked me through the quality system. Not surprisingly, it is very similar to the process we use in the states. Seeing as the QA system was set up by my boss, it makes sense. So it was easy to figure out what they are doing. We walked through the facility and he showed me how they use the documentation to control their process. I don’t have to tell you how truly exhilarating it was.

After the walkthrough we went to the final vendor. He is a local guy and he has probably the best facility we have seen yet. The combination of location and the facility pretty much make them the best choice. We went for a tour of their facility and I asked them a few basic questions about how they control their foundry process. We kept it pretty basic at this point because they have not done much work for us yet. Once we have gotten past the initial engineering / pre-production stage I’ll have to come back and do a more thorough audit of the facility.

Afterwards we went to dinner with them. Normally this means taking a little drive and visiting a nice restaurant. Not this time. What did they do? They walked across the street to the local dive restaurant in the neighborhood. All I could think the whole way to the table was SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT. I am screwed, hello food poisoning. About 10 minutes into the meal Joe leaned over to me and said that he had only ever been to one place that was worse than this and at that place the Chinese guys even refused to eat the food. I was able to find a few things that didn’t completely repulse me. I was able to try eel, which could have been worse. It would have been nice to know that there was a bone in it before I bit down on it, but it tasted ok. Joe was leery of the eel since our CCO ate the eel a while back and found out the hard way that he was allergic. It finally hit him while he was in his hotel room. He couldn’t breathe and when he fell down he knocked the phone off the hook. Fortunately the front desk had the wherewithal to see that the phone was off the hook and that there might be something wrong. They were able to help him out and he ended up being fine. Scary stuff. The only other thing that I found that I could actually stomach was some crawfish that they brought out. They were very good. At the end of the night my plate was piled high with nothing but crawfish shells.

We got back to the apartment, trudged up the 6 flights of stairs and thanked the Lord that no one got sick. I must have a pretty strong constitution because if I was going to get sick, that was the place.

From here on out, it is going to be pretty easy and a lot more relaxed. I will try to type another blog before I get home. Only 3 more days left. I can’t wait to get back home. I am starting to miss Sarah and Isaiah quite a bit.

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