Giuseppe 1.Februar, 2011 @ 09:40 Abgelegt unter: Allgemein
As promised in my previous post, I would like to share with you some impressions from my experience of daily life in Shanghai.
Number one has to be the location of the Bosch Corporate Research offices: in a skyscraper in the heart of Pudong, the city’s financial district, with views on the Oriental Pearl Tower and on the many other giants all around. Quite impressive. However, the headquarters will soon move to a new building in a different area of town; the new location may not be as glamorous, but it shall be greener and more spacious and boast state-of-the-art technology.
For my daily commute to work I have been taking the metro, the fast-developing Shanghai underground transport system. The official figures say there are about 19 million people living in this city, but you only need to take the metro once in the rush hour to convince yourself that this must be a severe underestimation. Fortunately, trains run every 2-3 minutes and they are reliable, fast and very long; yet it is not uncommon to have to wait for a few trains before you can finally stand a chance to win the scramble to board one. Having succeeded to get on, you are sometimes left wondering what ever happened to the principle of impenetrability of bodies…
A much bigger inconvenience is the painfully slow Internet access, which often breaks down completely. This makes it very difficult to keep in touch with family and friends on the other side of the Great (Fire)Wall, and it has been perpetual cause of frustration. China may well be on the fast lane in many sectors of economy, but this is one of those points where the Red Dragon still needs to put its act together.
On the other side, the pace at which things are changing here can leave you speechless. New buildings, roads and bridges mushroom up within days, whereas old ones suddenly disappear at the same speed. No wonder that Shanghai taxi drivers do not always know the address!
What about the language? I must say that learning the basics of (spoken) Mandarin has been fun and is helping a lot. Trying to say a few words in Chinese is often enough to solve lots of situations… and it will usually win you a smile! The budget for language classes is therefore, in my opinion, a strong plus of the Junior Managers Program.
Finally, a curiosity: Did you know that eating out in China is usually cheaper than cooking at home?! Going to a restaurant is very common also for the locals, and you are spoilt for choice with many different cuisine styles.
This is all for today, but I will write again very soon to make a summary of my station here, which is drawing to a close. In the meantime, greetings from China!
Giuseppe 31.Dezember, 2010 @ 08:04 Abgelegt unter: Forschung und Entwicklung
You may have observed that more and more JMP-trainees seem to go to China for their station abroad, and I am one of these. This trend is not surprising given the impressive pace at which the Chinese market keeps growing. Bosch, just like practically every major international company, makes no mistery of its expansion plans in this country: the number of Bosch employees in China grows rapidly… and so does the number of trainees being sent here to have a close look at and contribute to these exciting developments.
My station takes place in Shanghai, a modern and very dynamic metropolis that would not exactly fit the description of a typical, traditional Chinese town. Several other bloggers before me have already exalted the virtues of Shanghai; however, one of the things that struck me the most at the beginning - apart from the presence of countless skyscrapers not only in the financial centre, but pretty much everywhere - was the realisation that English will not get you very far here. I find this surprising for such a huge city with declared international ambitions. On the other hand, you feel like an analphabet when faced with… well, pretty much anything written, until you start recognising the most commonly used signs. At work, however, all of my colleagues speak good English, so at least there you do not come up against language barriers.
Work, by the way, is exciting. I am in the Corporate Research department, which focuses on electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries; the first of these two topics is turning out to be the common theme of my entire trainee programme. I work in team with other colleagues and have the possibility of creating a network not only with other Bosch departments both in China and in Germany, but also with some of the top Chinese universities. I enjoy this mixture of creative thinking (both alone and in group sessions), data gathering and analysis, information searches, stimulating discussions and exchanges of ideas. It is also important to keep up-to-date with governmental policies, which can have a much bigger impact on the market (and on the decisions of car manufacturers) than we are used to seeing in the western world. Retrieving information is sometimes more challenging than you would expect - not only because of the language -, but this makes it even more interesting.
On a personal note, I am pleased to see that Bosch actively looks for collaborations with academia. During my time as a university researcher I became aware of the importance of strong contacts with industry; now that I sit on the other side of the fence I have a confirmation of how beneficial the cooperation can be for both parts.
Living in China is not always easy and presents lots of ups and downs… More on this in my next entry. For the moment, happy new year to you all from Shanghai!
I have, for the first time, the feeling that someone else´s fate lies in my hand, when I stood in our line participating in the new operators selection process. “He might not have soldered very well, but he asks many questions, which shows good initiative.” Many Chinese are afraid of asking questions, especially when they are not in an authoritative position. “How about the girl?” my boss kept asking. “She´s very nervous. But I think she has a very good sense of quality control, which is very important for us. She threw that piece she dropped on the floor in the scrap bin without us telling her to do so.” In the end, we decided on which operator to hire, not based simply on their experience and skills, but also on their sense of quality control and their ability to work and think individually.
When the candidates had been taken to the line by the personnel colleague, they marched wordless and automatically formed a line one following another. The awkwardness is not unusual among the Chinese - they usually do not strike up conversations with strangers easily, especially not when they are all nervous about what´s coming up. During the first interviews, they all claimed their experience with soldering, the skill we are hiring them for. But the reasons why they left the previous company often seem ambiguous and strange to westerners. “I just quit because I needed to go home to get married.” “I had to take care of my sick parents at home.” Just to name a few that´s most common. They were most likely not untrue, as the line workers usually come from the countryside, where the way of life is still very traditional – children are supposed to take care of the elderly at home and marriage is the biggest event in one´s life, so as birth and death. However, they seldom mentioned the other main drives behind the move, e.g. the career or compensation aspect, which are also deciding factors in China.
No matter, I learned a lot from the hiring process and felt lucky to have been allowed by my boss to take part in the decision making. This is surely one of the highlights of my trainee rotation in China.
Lei 25.Februar, 2008 @ 06:44 Abgelegt unter: Forschung und Entwicklung
“Do you have 400RMB?” my colleague asked urgently. I know borrowing money from friends and relatives is very common in China. But, at work? “The valve is there, I need to pay the express service, cash,” the engineer added excitedly. After three days of down-time due to a machine failure, we finally see the light of success. The valve is a key part, which we need to prevent the same failure from occurring again.
The problem appeared after everyone came back from holiday on Monday, within two days, the engineer in charge of the machine has talked to colleagues in Germany and Spain, had the supplier come to us, and finally found out the reason. The parts he needed to fix the machine were easily obtained, one within a day, the others even within a few hours. I am impressed by the speed that the problem is solved. Aside from the effective work of the engineer and the good international team-work, the perfect location of our factory also plays a major role, as we can find many flexible local suppliers here in China that can provide the parts we need with a very short notice at a very reasonable price. Also I see again the difference in production from development: everything needs to be very fast, and effective. Of course, the do-away with formalities in China sometimes helps to expedite the process.
A small problem also occurred today in the machine I am in charge of. After a few heated discussions with the technicians and engineers in the team, we fixed the problem within 20 minutes and managed to meet the deadline of building samples for our customers. As a young engineer, I also needed to reason with the technicians, all male and have many more years of experience than me in manufacturing. It is challenging but in the end, everyone learned something and the result was good.
One of my major tasks here as a R&D-trainee is to transfer the knowledge about the machine and the process related to it we developed in Germany during the ramp-up phase of the production line. This is a perfect opportunity for me as well to learn about Bosch production and many typical functions related to it, such as quality control (both supplier and customer sides, as well as our own production), logistics, customer applications, etc. All Bosch plants follow the same system called BPS (Bosch Production System), which means things are run pretty much the same way as in Europe or anywhere else. Seeing the production helps me gain a more down-to-earth view of the products, which is crucial for a researcher/developer because one cannot come up with innovative designs that are cost-saving and most effective without knowing exactly where the costs are and how the products are made. That’s why many R&D-trainees have a rotation in the production. Besides, the workers on the production floor are usually different from the engineers who work in a development office. To become a future leader, it is necessary for us to be able to communicate well with all kinds of people. Here is the place to learn.
Lei 17.Januar, 2008 @ 07:34 Abgelegt unter: Forschung und Entwicklung
AdVenture 2: The Joint Venture – UAES
The actual event was a lot of fun. We learned a lot about our host: UAES, the biggest player in the Chinese market for gasoline engine management system. UAES is a 50-50 joint venture of Bosch and a conglomerate of Chinese manufacturers, among which SAIC is the major player. It currently runs 900+ customer projects simultaneously, which is said to be unthinkable in Germany considering its relatively small size. That is because the OEMs in China like to start at a time with big number of projects, or experiments, as you may call them, instead of just a handful, like the Germans do. (Only a few of these projects end up in mass production provided the market shows good response). But the point is, as supplier to these OEMs, UAES has to show their flexibilities and manage the projects accordingly given the very limited number of experienced engineers. On the other hand, the German specialties are not forgotten. Because of the increasingly demanding situation, a bit streamlining and planning from the German experts will help expedite the progress of the projects.
The plant tour was very special indeed. On first sight, the plant looked very much like the German Bosch plants I’d seen. The interesting differences were in the details. The absence of blond hair, for example. There are only 21 Expats at UAES out of approximately 2450 employees. This is probably one of the success factors from UAES: highly localized to keep the cost down. A less expected phenomenon were the numerous black and white patterns all over the plant, some are like zebras, some like chessboards. Turned out they are prototype cars in protective covers. As opposed to the uniform black covers in Germany, the Asians do enjoy a bit of variations – it feels a bit like jungle here. :)
Lei 27.Dezember, 2007 @ 03:16 Abgelegt unter: Forschung und Entwicklung
“Merry Christmas!” A crowd of people with red Santa hats rushed through the restaurant, blowing paper whistles and hitting people in the restaurant with air-filled plastic hammers. “Ouch!” the few foreigners in the restaurant fell victims to the relentless hammers and looked more than disconcerted by this Chinese way of X’mas. In the background children are screaming “Jingle Bell” happily through the stereo. The guests all got excited about this new crazy atmosphere and had big smiles on the face.
Next door, a woman standing outside of the grocery store was yelling into her cell phone: “No, they don’t have those Santa Claus chocolate any more!! What else can we do?” Several meters away, a street vender was buried in Santa Claus balloons of different sizes and a sea of flowers. He was busy selling and telling the other customers that he’s only there for one day.
Everywhere I go, there’s X’mas music and salespeople or waiters in Santa hats or Santa suits. If you call my home phone, you’ll hear Jingle Bell as opposed to a normal ring tone. China is celebrating X’mas in its own way: almost purely commercial. Very few people know the meaning behind it, and ultimately nobody really cares. For many people, it’s fun, it’s new, and it’s something western and festive. Why not? For street vendors and entrepreneurs, it’s another great opportunity to make money; and in the big scheme of things, it boosts the economy!
On the other hand, what I found interesting was that almost all the Chinese associates at Bosch I talked to told me “it’s not our festival, why should we celebrate?”, when I asked them what they do on X’mas. Perhaps people who have western contacts have better understanding of the culture and therefore, for them, the kind of mystery and curiosity exists no more. On the other hand, they can appreciate the cultural differences more and distance themselves from anything not belonging to their own culture but with due respect to the others.
Lei 1.Oktober, 2007 @ 08:30 Abgelegt unter: Forschung und Entwicklung
“Si, si…”, I nervously pointed to the Tapas in the glass case, “no, no…no…” It seems, without speaking Spanish, one really had to starve a little in Spain. I should have taken a colleague with me from the plant when I go out for dinner.
In contrast, within the Bosch plant, everyone is multi-lingual - the Spanish speak fluent German at Bosch, which I found rather amazing. This, I heard, is a prerequisite for all engineers applying for jobs at Bosch in Spain. Luckily, that is not a prerequisite for the trainee program in Germany.
My name is Lei and I was recruited into the Bosch trainee program for Research and Development in the USA, when I was finishing my Ph.D. there in mathematics. This is a little bit unusual for the technical trainee program. I was born and raised in China, in one of the biggest cities, Guangzhou (used to be Canton), on the Pearl River Delta in southern China. It is a city with a population of 6-10 million people (depending on how one counts:)) and is the heart of one of mainland China’s leading commercial, trading and manufacturing centers. Therefore, most mathematics students in my hometown find jobs in one of these manufacturing or commercial businesses after gaining the Bachelor’s degree. Contrarily, I headed to California to pursue mathematics further. The technique of acquiring and processing information, the communication skills, as well as the problem-solving skills I gained during my Ph.D. program prove very beneficial for my daily work at Bosch.
With that said, I should explain what I am doing in Spain. I am here in our lead plant to be trained about the manufacturing processes of the product I am dealing with in the hardware development department in Germany. The training helps me with my current task, which is to develop a key manufacturing process of this product for our new low-cost production line in China. In December, I will then start my next trainee station in China, working with other engineers to start up this new line. Therefore, in Spain, I also get to be trained on other functions related to the manufacturing of this product, such as quality management and logistics.
During the two-day training, there are also some surprises of a quality that I had not expected. “The problem is, they lied to us,” said the quality manager. Shocked, I sat in his office, looking for the right thing to say. We are talking about a supplier here, which we badly need. But without the quality manager’s approval, we cannot get this supplier on boat. This would be a tough one. I will have to look into that when I get back to Germany.
This is one of the challenges we face every day. In a multi-cultural environment, communication is one of the most important factors in success. That is also why I decide to write this blog in English, because I understand how difficult it was as a foreigner living or working in Germany without understanding the language. And I know how important it is to keep up with my English, because in an international company like Bosch, once you have anything to do with other people outside of Europe, being able to speak and write good English is a must. (I will give you enough examples that you can be convinced by this, if you are not right now.) Therefore, I assume everybody could understand what I write. If I write this in German, there is a small chance that some people won’t get it. (I could also write in Chinese, if you want, but then the chance of understanding it is still a little lower.) If you feel like writing me back in German, however, don’t let me stop you. And I will respond in German, if requested.
From now on I will write about my experiences in my Trainee Program in Research and Development regularly. Your Remarks, comments and questions are highly appreciated.