Saturday, December 7, 2013

Manmeets India

Today friends and family, you get an extra special treat!  A cameo from Matt!  Maybe you saw this coming from the title.  I plagiarized it from the NBC comedy 'Outsourced', which lasted one year on air.  One reason it may have lasted only one year could be that its sole purpose seemed to be offensively highlighting Indian stereotypes.  Worth a look online, but it's much better if you've experienced the culture first hand.  And that's probably the other reason it didn't last, it's only funny if you know what they're talking about.

With Laura in the US for ~6 weeks and me here on my own until Christmas, we thought it fun to give everyone a new perspective.  I'll try to keep this as entertaining as Laura's posts, and to keep Grandpa Dicola happy, I'll load it with pictures.  Since all I do now is work and golf, you're going to hear a lot about work, and I'll add some random moments I deemed worthy a picture at the time.

Our project is coming along very well. Speed of the product development would be difficult for any company to execute WITHOUT doing it jointly, across very differing timezones, and across very different cultures.  When the days get tough or frustrating, it's nice to put everything in perspective: It's incredible how successful the project has been on such an aggressive timeline and with so many never-before encountered challenges.

In a nutshell, we've started a new company from the ground up.  Polaris and Eicher formed Eicher Polaris Private Limited (EPPL), a 50/50 split.  Nearly all employees are new hires from similar Indian industries, with engineering teams split between Eicher and Polaris (EPPL does not yet have its own product engineering group).  There are two of us from the US here permanently in India. The other is Brandon Glissmeyer, from Roseau, MN, formally a snowmobile Program Manager, now titled an International Program Manager.  He's on the engineering side, focused on meeting project deliverables of vehicle specification, timeline, and cost.  I'm in the Quality Department, with my main deliverable to bring the final product to market at acceptable or better than industry standard quality. With my professional background, I have fit this project very well, and I've gotten to have input in product engineering, manufacturing, and quality - areas in which I have gained a lot of experience at Polaris.  It's been very exciting getting involved in so many aspects of the company and product.

There are three main challenges at EPPL: 1) Business process formation, 2) Product development, and 3) Facility construction.

The most frustrating challenge is business process formation.  I and everyone else come from mature companies that have systems and processes.  With EPPL right now, we have Excel spreadsheets, email, and phones.  Everything is done manually.  We're on the verge of implementing some important systems and software, but it will still be weeks before things settle and get into a normal rhythm.  Things take longer when you're making up the processes on the go.

The most stressful challenge is product development.  This encompasses design, supply chain, testing, prototype builds, homologation, and anything else that goes into a pre-production schedule.  With the tight project timeline, we're constantly adjusting to late design changes on the fly.  We don't have time to wait for design to freeze, so everyone (engineering, purchasing, mfg) moves in parallel, making decisions with less than 100% information.  My last three weeks has been spent with the supply chain.  We have a prototype build starting Dec 9, and we have a lot of parts to buy.  Everyday, myself and other team members have been at a different supplier, ensuring we get our parts and they're made correctly. I've been living out of a hotel near Delhi staying close to our suppliers.  From now through Christmas, I'll be doing the same, but starting Dec 9 we'll be building product in a facility near Delhi.

After a long week, I took one of Purchasing Agents and Supplier Quality Engineers to dinner to celebrate a successful week.  The owner of the restaurant is an avid collector of antique cars.

The last big piece of the puzzle has been facility construction.  That has gone very well.  We are renovating an old, closed Royal Enfield plant (Eicher motorcycle division).  From the day we arrived until now, it's been bare working conditions.  An office, a desk, AC, eventually Internet, and eating lunch standing around a table.  But, it's really starting to evolve now.  We'll be utilizing it for manufacturing in the near future.

About 2-3 months ago, where we're adding onto the building.

Last week

Artists rendition of final facility 

Not the best pictures, because I haven't been at our Jaipur facility in a month, and I didn't think to grab any pictures back in early November that would be valuable to this audience.

EPPL currently has people spread out in four locations in India.  Our manufacturing plant is in Jaipur, but we have three facilities near Delhi.  There is an engineering office, owned and staffed by Eicher.  These are the engineers on the project from the Eicher side.  They work in Cyber Park.  It's a very nice campus of 4-5 large office buildings.  You'll find a number of big name companies with offices there.  When you call customer service for something and it connects you to India, I imagine it's the type of place many of those service representatives work.  A second facility is an old closed Eicher plant.  We've blocked off a corner of the facility and do our early vehicle builds there. It's got welding capabilities, some office space, and three vehicle assembly bays.  Lastly, we have our EPPL headquarters.  It is on one floor of a Volvo/Eicher and Royal Enfield business office.  Very nice office, and the building is green, utilizing natural light and a lot of recycled material.  Volvo and Eicher have a very successful joint venture, and Royal Enfield is Eicher's motorcycle division.

Volvo/Eicher, Royal Enfield, and EPPL offices 
Inside the office.  It's a busy place.  Constant face to face and phone conversations going on.  It very difficult to tuck down in a desk and get things done.

View from the office.  It really is incredible the extremes here.  One can sit in a new, modern, beautiful room/office and overlook some of the poorest places you could imagine. 

A classic Volvo/Eicher truck. These things are EVERYWHERE in India.

Royal Enfield. This is the high-end heavy weight cruiser of India. I think most are in the 350-500cc range, and there might be a 750cc model.  A Victory motorcycle or Harley is about 1700cc.

On the weekends I've been running back to Jaipur to do laundry, run some errands, and golf.  I'm slowly getting better at golf.  I walk 18, which is some decent exercise.  A caddy is mandatory, and most speak some English and are decent golfers, so I get some good tips.  I go to a golf club that allows walk-on golfers, although most people there are members; it's a pretty classy establishment actually.  Costs about $1800 a year to be a foreign member, but I don't golf enough to justify that cost.

Hole 5 at Rambagh Golf Club

A nice koi pond off the clubhouse

A very cool tree on the 17th hole 

My first time golfing in August.  105deg.  I could only finish 11 holes.  Ram was my caddy.  He is a pro caddy.  After that round, he no longer caddies for me.  They thought I would be good I think.

 Just a few fun things from the last few months:

Common sight during commute to work. This is their commute to work/school.

Microwave at Jaipur facility

Monsoon season in Delhi. Water coming over the hood of our car. We barely forded this 100m stretch of flooded road.

An auto-rickshaw (or tuk-tuk) in the same flood. He's lucky it's not as deep here.

Me and  our Supplier Quality and Production Manager, Rajender, at dinner. We spent two days at the Volvo/Eicher manufacturing facility in Indore, India to learn about their quality systems. They make about 5000 trucks per month.

Saw this Lamborghini dealership on the way to a supplier.  There were a couple in there, but they don't show up well in the pic.

This is the view out my hotel room.  It isn't rain or fog, it is smog.  Really, it's campfire smoke. At night during winter it can get near freezing.  The hundreds of thousands of people without adequate shelter or heat burn small fires.  Imagine hundreds of thousands of little fires in a relatively small area.  It collects.  I don't want to know what is being burned either, and consequently, breathed.

One of our suppliers makes tuk-tuks.  After a tour, I got to drive one around the block!

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