Author Archives: Emily Halgrimson

Will you miss driving?

It’s not a car, it’s a way of life. Courtesy of Forbes.com.

By Lloyd Graff.

Could driver operated gasoline cars be the next Kodak film? With Tesla’s stock valued at $20 billion today, selling 20,000 cars at most, and Nissan valued at $42 billion, selling over 1 million vehicles, the market is telling us that Tesla is headed in the right direction and that traditional models could be toast in 10 to 15 years.

Google is investing heavily in the driverless auto, so it is not a stretch to imagine that the epicenter of the car business will move to Silicon Valley in a few years.

The big car companies have a Hummer of a dilemma. They need to show profits for the next decade with human driven, gas-propelled vehicles that 30- to 65-year-old buyers will spend money on, like SUVs and pickups. Young people moving to big cities are opting for public transportation and a rental car for a weekend jaunt. Driving is not necessarily their gig, and fumes are passé. Will today’s F-150 be tomorrow’s Kodak Instamatic?

Elon Musk thinks he knows the answer.

*******

Ina Pinkney is a tough Brooklyn born entrepreneur who runs Ina’s, one of Chicago’s best breakfast restaurants. She just announced that she is hanging up her spatula, and closing the restaurant at the end of the year. She chose not to sell the place or try to franchise it. It was her baby, and she was not going to let somebody else ruin what she had built. I love what she said to Chicago restaurant critic, Phil Vettel, in an interview announcing the shutdown.

“You know, a cake is raw for a long time, perfectly baked for a short time, and overcooked forever. I think I’m going out at the top of my game.”

******

A rogue tomato plant growing in-between the planters

For many years, my brother Jim planted cherry tomatoes every summer in two 4 x 4 feet square steel parts containers on Graff-Pinkert’s property. This year, I decided to let the soil lay fallow. But in the 3-inch space between the two containers a strange thing happened, one tomato plant decided to grow out of the ground. Not a single tomato plant has appeared in the containers full of old dirt, and the tiny crack of space between the containers barely gets any sunlight, yet the single robust tomato plant is now four feet high and full of yellow blossoms rather late in the usual growing season. I find the confined plant an inspiration every day as I drive up to our factory. Nature is resilient.

******

Finally, a comment about how I am thinking today, which is exactly five years after the day I probably should have died from a 100% blocked coronary artery. Lloyd Graff, a Jewish guy from the south side of Chicago, went to St. Francis Hospital, a Catholic institution, to see Chris Costas, my Greek Orthodox doctor, who wheeled me to the Emergency Room where African American and Filipino nurses worked on me until Dr.. Mohammed Akhbar, a Muslim doctor, saved my life with a stent and balloon pump that day. It was one day after the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous Washington speech. It’s my AMERICAN dream.

Question: Will you miss driving?

Share this post

Is Your Quality Their Quality

By Lloyd Graff.

Seth Godin, my favorite blogger, recently wrote a provocative piece about the failure of Kodak and what it means to us as we try to figure out what works in our own businesses.

Kodak knew it was in trouble in its core film lines. Its response was to pour money into research on film to produce the absolute highest quality film. The strategy failed.

The consumers did not define quality the way the Kodak engineers defined it. Consumers wanted photographs they could instantly send to each other at a modest cost. The perfection of the image was not the crucial element to most people.

The definition of the word “quality” in business is relevant to the machining world. In machining today, quality means “precision,” infinitesimal tolerances and beautiful finishes. Could this change if 3D printing continues to get faster and more production worthy? Maybe the world of steel bars and near net castings will slide away like the domination of film in imaging.

We tend to think of machining metal like it is a constant. But look at what happened in the Haas versus Hardinge competition in the 1990s. Haas produced very nice inexpensive machine tools. The Hardinge folks scoffed at the upstart from California. Hardinge kept on trying to build super precision machines, but in no time, their target audience was buying Haas, and the Haas machines proved plenty good enough for most users. Haas built “good and reasonable,” and the machine tool audience redefined quality to include Haas.

In the screw machine world, a Davenport machine that might sell for $5,000-$10,000 on the used market may produce Swiss CNC quality work with the right setup and tooling.

In consumer products today, a generic aspirin may actually be of better “quality” than a Bayer, for a fraction of the price.

It is quite possible that the rules of television are being rewritten before our eyes. Bigger, more expensive cable packages may fade away because “bigger,” as far as the number of channels offered, is being replaced by the desire for an à la carte choice of stations for less money. Most people watch just a few cable networks and dislike paying for 300 stations they don’t watch.

This is a new definition of TV choice, with the viewer ultimately telling the cable company what they think “quality” programming is.

What do your current customers or future customers really want? Are you focusing solely on the quality of your “film”? Is your quality, their quality?

Question 1: Have changing expectations from your customers redefined what the word “quality” means in your business?

Question 2: If you could have only three TV channels, which ones would you choose?

Share this post

Inviting the Wolf to Dinner

“Wolf” by Tyler Garrison

By Lloyd Graff.

This is a story I love to recount to friends about how to look at a business. Harry Quadracci, founder of the immensely successful printing company, Quad/Graphics, allowed competitors to come in every year to see what it was doing, giving away best practices and the current secret sauce. He believed that by showing competitors the newest best stuff it was doing, the company would be forced to take the next steps to get better. In 40 years, the company has grown to 25,000 employees with printing facilities on three different continents.

I get both amused and angry when accountants and analysts make judgments about the health of a business by parsing the “numbers.” As if the numbers truly describe a company.

I’d like to point out some of the critical things the numbers do not necessarily illuminate.

1) The strength of the brand. And related to that, the company’s reputation. Do people refer clients to the company? Does it have name recognition in the industry? Is the company more than the work coming through the door? Is there an ongoing stream of work, or is every job a new bid?

2) The quality of the people. I’m talking knowledge, reliability and integrity. Do the employees not only know how to do their jobs, but also have the ability to cover for coworkers? Do they come in early and stay late to get the job done? Are they loyal, or constantly looking for a better offer?

3) Is the company creative? Is it trying new things, or is it satisfied with doing things the way they’ve always been done? Is the company willing to fail at something new? Does it have the courage to reach?

4) Is the company the standard that others are compared to? Is it one of those that people are referring to when they say, “Ok, they’re good, but they are not (fill in the blank).

5) Does the company believe in itself? Is it a company that continually invests in the future, or does it suck out the cash for other uses?

Question: Would you invite your competitors to an open house?

Share this post

Have we changed?

By Jerry Levine.

It’s been a month since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. Some media commentators suggest that when it comes to race relations, little has changed in the past 50 years. “No white jury is going to convict a white person of murdering a black person in the South.” I disagree. To quote Charles Barkley, “When it comes to race, I don’t think the media has a pure heart.” Driving for high ratings, which enhances advertising dollars, the cable news stations ran the trial non-stop, knowing the racial animus they created would keep people glued to their sets. I always preferred Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

To reflect on how things have changed since the “bad old days,” I reread Bruce Watson’s Freedom Summer, an account of the summer of 1964, when several hundred American college students descended on segregated, reactionary Mississippi to register black voters and educate black children.

On their first night there, three volunteers — Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner — disappeared and were later found murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A few years later, the perpetrators, who turned out to be the local police and Klansmen, were acquitted. It was not until 2005 (41 years later) that the ringleader was convicted, but the others involved still remain free.

Watson quotes a volunteer about what sent her to the South. She remarked on a scene from the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, when a judge asked a German housekeeper what she had done under Hitler. The volunteer asked herself how she would feel 30 years later if someone had asked her what she had done during the civil rights movement and could only say, “nothing.”

I was reminded of my own short-lived “Freedom Ride,” a lunch counter sit-in with black and white friends in Montgomery, Alabama, in the spring of 1962. We naively believed that Gandhian pacifism could defeat knee-jerk hatred and brutality. Thank God no one paid much attention to us or beat on us. We stayed for three days at my black friend’s house and then went off to spring break in Florida. My friend however, stayed home in Montgomery with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. I was terribly fearful for their safety. They were the real heroes.

The Federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 during the Freedom Summer, and the Voting Rights Act followed. Mississippi began to change, as did the rest of the country. By the end of 1965, 60% of Mississippi African Americans were registered to vote, compared to only 7% in 1960. But getting elected was another matter. Jim Crow gave up power slowly. Yet within a few years, Medgar Evers’ brother, Charles, was elected mayor of Fayette with the backing of a former Klan leader. By the late ’70s a black man from the Delta was elected to the U.S. Congress and a black woman was elected Miss Mississippi.

There is still a debate as to whether the Freedom Summer was a catalyst for change or an unnecessary provocation inducing a greater white backlash. Watson is uncertain, but does conclude “the summer changed the minds of blacks who came to look upon themselves as somebody.” Watson also believes that the volunteers were not the heroes of the story. That honor goes to the locals. The volunteers left a month or so later, returning to their northern middle class life. The locals were finally empowered at the ballot box, but they still faced poverty and discrimination.

With each passing generation, this country continues to make strides in racial tolerance. We are not yet perfect. But will mankind ever be perfect?

Question: Have your feelings on race changed?

Share this post

Hanging by a Thread

Family and friends in the waiting room at St. Francis hospital in 2008.

By Lloyd Graff.

Labor Day Weekend is coming up. As a kid it was a day for double headers on TV, barbecue and watermelon. It was the demarcation line between vacation and school.

When I joined the working world, it was the signal that the machining world was going to get serious about finishing the year strong. It meant IMTS every four years and selling machines.

But for the last five years, it has been the long weekend when my life teetered on the blade of life and death.

Labor Day 2008, is shrouded in fog for me. The doctors filled my veins with narcotics designed to eliminate memory after they diagnosed me with congestive heart failure caused by a lateral descending artery that was 99% blocked. The lateral descending artery is ominously nicknamed the “Widow Maker.” Three other arteries also had precious little flow as well.

Incredibly, I walked into St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, 50 miles from my house, under my own steam that Friday. I had thought I might have pneumonia because I was having trouble breathing, so I called my friend Dr. Chris Costas. Thankfully, he told me to come in that Friday morning before the holiday weekend. I waited while he treated a young boy for a minor issue. When Chris walked over to greet me in the waiting area he looked at me strangely. He immediately put a stethoscope on my chest and said, “Lloyd, I’m wheeling you to the emergency room myself. You’re in congestive heart failure.”

Within seconds the nurses were pulling my clothes off. The last thing I remember hearing is “can we cut his boxers?” My wife Risa yelled “of course!” And then I was out of it.

I can only imagine how horrible the next few hours and days were for Risa. Dr. Costas told her after an emergency angiogram that my odds were awful if they had to do an immediate bypass surgery, because I was in such bad shape.

My best chance of survival was to insert a balloon pump and stent in the lateral descending artery, a very dicey procedure in the best of cases. Fortunately, Dr. Mohammed Akbar was on call at the hospital that day and he volunteered to attempt the procedure. Even if it went perfectly, everything had to go well between Friday and the day after Labor Day for the surgeons to feel confident about doing a quadruple bypass and valve surgery.

Dr. Akbar maneuvered the stent in beautifully.

I had my shot at life.

Risa and my kids, Sarah, Ari and Noah, set up camp in the hospital. Friends brought in clothes and toothbrushes for the family. Word spread and more people descended on St. Francis Hospital to support them. I had to live through Labor Day and get strong enough for the bypass. Risa had to be strong – for me and everybody else.

The nights were excruciatingly long for them. I don’t know how I would have survived the waiting if it had been Risa teetering on the brink of death.

They hung on every word from the nurses and doctors.

I slept most of the time, I guess. My sister Susan got to the hospital from Washington DC by late Friday afternoon. My daughter Sarah flew in from San Francisco and reached the hospital by early evening. My brother came as well. I know there was some Jewish praying going on in that Catholic hospital that weekend.

Because it was Labor Day Weekend, there was virtually no elective surgery going on, so the Graff family and friends had the waiting room almost to themselves.

Risa says she got through those hard times because of the support. Sarah’s in-laws, the Roys, dropped everything and flew in from Florida on Saturday to take care of her children so she and her husband Scott could be at the hospital. Every close friend converged on St. Francis Hospital to comfort Risa and my children. It was a loving time, a hugging time, a sleeping on the couch time. That Labor Day was a labor of love for Risa.

And mostly, I slept. And got a little bit stronger.

There is a Jewish prayer recited on the holidays of Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, which are celebrated right around Labor Day – the Unetanneh Tokef. The prayer asks, “Who will live, who will die?” in the coming year and hopefully states that prayer and good deeds can avert the worst events.

My daughter Sarah, a Rabbi in Palo Alto, wants me to speak on that topic this year. I think Risa probably is the one to talk about it.

I endured Labor Day 2008, lifted by the support of my family, friends, nurses and doctors. The Tuesday after Labor Day, the doctors felt I was ready for the bypass surgery.

Before I was to be wheeled to the operating room, a throng of people came to my bed and sang my favorite songs for 45 minutes. I have a fuzzy recollection of the finale, a rousing, Harry Careyesque rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Inspiring. Death defying. It was what I had lived for.

Now, Five years and counting. One day at a time.

Question: Has your life or a loved one’s life ever hung by a thread?

Lloyd Graff is Owner and Chief Space Filler at Today’s Machining World and Graff-Pinkert & Co.

Share this post

I Feel Better Without Health Insurance

Even though I am a 30-year-old homeowner who is financially stable and university educated, I have no health insurance. And now I’ve completely given up on the whole business.

I tried for years to be a responsibly insured person and the experience was frustrating. Because I work as an independent contractor I am not offered health insurance through work, and I don’t qualify for any state assisted programs because my husband and I make too much money.

I used to worry constantly when we didn’t have insurance. We listened to the horror stories in the news of people’s life savings being wiped out by an accident or unexpected illness and took the message to heart − you must have health insurance or you will eventually regret it. That fear led us to purchase a $180 a month individual health care plan through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana. The plan’s $11,000 deductible left a lump in my throat as I wrote the check every month to the for-profit insurance giant that wouldn’t cover basic doctor visits and whose monthly premiums didn’t nearly offset any prescriptions.

A recent visit to the endocrinologist for a basic blood workup that I had been led to believe would be covered under the policy’s “preventative care” clause resulted in a $250 bill for the five minute appointment and an additional bill of $650 from a hospital that the doctor’s office had outsourced extensive blood work to that I unknowingly authorized. When I called the doctor’s office to ask why I was receiving a bill for services I didn’t even know were being ordered, they told me that they had a poster on the wall in the waiting room that stated they may send work out, so I was responsible for the charges. My disgust at the whole system and the feeling that I had been cheated led me to make a five minute phone call to Blue Cross requesting that the insurance plan be canceled.

My husband and I, 29 and 30 respectively, with no medical problems or regular prescriptions, are for the time being wholeheartedly willing to take the risk of living without insurance. We tried to play the insurance game. We tried to be good Americans contributing to the good of the whole. But we lost, and we’ve quit the game until something that’s affordable and works better becomes available.

Even though I am at peace with our decision to live without the false sense of security having that insurance plan brought us, and the $2,200 we sent every year to Blue Cross is now sitting safely in the bank, each time I take my teenage foster son to the doctor or the emergency room a twinge of jealously hits me. He’s never once thought about if he can afford to go to the doctor. He just goes, hands over his Medicaid number, and poof, he’s taken care of.

My experience with kids and their families on Medicaid made me a defender of Mitt Romney’s statement about how the poor were being taken care of in America and the middle class weren’t. In the midst of the tizzy he created, and while the Democrats were making him out to be an uncaring monster, I totally understood where he was coming from. I’ve seen the parents of our foster children rotate in and out of the hospital almost weekly on Medicaid’s tab. I’ve seen the emergency room treated like a rehab facility as the parents kick their habit for a few days. And I’ve heard from my Aunt, a nurse at a huge downtown University hospital for 30 years, about the games people play to stay one more night or receive that next dose of painkiller.

It was a relief when the insurance ties were cut. No more feeling taken advantage of. No more games. If I am sick, I pay for my care. If I have a serious illness or an accident, I will pay what I can each month directly to the hospital until the bill is paid in full. Now if I need to go to the doctor I tell them upfront that I have no insurance and will be paying cash. I ask what the cash discount is and usually get about 25% knocked off the bill. I write the check to the office directly for the services I receive, and it’s satisfying.

That surprise hospital bill that showed up in the mail taught me that as long as they are being paid something regularly, the hospital is content and will basically leave you alone. I send in just $20 a month to be put toward the $650 bill for the unauthorized blood work I’m on the hook for. That’s 32.5 months the hospital will be waiting to receive my payment in full. And it feels good.

Question: Should the government cover everybody?

Share this post

Manufacturing in Thailand – the “Detroit of the East”

Emily Halgrimson, Today’s Machining World’s Managing Editor, was invited to join 11 other journalists from the U.S. and Canada (six in the automotive sector and six in the food industry sector) by the government of Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) on a four-day media tour to promote Thailand’s industry around Bangkok and the Southeastern seaboard.

Saturday, January 14th 10 a.m. – Left Chicago’s O’Hare International for Thailand on American Airlines. It’s not comforting to fly a bankrupt airline’s 757 over the Pacific. The distance is a drawback to North Americans doing business in Southeast Asia – 15 hours to Shanghai and another six to Thailand is a haul. I was pleased to find PBS’s excellent series, Downton Abbey, on the inflight entertainment, but slept most of the way thanks to Benadryl.

Sunday 10:30 p.m. – Arrived at the airport in Bangkok, and while waiting for the other journalists to arrive, ate some of my favorite Thai food of the trip – deep-fried pork with a red coconut curry sauce and Tom Yum soup. Made a vow to eat only Thai food for the duration  –  was not a problem. Transferred to our five-star hotel, Novotel, and were welcomed with plates of Thai deserts, wine and palm-to-palm bows by all.

Some of the journalists after a tour of Western Digital’s hard drive production facility

Monday 8 a.m. – Totally jet-lagged. We visited Western Digital’s (WD) plant in a recently flooded industrial estate near Bangkok and were met by John Coyne, President and CEO. Forty-five percent of the world’s hard drives are produced in Thailand, and WD, worth $10 billion, is the largest company. Their plant was under 1.9 meters of water only weeks before our visit. Divers come in for the most valuable equipment and moved it to a kind distributor’s facility 100 km away so they could decontaminate and repair it while the floodwaters lingered. WD employs 38,000 Thais, most who make under $10/day. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the modern clean plant was a total surprise. It contrasted heavily with outside the industrial parks, where the country’s poverty is more obvious. Western Digital’s projections for 2011 were $176 million; because of the flood they reached $119 million. No word yet on the cost of the cleanup.

The journalists preparing to enter the Board of Investment’s (BOI) Fair

Monday 11 a.m. – Headed across town to the Thailand Board of Investment’s (BOI) Fair. This was interesting. When Westerners hear the word “fair” we think animals and Ferris wheels. In Thailand, a fair is a showcase of the country’s industry direct to the consumer. The fair happens only once every 10 years and was a huge deal. The King of Thailand – whose authority and respect are reminiscent of Kim Jong-ll – is a “green nut,” and the green theme is seen country-wide. The “Royal Pavilion” showcased a “green themed” 3-D film, complete with a tree growing up from the middle of the room, and the finale – a real rain shower (watch your camera). Huge exhibits in the outdoor park included Toyota, the most popular carmaker in Thailand; Chevy, which had its own 3-D show about the evolution of the American-born automobile; and CP, a huge frozen food conglomerate born in Thailand who’s big in Costco. The show also had a beer garden (hint-hint IMTS organizers) and a joyous sort of “look what we have in Thailand” feel to it. The people of Thailand are proud of what they’ve done in attracting these international companies over the last 20-30 years, but seem cognizant of environmental mistakes the U.S. and China have made during their development, and are making an effort to not repeat them.

Tony Blair speaking at the CEO Forum Bangkok

Tuesday 8:30 a.m. – Attended the BOI CEO Forum. Guest speaker: Tony Blair. A very inspiring and encouraging speech. Interestingly, he noted strongly that America would not be where it is without its open immigration policies. Mr. Blair encouraged Thailand to create this immigration-friendly atmosphere now, and noted that Thailand has “enormous potential” – its people, geography, and relative stability. He emphasized that Thailand’s job was to let the world know that it’s “open for business.”

 

 

Tuesday 3:30 p.m. – Left Bangkok for Pattaya, a tourist city next to the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate (ESIE) and checked into our spa hotel on the beach – filled with Russian vacationers. Two Thais told me that the Russians are disliked, they are stereotyped as being cheap.

Dinner on the beach in Pattaya

Development in the industrial estate was shocking, in a good way. The government invested millions in infrastructure to attract international companies interested in supplying the Eastern Hemisphere. Roads, electricity and water supply are new, modern and reliable. Ate a fresh seafood dinner at a beach restaurant while the sun disappeared over the ocean and the beer and conversation flowed. Beautiful.

Wednesday 9 a.m. – Visited American Axle & Manufacturing’s  (AAM) Rayong Manufacturing Facility in the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate. AAM opened its Thailand operation in 2008. 2010 sales were $2.3 billion. They produce mostly axle systems, but also drivelines, drivetrain and chassis, and other metal-formed products for automotive. The plant is 124,000 square feet and is located in one of Thailand’s many “free zones,” (tax-free). They currently exclusively supply GM’s Thailand operation, but plan on doubling the size of their plant, as they will be supplying Volvo soon. The Auto Alliance Thailand (AAT) manufacturing facility, a joint venture with Mazda, which wouldn’t welcome us for a tour, produces the Ford Fiesta and lightweight trucks for that particular half of the world. I was told that Thailand can’t compete with China’s steel prices, so asked what Thailand’s advantage is over China and India. I was told that it’s Thailand’s supplier base. When GM orders a part, AAM must deliver within 70 minutes.

Journalists after a tour at the Thai Summit Group

Wednesday 11 a.m. – I was very interested to tour our first Thai-owned company, the Thai Summit Group, which started in 1977 and makes auto parts for major auto companies. The stamping and injection molding facility makes mainly front and rear bumpers for Mazda and Ford. The plant was impressive and had six 3,000-ton presses and can produce 800,000 bumpers and 6,000 chassis per year. Annual sales are about $10 million. There was a large difference in the atmosphere of the plants from the Western owned companies and this completely Thai run company. They have a basketball court just outside of the main office and President, Mr. Shigeo Sakaki, commented that the workforce there is young and has lots of energy, so they need to have activities for them. It was much more relaxed than Western Digital and American Axle. Young people roamed the grounds like on a college campus. It was nice. They’re obviously making money, but it felt like it would be a nice place to work.

A night out in Pattaya

Wednesday 2:30 p.m. – Visited Celestica Thailand, Celestica’s largest location in terms of revenue. They employ 5,630 people and are five minutes from the large port on the Eastern Seaboard and one hour from the airport. They mainly make networking equipment, high-end storage and servers and teleconference equipment (Web cams, phones, digital photo albums, etc.). They see their future in optical device assemblies for the Internet. The Senior Vice President, Mr. Duangtaweesub, was impressive. Thai born, he had studied 30 years ago in Washington State. He started the company, which was bought by Celestica a few years later. He has been running Celestica’s Asia operation ever since.

Thursday 9 a.m. – We were scheduled to visit Magna Automotive and Asia Precision Co. Ltd. in the Amata Industrial Estate, but Magna canceled because they couldn’t get permission from the U.S. office to let us in. Asia Precision was fascinating. It employs about 800 workers (mostly women, Mr. Karoonkornsakul, the CEO noted, because they’re patient, are very good with detail, and there’s little heavy lifting needed) and has over 400 CNC machines, almost all Japanese. They make parts for automotive and camera and their 2011 sales were $30 million, with $40 million expected in 2012. Most of their business comes from the East, but they are a key supplier for Emerson in the U.S., who has asked them to consider building a plant in Mexico, which they are researching now. They are also considering expanding into Indonesia, which the CEO commented would be “the next Thailand,” with production projections of 2 million autos in 2012.

Asia Precision hires mostly women because they are “patient, detail oriented, and the parts are light”

When the automotive crisis hit in 2008/9 they began making rollers for printers. In response to their foreign clients’ needs, they are trying to expand into medical and aerospace, and are facing many of the same hurdles American companies face: the need for skilled employees and regulatory know-how.

Thailand’s Buddhist culture was obvious at Asia Precision. They have weekly company-wide meetings followed by meditation and a singing of their national anthem, and are heavily involved in giving back to their community through projects. They also had the first recycling center we saw, the proceeds of which are donated to the poor. Most of the employees, who are typically age 20-25, are recruited from villages in the north, and once a year they return home for the holidays. They are also very into exercise and health, recently holding a company marathon to raise money for flood victims. The atmosphere of the company was relaxing and the CEO mentioned they have very little employee conflict. It was refreshing to see a company that makes money but has quality of life at the forefront.

A training room at the Thai-German Institute

Thursday 3 p.m. – Visited the Thai-German Institute, a government training program for industry. This was interesting – I kept wondering why the U.S. isn’t doing something similar, it seemed so obvious. This organization started in 1992 with German funds with the goal of providing high-tech workers to industry. It is now run by Thailand’s Minister of Industry and trains 2000-3000 young people per year, mostly in mold and die technology, but also in automation and machining. It provides workers to the industrial estates in the south, who pay a fee for each worker they hire. Recruiters from training programs like these go to the north in search of competent, bright, high school graduates whom they lure to the south with the promise of decent salaries, subsidized lodgings, and per diems for the duration of training. Then they find them jobs. It appears to be a very win-win system that’s working for Thailand.

Question: Would you consider moving your business or finding suppliers overseas to save money?

Share this post