Friday, October 21, 2011

How It's Made: A Factory

Continuing with my theme this week for "How It's Made" named after the American (or Canadian) television that shows how certain products we use in everyday life are made. Earlier this week, I posted "How It's Made: Ceramic Blocks" and "How It's Made: High Rise Residential Buildings". Today, I am adding "How It's Made: A Factory". Normally, a factory is the place where the products are being produced, and its rare that you get to see a Factory being built so this was a unique opportunity, at least for me.

Valerio and I headed about 2 hours west of Sao Paulo, to a small city named Santa Cruz da Conceicao, just outside the city of Leme. We hit the road just as the morning sun was beginning to make itself known to the world and and was a perfect day for a drive. We arrived at the factory about 11am and started our walk through. We were met by the lead building coordinator who helped explain the layout of the factory as many of the walls and equipment had not been installed yet. With my experiences from earlier in the week, I was envisioned the machines running at full speed and blocks coming out of the kiln headed for the shipping dock. One thing that was readily identifiable, was that the factory was much larger than the ones I had visited previously. From the area of raw material storage, to the impressive drying and kiln tunnels that were being constructed.

After finding the light switch, we took a walk through the empty kiln to look at the layout of the blocks, heating vents, and the maintenance areas. Obviously I had not been able to walk through the kiln at the other factory, as the kiln was running, which means it was hundreds (if not thousands) of degrees inside. As we walked the impressive 145 meter length kiln, the set up of the air vents and the flame vents was explained. This kiln also had a large curing area for the blocks to continue the process of turning clay into bricks. I don't think Moses and "his people" ( A Ten Commandments movie reference) had a kiln when they were building the pyramids and other Egyptian structures, but if he did, this would have been it.

Inside the kiln at the factory

Perhaps the most impressive part of the kiln, was that it was recycled. I don't mean that it was made from old aluminum cans or plastic bottles, but it was made from two old kilns that were from another plant. This again fits into Tecno Logys' sustainability and social responsibility methodology, as it is about Respecting the Resources. The building itself was in the shape of 3 half domes which I found interested as many factories and warehouses in the US have flat roofs, but come to find out, the middle structure was a part of an old factory that they were able to add one more structure on each side to create their plant. Pretty cool right? Now not everything in the factory is going to be recycled, even though some of the equipment is going to be re-used after some slight refurbishments and retrofitting, they were actually about to finalize the purchase of a large machine from Europe later in the day. As stated earlier in the week that making ceramic blocks was not rocket science, however, I wont go into specifics due to the sensitivity of the project and the very unique modifications they have made.

At one point, I was standing in a 8 inch pit and Valerio was standing on the main surface of the kiln and we laughed because we were the same height! The professional photographer following us around shot this great shot of it.
Same Height!

Outside of the kiln, we continued to get the layout and envision the factory in progress. After leaving the kiln, the material would be transported to the shipping dock or the stockyard. We then went on top of the kiln to see the factory from an elevated viewpoint. Again, the size of the factory stood out. We discussed a few of the variations that I could see from the two previous plants that we visited and discussed some other items regarding logistics and supply chain. While we were standing on top of the kiln, we were greeted by Paula, one of the business partners for the factory. Valerio has previously told me that she studied in the United States but was not sure where. After meeting Paula and exchanging a couple quick pieces of information about the project, she mentioned that she studied at Ohio University in Ohio. I immediately laughed and informed her that I was from Columbus, Ohio and that I know Ohio University and Athens, Ohio very well (See Princeton Review Ratings halfway down the linked page). It just goes to show how small this world really is.

Discussing the factory line placement

We wrapped up our tour and headed to lunch in the nearby town of Leme at a local Brazilian Steakhouse(Churrascaria).After lunch we headed to Paula's offices to look at the architectural design of the factory and to discuss some business including the European technology purchase. Upon pulling up to the office (which was a nice house turned into an office), I was stunned by the beauty of the property. It had a full size soccer field on the one side of the property, and the house, pool, outside rotunda meeting area, and yard on the other. We went inside to look at the factory's design. After finishing the design review, I headed outside to sit by the pool (in my dress clothes) while they finished their discussion about the machines. After all, it was going to be in Portuguese and I might as well explore the pool area right? I sat outside in a padded chair enjoying the sun, breeze, and watching the birds play. After a few minutes, Toucan Sam landed a few feet from me. I was completely caught off guard that that was going to happen, but I hoped that he brought some Froot Loops. Here I was, in a setting that would make George Jung and Johnny Depp jealous, and I now had a colorful friend. I forgot I had my camera for a few minutes and when I realized it, he flew off so I did not get a picture. After a few more minutes, I thought I heard monkey's in the trees to my left but then again, I thought this was not anywhere near my city, Columbus, Ohio, where the monkey's recently escaped. I went back to enjoying the sun for a few moments when Paula and Valerio came out. I told them about the Toucan and Paula said that the local city zoo is just beyond that forest, and that sometimes monkey's made their way onto the office property. Maybe I am in Columbus?

A shot from the "offices"

Another day, another success. Valerio and I headed back to the highway for the drive home and to discuss more about my project. Almost fitting to the day and this story, just as we came up the mountain to see the Sao Paulo skyline, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" came on the radio. Valerio turned it up and we rolled into town. Enjoy the video!

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