The Challenges of China – and when all is not what it seems.
(not proof read – excuse any grammar errors or typo’s)
I’ll start with a mention that the schedule hasn’t changed (just this week’s workload has been increased), however I wanted to share a story …
My host company, Mr Wu is the owner, is a supplier of aluminium parts for trains – and let me tell you, the Chinese metro trains and their rail system put our Aussie trains and train system to shame. Mr Wu speaks no English, but I’m often alone with him and we communicate thru the aid of English-Chinese translation apps on our mobile phones. Occasionally a comment or question is lost in translation but mostly one can be understood without too much trouble.
Mr Wu organized the manufacturing of the Gentle Roller aluminium parts and arranged the anodizing to be done at his usual sub-contractor. The anodizing is the beaut blue end panels of the roller assembly and the stunning orange of the fulling drum. I won’t explain anodizing other than to say it’s a dipping process where the panels are dipped into a solution and hit with an electric charge to coat them with colour. The anodizing has been running late and a one-day turn-around becomes a two-day turn-around on a regular basis causing me no end of discomfort on my very tight schedule.
Early Saturday evening, after running out of parts (again) and needing to visit the anodizer to pick up parts for Sundays workload, Mr Wu wanted me to go with him to see the anodizing factory. Work was done for the day and it seemed like an opportunity, so I agreed. It turned out to be a short 30-40 minute drive to the factory that was in the centre of a huge newish industrial estate. The estate itself was impressive in its size and presentation. Well laid out, big wide roads, clean sidewalks, and all 5 story buildings full of industry.
We met the “big boss” who proudly took me around his current premises- a little shabby but good by Chinese factory standards, then we toured his new unfinished assembly area. Huge new dipping tanks, excellent working area for the workers, great offices, and impressive even by “western” standards.
His existing production area was quite well organized, so I congratulated him on his business (via my phone app) and his new premises. Like many delays I’ve been dealing with, I hadn’t received a clear answer previously why the aluminium anodizing was constantly late, so having told the “big boss” what a great place he had, I politely asked why it was that my parts were always behind schedule?
The response came back, “the government keeps turning off the water!”
At this point, I’ve put in a long day. It’s around 8pm when this exchange is happening. I’m dusty, dirty and tired. It would have been easy to throw my hands up in despair. I could rant about third world country’s inability to provide essential (water) services, and moan about government dictatorships. Thankfully I didn’t, but I did want to know why the government kept turning off the water.
Several exchanges later all was revealed.
The government, or the Chinese version of the Environmental Department, has been cracking down on illegal, or over quota, dumping of waste water. They don’t have the immediate means to track it to individual factories, but they monitor the waste coming from a block of buildings or a region (I wasn’t clear on the reference).
If they detect an area exceeding the limits or dumping too much waste the government turn the water off as their way of controlling the environmental protection limits. Everyone is affected as they try track down the culprits.
I’m not an environmentalist or a greenie, but I believe more needs to be done to protect the environment in all countries. It was an interesting moment to reflect that despite our worst, and often legitimate, fears of rampant pollution and third world standards, the Chinese government was in fact trying to reinforce tougher pollution control in the largest industrial region of China.
We drove back to the hotel. I was desperate for a shower to clean away the day’s grime. While I remained frustrated knowing that my production schedule was under pressure, I had to temper that with the positive side – a first-hand experience of a concerted effort of the Chinese to play their part in pollution control. I don’t think any of us would complain about that.
Sub-assembly work on the roller components!