Thursday, December 23, 2004

Re: DZZP Start-Up Success

Zhengzhou, People's Republic of China
January 20, 2003, 09:47 AM China Standard Time

To: Anthony
Cc: Everyone else in Memphis

Greetings from the Land of the Dragons! And Happy Sheep (Goat) Year!

Hey, needn't thank me ... I am the one who really needed to thank you and everyone at DPT in Memphis. I gained all the lessons, skills, and experience (uhm, and the awards too) while working with y'all. Everything that I learned was what made the impact on my assignment here with DZZP. Stephan in his email made a mention on that story of the two school builders. One says that he's building a school, one says he's helping educate our children. Well, we do our part in solving China's problem in feeding its 1.3 billion mouths, and in improving these 1.3 billion people's nutrition, health, and living standards. And more importantly: in educating these Chinese people on modern engineering techniques and management concepts.

Your baby sister plant here in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, People's Republic of China officially started up at 11:45 AM January 15th 2003, China Standard Time. I presented Allan--our plant's general manager--with the 2nd pound of product. I got to keep the first pound (there's another story about this ... hint: that sample port is right on top of the transfer line that utilizes a blower).

This is one heck of an experience. I think we probably faced more challanges than what you would starting up a plant in the United States. First of all, it was probably more like starting up Phase 1, as we are pretty much in the dark here trying to start everything up from almost a complete scratch. P3, MSP, and MS2P were built around the same technology so everyone was familiar with everything ... due to time and budget constraint, we are stuck with some Chinese engineering and equipment sets. Things don't work the way they are supposed to. And with Niro's screwed up design that caused more problems that benefits. Couple this with no experienced operators to help training ... people with most significant process experience would be Jon and me. Second of all, we don't have the luxury of using natural gas as an energy source (heavy oil burner makes this plant perhaps the most difficult to keep up of all DPT's). Third of all, we are dealing with some different types of people here, with totally different culture, educational background, and perspective in looking at things. We have engineers that don't believe that thermodynamic laws apply. We have operators that keep shutting things down (steam, water, electricity, cooling systems, burner, etc) because they keep thinking we are wasting energy (we still couldn't convince them that we are wasting even more resources when shutting things down because then we would be causing some downtime). We have lab people that don't want to use their brand new oven for experiment because they think it's too nice. We have maintenance crew that let our dryer down for 6 hours because they wanted to finish building a table instead of fixing our pipes. And the worst part ... people just practice what they believe and what they are used to regardless what is logically makes more sense.

Alright, some exagerations to that.

But honestly, I won't trade this experience with anything. All set and done, I'll be able to say: been there, done that. This is in no way easy ... pretty painful I would say. But what I gained, what helped me grew up faster ... are what made me feel how lucky I am to get this opportunity.

By the way, I started composing my own list of "you've been in China for too long if ..." I'll add more to the list as we go on ...

You Know You Had Been in China for Too Long if…

10. When your fellow American tries to talk Chinese to the Chinese taxi driver, you try to help the taxi driver by translating your friend’s words into English. You say “ni hao” and “xie xie” to everyone that looks Asian, even when you are in Chicago airport.

9. When your friend asks what food you just ordered in a restaurant, your simple answer would be “it is famous in China and is good for health”.

8. You start believing that all thermodynamic theories are some piece of craps invented by American conspirators.

7. “Medical stores” and “art shops” have “another meaning” to you. (The Chinese are so prudent that you can't openly discuss anything about sex ... this being said, you could find more porn books and sex shops in the streets and malls of Zhengzhou than you could in the streets and malls of Los Angeles! When we confronted the Chinese about this, they replied lightly: "Oh, those shops are OK, because they sell medical devices!" or "Those are not porn ... those are art!")

6. You think you can dress any way you want and tell other people it’s the new style (and the next day they will all try to dress the way you do).

5. You wear long johns everywhere throughout the winter--you think electric and gas heaters are bad for health.

4. You turn off all utilities after doing 2 hours worth of work to save energy although that means you will have to spend 8 hours the next day with a steam gun unfreezing water lines. Then you do 2 hours worth of work, shut utilities back down, and go home. You prefer to work harder than to work smarter because you think working smarter will put people out of jobs.

3. You learned that “No smoking” does not really mean “no smoking”.

2. You learned that no does not always mean no after all. And you learned that “yes” or “OK” 90% of the time means “no”.

1. You wake up one day and scream, “Screw you guys, I’m going home!!!”

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