UNWRECKING THE TRAIN
In July 2000, I made my first trip to our company’s new China facility, located in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district. Wholly owned by an established American corporation, the workshop I entered should have seemed clean, quiet and well organized, especially after walking up 8 rat-infested, garbage-strewn, spittle-streaked flights. Unfortunately the walk up had not prepared me for the god-awful mess that awaited me on the 8th floor.
The first thing one noticed upon entering was the shouting. Some Chinese dialects sound like arguments anyway, but these guys (it turned out to be an unpaid vendor yelling at the Purchasing manager) were really going at it. At the same time, not 2 meters away, the General Manager sat hunkered down behind his computer screen .
Then there were piles and piles of scrap-looking paper on every desk (many of these turned out to be hand-written and forever unfiled material receipts, PO’s, and technical documentation). The ceramic floor (why they installed ceramic floor tiles is still a mystery) were littered with rat pellets.
And one other small detail… they weren’t shipping!
Our company’s headquarters in California had been established for over 40 years, and maintained a world-class customer base. But our new China factory wasn’t performing, and looked like it never would. News reached the US headquarters that things weren’t going well, and various managers sent over by headquarters were giving the shareholders conflicting (and self-serving) versions of what was going on. As I was living in Taiwan and can speak Chinese, the shareholders sent me to help resolve the conflicts, assess the situation and report back.
I was at the facility on a one week assignment– I stayed for for six years!
During that time I led the restructuring and resurrection of that facility, and the phoenix rising from those ashes became a preferred supplier to GE Healthcare, Abbott Medical, Intermec (Unova), Teledyne, Bloomberg, Pitney Bowes and others.
Those six heady years turned me into “change junkie”, craving the recognition, self-satisfaction and financial rewards derived from leading sweeping changes in corporate structure, implementing MBO, and introducing concepts like lean, zero defect, and Kanban. No Kaizen “tweaking” for me, I want to take the place in hand and turn it right-side-up today!!