Thursday, January 28, 2016

 Asia Blog # 6
 January 24, 2016

We have been working with Santron (Taiwan based company) for close to 20 years. Although we have a lot of trust with the company and its staff, it is still important to visit the facility, audit the processes, talk to the staff and make sure that the communication continues. 

It was raining the day we drove to the factory.

All motorcycle and scooter riders wear a unique type of pancho

Looks almost like a French Impressionist painting

Parked "cycles" and scooters make a pretty picture

Everyone honks in China. Listening to the all of the car and truck horns sounding off at one time reminded us of Neil Diamond's song, "Beautiful noise." 

Chinese drivers wander from one lane to another - often without warning. The driving patterns looks as if everyone has been drinking. Most likely, the real reason for the poor driving is because there is no understanding about driving protocol.

Check out the road sign: This is why we do not drive in China

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Everything is large in China - Typical apartment complex - Many square miles of housing.

Santron factory:

"Large" in China is also the factories!

Santron is a multi-storied, multi-facility company located on 25 acres of property.

Due to economic issues in China combined with the young workers wanting more to work at "McDonald's" rather than on an assembly line, the employee count has dropped from 1500 employees to 250!

Typical assembly line producing our power supplies

Test station

There was an interesting aspect about auditing the factory at this time of year. Similar to Mexico, many of these factories are not heated nor are they air conditioned. In the case of Santron, all of the employees wore sweaters and jackets over their normal shirts and/or blouses. Some job descriptions allowed the employees to wear gloves. Building lights are turned off during breaks to conserve electricity.

We had lunch at the company cafeteria. One of the employees made a variety of homemade dishes. The "chef" prepared local (and very) fresh fish, pork and beef dishes as well as assorted veggies, regular rice and fried rice. This was quite a culinary experience!

Lunch for 5 people: Rice and the Fried rice had not yet been placed on the table!

We were invited by our hosts for a special Chinese dinner. We politely declined. Between our exhaustion and the huge lunch (and by the time we got back to the hotel), a snack at the lounge and bedtime was what we needed. Sleep was more important than food especially since we had to get up early (again) the next day for a flight to Shanghai.

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Bottled water is handed out everywhere we go. Airlines freely hand out water. Our hotel room continues to get water. Water is in our host's car. Water was offered during our factory tour. We were getting bottle water faster than we could drink them.

Below are the bottles left over from the last two days.

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The trek continues...

The following day we were flying again (Air China) - to Shanghai. 

Early morning: Fuzhou control tower

Saying good-by to our host Roy Huang (middle) and his production manager

Airport getting ready for Chinese New Year

Can anyone read Chinese? 

Following are some of the many Chinese airlines and their logos 

The Fuzhou airport was displaying a series of WWII pictures relating to China.

Our next flight

Airplane safety instructions: Using a panda cartoon - very cute - makes us pay attention!

On our way to Shanghai, China

More later...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Asia: Blog # 5

January 23, 2016

Once again, we were up at 5:30 AM. At 6:15 AM, we opened the hotel restaurant while the staff was still setting up.

Quickly, we dished out a bowl of congee (a Chinese style rice cereal or porridge) and grabbed a piece of quiche. Local fruit and a cup of coffee was quickly consumed. By 6:30 AM, we were in the car and driving to the airport. We were leaving a country where people may never have owned gloves and heavy jackets to an area where winter clothes is commonplace.

We said our good-bys to our friend,  Zakaria Bin Hajeed. 

Zakaria has been our driver for the several times that we have come to Penang for business meetings. Quickly, we headed to the China Southern counter only to find that no passengers were in line. Surprise! we were the last to check-in.

Arlene met another passenger

More rushing to security, getting the pat down and off to the gate we went. Forty minutes later we were climbing to 35,000 feet and heading to Guangzhou (formally Canton) where we would change planes to Fuzhou, China - the factory location that builds some of our power supplies.

Companies pay to advertise on China's headrest protectors

The Guangzhou airport was re-built about ten years ago. It is now a huge hub for China Southern and some of the other Asian airlines. With all of the new construction going on, it appears that the airport will (at least) double in size when finished. The overall size is hard to fathom.

We landed on time. Scarecrows were positioned throughout dead grass areas separating the runways. (It is quite common to see scarecrows around China's airports as part of a process to try and stop birds from getting sucked into the airplane engines.

Luggage arrived on the carousel before our arrival to the baggage area. All we had to do was to find our next gate.

It was then that Chinese government bureaucracy raised it's ugly head. There were several government inspection stations set up for transferring passengers.

X-raying of carry-ons was repeated twice more. There was lots of aggravation. In an attempt to save some time in one of the lines, Arlene got in trouble with one of the airport police. At the last inspection station. Arlene realized that she left her i-pad on the plane.


We had 20 minutes to get to the gate - we were not yet through the last security station and we had to quickly decide what to do. Should we move foreword and get onto the Fuzhou plane and never see her i-pad again or re-trace our steps back to the Penang plane (if we could) and miss our flight?

Miracles of miracles! 

A young woman working for China Southern took control of the situation. The short story (lots of drama) was - China Southern found the i-pad, it was rushed to where we were waiting. 

Resigned that we would miss our flight, all of a sudden there was good news. We were informed that there was a slight delay due to weather conditions.

It was then we realized that transferring to the Fuzhou gate required that we had to walk a very long distance to another terminal. 

More good luck!
A tram magically appeared and we were whisked (at least) 40 MPH to another terminal. The tram ride took almost ten minutes!

We would never would have made the flight if we had to walk this lengthy distance!

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The Quanzhou airport has a unique amenity: Luggage carts with computer screens - great for the kids, great for everyone...

While waiting for the plane, we spent some time in the lounge. There were interesting dishes and condiments.

There was time to get some relaxation in one of those massage chairs.

Feels good!

Maybe, not so good!

There was time to watch "Breaking News" on CCTV (Chinese TV).

And, we could also check out some interesting TV advertisements...

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Time to get to the gate!

We were in line for a departure 45 minutes later than scheduled. Not to worry!

150 passengers were also queued up. Then, the electric sign indicating "Fuzhou" suddenly changed to JinJiang - another departure city. Some of the 150 passengers (all Chinese) started yelling loudly at the counter staff. The counter staff retaliated and yelled back into the sound system. Then, two manager-type men walked over and started yelling at who ever would listen.

It was chaos!

We had no idea what everyone was yelling. However, we got the idea...

At that point, the Fuzhou passengers left the line as the JinJiang passengers tried to line up for their flight. Fortunately for us, there were a few people who spoke limited English and/or we showed non-English-speaking passengers our tickets  and together, we reconfirmed ourselves that our Fuzhou plane was not ready to disembark.

After one of the more chaotic airport situations we have encountered throughout the years (since none of the airline personnel spoke English), we eventually got on our plane, it took off and landed in the evening -  four hours later than anticipated.

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Fuzhou, China: What shock!

We first came to Fuzhou (located between Hong Kong and Shanghai) about 15 years ago. Since then, we have come here about every 3 - 4 years. There has been a huge transformation since our last visit.

To get into town, passengers used to drive on a small country road. Now, there is a major highway. What was an old, dilapidated airport is now one of the more modern-looking facilities. The town, what was old and rundown is now a very large (and in many areas) a modern city. It was startling to see the tall and uniquely designed buildings all lit up like a Christmas tree. It was quite something to see.

An office building seen from our room

We arrived so late to the Fuzhou hotel that the restaurant was about to close. The wait staff did not speak English. We ordered as best as we could by pointing at menu pictures and gesturing with our hands or fingers if we wanted one or two of something.

Mushrooms are very popular in China: One of the side dishes comprised of a half-dozen different types of mushrooms.

All hotel rooms come with emergency masks. Many fire extinguishers
are located on all of the hotel floors. )Yes, the hotels also have central fire extinguisher systems).

Daytime view from our room

Another view from our room

Hotel lobby area

With a limited amount of sleep, we were up and ready for the next round of meetings.

Waiting to be picked up by our hosts

More later...

Asian Trip Notes # 4

January 22, 2016

We wrote in Bog # 3 that we had one day to rest. We need the time to re-charge our batteries:

As February is nearing, the hotel is getting ready for Chinese New Year!

Jerry is relaxing by drawing with his watercolor pencils:

The Rain Tree of Batu Ferringhi - Planted in the 1700's

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It was up early again for another meeting. Coherent (our customer makes industrial lasers powered by PMI power supplies.

The range of finished products is fascinating: huge metal pieces to small plastic or balsa wood items.

Some of the equipment will use two power supplies.

At times, one must get used to the different type of facilities:

Easy down, not so easy up!

Most American factories located in Asia will use two clocks:

On our way back from meetings, we passed by a typical situation. There are many old, historical and abandoned homes in Penang that have been overgrown by foliage.

Sometimes we are so tired we can only eat a noodle-soup concoction:

Soup and noddles accompanies by all sorts of goodies

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As much as we can (and without being rude) we continue to try and meet Moslem couples.


We met a lovely young Saudi couple. "Albraa" (an engineer) happened to be born in the USA. His wife spoke perfect English.

The wife actually asked Arlene if she wanted to see her face. Of course, Arlene said "Yes." Arlene said that the wife was very attractive. 

The two women hid behind a corner counter and guess what happened?

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The hotel grounds are quite nice - also, in the evening!
Rain Tree lit up at night.