I capsized!

It was a mistake. There was no reason to open up the throttle that way and at the same time I didn’t expect the wind to be that strong. But there it was, as I was turning the little rib as to go back, I mismanaged the throttle, the turn was too sharp, the balance was lost: as in other situations, I was able to understand what was going to happen, but I couldn’t do nothing to change the course of things, as it was too quick: I could only hold myself and watch the opposite border of the boat getting higher and higher, over my horizon: then I was in the water. The small 4 HP outboard quickly stuttered off.

Luckily, turning the small rib and emptying it from the water was done quicker and easier than what I expected. But my thinking was somewhere else: I didn’t expect the engine to start again after that unwanted splash in the water. And I didn’t having anything else to keep myself moving. Either it would start again or I would have been left at the mercy of the wind, which was pushing me away from the shore, and of the waves, which were still small: with the strong wind it was only a question of time before the protection of island behind me would cease and conditions of the sea worsen.

The engine wouldn’t start. I wasn’t surprised, it was a confirmation of what I had already anticipated. Still I had to try again. In my head I was anxiously looking for other solutions, but I couldn’t find any, beside keeping trying. I knew I still had the chance of calling help per mobile phone, as I wasn’t that far from the island yet. Still I wouldn’t know what to say in order for someone find me. Every other second I was looking at the coast getting more and more distant, loosing details. Better concentrate on the engine, try again. But still the thoughts would run to my destiny: in front of me just different shades of light blue, either it was the sky or the sea. The infinite sky, the not so infinite, but still infinite sea…. no symbols of freedom or peace, this time!

And then this voice, damn, did it scare me. I was so concentrated on my engine, on desperately pulling that starting cord, that I didn’t see the white boat and the greek fisherman. He shouted something at me. I couldn’t understand, but a few words and gestures were enough for him to understand that I was in serious trouble.

He didn’t say anything else. He just took the rope I was passing to him, fixed it on his boat and… I woke up!

Waking up

Unbelievably sweated, shocked and relieved at the same time, with a lot of thoughts in my head, I realised how many maritime or better said, safety rules I didn’t respect in my dream. Oh, and by the way, if I know those safety rules (which are mostly common sense, actually) it is because once it happened to me to be alone in a small rib boat, going out for a quick engine test without any kind of backup (paddles?). The engine stopped. Differently from tonight’s dream, that time, I was in small bay, therefore the situation wasn’t dangerous, as I could easily reach the coast by swimming. Still, as the dream shows, it sure did leave an important track in my memories!

While still half asleep I analysed my actions in the dream and I was surprised by how much emotions can impair your ability of thinking clearly and, by how much little precautions can avoid really bad situations. For example:  in the dream I didn’t think of the GPS integrated in my mobile phone, I could have used it to ask for help. There was no mention if I had or if I didn’t have a mobile with me and if it survived the capsizing. Still it astonished me how concentrated I was in unsuccessfully trying not to think about the infinite sea in front of me, instead of looking for real solutions!

Therefore here below the common sense, safety rules I broke:

Trip

What kind of trip are you going to undertake? If it is long than you should organise accordingly. If you don’t know where you want to go, if you feel like Colombo, than prepare as if you were going for a longer trip.

Stay close to the coast

We are thinking small here! This suggestions are thought for small boats (< 3 meters in length) with small engines. Therefore it is better to stay close to the coast! Of course without exaggerating, as you don’t want to disturb swimmers.

Avoid doing longer passages bringing you afar from the coast just because “going straight” takes less time instead of following the coast line. If you want to go fast choose another way of transportation.

Staying close to the coast also means that you always have mobile phone coverage. Which in day by day life could be seen as negative thing, while if something goes wrong, it makes a huge difference!

Fuel

Is there enough fuel for the trip?

Backup

Should the engine stop, what then? Equip your boat with at least a paddle. Better to have a pair and also test if you find a comfortable position allowing you to efficiently row.

Also having an anchor on board is a good idea.

Water

Bring some drinking water with you. Sea water is salty, didn’t you know?

Communication

Mobile phone or VHF, if you know how to use it. Just make sure that they are water proof. For mobile phones I remember we used waterproof pouches made by Aquapac. As per today there are probably much better solutions, still we used those pouches for a very long time. The neck band is also very useful as it allows you to fasten the phone either to you or to the boat. In case of capsizing, in fact, it doesn’t help to have a waterproof phone on the seabed. 🙂 This is also valid for any other object which is useful, as the bailer or the anchor. ALWAYS tighten the anchor to your boat (I have already lost one, that way!).

The advantage of today’s smart phones is the fact that you can use GPS to know your position. Should you be interested in having even more information you may use the application made by Navionics in order to have your position visualised directly on a map.

In other words, before leaving for a trip on the sea, please consider what kind of trip you are going to do and organise yourself accordingly! 🙂

Shenzhen – Second day

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The second day was dedicated to visiting Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing: an important manufacturer of cookware and kitchen tools.

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
This is how the company presents itself upon arrival. Almost an hour drive from Shenzhen.

Integrating the supply chain

It surprised me to discover that this company, although its manufacturing site calls for new machinery, has implemented a mechanism in the supply chain allowing them to organise the work much better, reducing transportation lead times, and in general the time required to have the finished product available on the market. With selected costumers and suppliers they have implemented a system of what I would describe as active feedback, which informs continuously about the sales to the customer. In this manner they can activate their warehouse to prepare the load and the ship and eventually ship the goods to Europe.

Winnington Inventory Turns Program
Winnington Inventory Turns Program

Advantages of an integrated supply chain

The advantages are that the customer is better served, as they don’t have too high stocks of slow moving products and no out of stocks, while the manufacturer itself is less subject to the volatility of the market. In fact working like this you avoid the subjectivity of the human judgment, which often exaggerates the meaning of increasing/decreasing sales figures, creating erratic behaviours and confusion in the company. With this system it is possible to attenuate this issues by setting limits to the inventory, which, when reached, are triggering replenishment actions by the warehouse. In case those limits are reached too fast or too often, it might be the case to reconsider them. In order to implement this the company needed to involve their suppliers and customers in order to have an integrated supply chain: in order to do that they had to convince their suppliers to work based on this scheme, and this wasn’t an easy task, as many of them preferred the idea of selling one big batch and closing the operation until the next purchase. This might be theoretically true, but on the long run, it is more efficient as it enables you to lock in the customer while adding value for him.

Theory of Constraints

I’m thankful to the general manager for the presentation as it was really well explained and you could feel that who was explaining it, had to live it through, solving many issues. For example I have asked how they managed to convince their personnel that there still was room for improvement in a manufacturing process that has been executed and has delivered good results for so many years. The company, helped by a consultant, used the Theory of Constraints to analyse their current process and, by playing a game simulating the building of trucks, they were able to show how some principles of the theory could be implemented and to motivate their personnel.

Future challenges

As the Chinese workforce is getting more and more expensive the company is facing difficulties in keeping the current customers happy: some have already moved the manufacturing back to Europe, others have moved to other countries, like Vietnam, were the workforce is cheaper.  Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing  is going to make good use of the industry 4.0 in order to regain competitiveness while keeping their uniqueness of having smaller batches but diversified products.

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Before leaving…

… a picture of the whole SUPSI group!

A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington's.
A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington’s.

Shenzhen – First day

During the morning we visited an important OEM manufacturer of shoes: Huajian.

Huajian - Main building
Huajian – Main building

During our visit we were told that as the manufacturing costs are increasing in China, the company has chosen to move a big part of its production in Ethiopia, Africa, as wages are lower and there are no taxes for exporting to Europe.

Huajian is building a huge project in Ethiopia, basically a city built around the manufacturing site comprehensive of hospital as well as a symbolic Chinese wall, with the aim of covering all possible needs of their workers. Which, by the way, will be Ethiopians!

During our short visit, we also had the chance to assist to a singing performance of Ethiopians employees, who are currently learning the job in the main production site in Shenzhen: once finished the training program they will go back to Ethiopia and teach what they have learned to their colleagues.

While talking about this company we also pointed out how strong is the sense of community in China and how families still share common room and life, while in our countries we are living more and more as singular individuals. As a joke we said that one could define the current state of “development” of a country by the number of clinics dedicated to the elderly: therefore if you look at Switzerland society, which struggles to keep elderly integrated, has a lot of rest homes, whereas China doesn’t have any. In my understanding though, also in China it is getting more difficult to be a large family, since  in order to find work long distances need to be covered and people from rural areas simply can’t commute everyday as the journey is too long. Companies like Huajian, which had almost 20’000 employees, have built dormitories directly behind the company, in order to have workers coming from rural territories which are distant and poorly connected.

Other, consequent, topic of discussion was what is being done in Ticino for its development beside the opening of new rest homes. And there was no positive feeling… and no propositive ideas either.

We had quick lunch in a noodle store. Not easy eating noodles with the sticks, but I managed!

Eating noodles
Eating noodles

In the afternoon we met Huawei, the company that we all know because of mobile phones. We learned that the company has many other branches, the base of it being hardware and software for networking. In Switzerland for example Huawei has collaborations with Swisscom and Sunrise in order to develop the internet connectivity for fixed lines in the first case and mobile for the second. I don’t know if it is true but our speaker implied that the recent overtake of Sunrise on Swisscom regarding the best mobile network in Switzerland was related to their collaboration.

The expansion of Huawei in the US is of course limited, because of US protectionism, but also because being a Chinese company a strong involvement of the government is taken into account and of course data networks, datacenters, security systems are sensitive matters that an independent state struggles to share with another one.

As we weren’t satisfied yet in the evening we went to an event organised by Swissnex China, Venture Leaders: China – Swiss innovation night, where Swiss startups looking for partners were presenting their ideas and products. There were 10 startups presenting their idea in a short presentation during 2 minutes each: here the list.

  1. Bestmile
  2. Flyability
  3. Technis
  4. Oviva
  5. Zurimed
  6. Lunaphore
  7. Climeworks
  8. Urbanfarmers
  9. VIUVentures
  10. Astrocast

While at this link you may find a .PDF file with the executive summaries of each company.

Here below few pictures I took of the incredible Intercontinental Hotel

 

Heating system: technician advice

After a few months I have finally decided to do something about our heating system which is still showing some pressure loss as I was mentioning already in this previous post.

Past week I asked the plumber company Gino Lepori & figlio SA to pass by and have a look at our expansion vessel (not too sure this is the correct English name) and check it thoroughly. I wasn’t at home to check if he really did it, I’m pretty sure he didn’t like the idea of troubleshooting the whole heating installation as it is pretty big. Still, he told me has checked that expansion vessel and that in his opinion it is still working properly. Therefore he called Elco on my behalf. On Wednesday current week their technician passed by.

Apparently, my burner, belongs to the first ones that were installed and are known for a faulty heater exchanger: if this is the case it is not possible to spot the water spilling out of the burner or leaving tracks somewhere, because the water would go from the heater exchanger where the condensed water therefore there won’t be any chance of noticing it.

What to do?

The plan is following: we will try to separate the water circuit of the burner from the circuit of the floor heating. By doing this we hope to see if the burner looses water pressure. And it should happen quite quickly, as the volume of water contained in the burner is a lot less from that one in the whole heating circuit.

Claudio showed me the steps that I should perform in order to separate the burner circuit from the rest.

Step by step guide: how to isolate the burner water circuit

Turning off the burner

On the right of the burner there is an On/Off switch. Just press it

Closing the pipes bringing water to the burner

There are 4 valves which are very hard to turn. I used some hard surface to protect my fingers while trying to move them in the right direction.

Burner valves
Closing the valves bringing water to the burner. The one on the left is already closed and shows the position of a closed valve.

The valve in middle in yellow color, is the one bringing the gas and doesn’t need to be closed.

Once the water cannot reach the burner, in order to avoid the water pump of the burner to run while empty, it is a good idea to disconnect it.

Disconnecting the water pump

In the burner itself there is the pump which is connected to the power: it is sufficient to remove the cable in order to interrupt the power supply.

Burner water pump: power connector
This picture shows on the left the power connector which should be removed in order to interrupt the power supply to the pump

Once those operations are completed it is possible to start the burner again and check how the water pressure behaves. Shouldn’t there be any issue it should remain unchanged.

This morning: the first test

I decided to perform the first test this morning before leaving for work, around 08:15. As I entered the room I realized that the burner was running: I checked on the display and apparently it was heating. Also the valve for the heating was on. I mean we are in June, the heating is turned off, why did it start? It is true that in these days it is raining a lot, temperature have dropped, but outside there still are like 15°C while inside we still have a lot of warmth, still from the passed days, which were really hot. Anyhow, this will be next issue to be checked. I decided to do what I was told, therefore I executed each step as described above.

… and the first results

Which I don’t believe too much. The burner acted strangely, maybe because it had been heating until that moment. Anyhow, as soon as I had separated it from the rest of the heating circuit, the pressure dropped reaching very quickly 0.

Water pressure drop
As I switched the burner back on, after having closed the valves, the pressure dropped to 0.6 and after to 0.

Strange behaviour

The burner didn’t act like that when I tried together with Claudio, the Elco technician: in that case the pressure was stable at 1.6 bar. I guess that this happened because at the time it wasn’t heating.

What’s next?

I’m going to set the burner back to normality and try again. Meanwhile I’ll notify Claudio and see what he thinks about it. I believe that already the first, sudden pressure drop is already something which is showing a problem.

A valid alternative to Age of Empires?

We have been playing it, discussing about it, dreaming about it. And then it stopped. Age of Empires III has been one of our favourite games and I, together with my friends, we have spent literally nights playing it, dinners discussing about the heroic strategies and laughing about the tricks we managed to pull on each other in order to win.

0 A.D. is not Age of Empires. But it is indeed very similar to it. I have played just one game until now as I didn’t have much time, but it was great. The first difference which I discovered is the fact that in the Town center both male and female workers may be produced and although both are capable of gathering food, chopping wood and mining they differ in their productivity: females are more efficient in gathering and collecting food while males workers are more efficient in drinking beers… err… they are more efficient in mining. Also male workers efficiency is increased by having female workers working with them.

The soldiers are also capable of mining and this is a major difference to Age of empires were you would have had to send troops to protect your workers mining in the middle of the map. In 0 A.D. you may very well send your soldiers to mine, therefore knowing that they won’t fall as easily as mere civilians.

Oh… and I didn’t even mention the best part. The game is free to download as it is an opensource project. Which, from one side is great, on the other one the game is not considered finished and always in development and may still have some bugs or missing feature which may decrease the whole gaming experience. While I was playing though I didn’t notice anything major beside the fact that I was getting owned even by the computer player. 🙂

This the trailer of the current release:

The other very interesting part of the game is the fact that you are not allowed to build everywhere on the map: you may build only in those territories which are within your city’s borders, which get wider as you get more powerful.

I haven’t tested multiplayer games yet: I have seen that there are the required options to connect to each other and I believe that some networking skill may be required in order to connect to others (opening ports probably) but, as I said, I didn’t test it. Any candidate who is available? 😉

Bee home: reinforcements are under way!

The last three weeks I have been busy preparing for my exams and configuring the new Swiss Folding Team homepage therefore I wasn’t reporting about the evolutions of my bee home. In fact there was no evolution, sadly a devolution related to the cold temperatures: yes, my bees suddenly stopped working and there was no more buzz coming and going.

On Saturday I checked once more if there was something moving, I opened the small observatory drawer and met a sleepy and weak bee which was slowly moving. On one hand it was a nice surprise to meet one as I expected the drawer to be empty, on the other hand seeing that the bee was struggling I felt sorry and was unhappy as it confirmed my suspects regarding the effects of the low temperatures.

Today I received an email from the company, wildbiene und partners (I have just checked the homepage and they do have a wonderful film as introduction), were they were recognizing the challenge posed by the weather and proposing to send a second starting colony in order to reinforce the current one and take advantage of next weeks of hopefully nice weather. Needless to say that I immediately subscribed for the free proposal… I should receive the new bees around next week. Let’s hope for the best! 🙂

The Swiss Folding Team has its own webpage!

Please have a look: www.swissfoldingteam.ch

I have managed to create the homepage for the team, which still is far from perfect, but at least it offers the required information for new users. The homepage features support for multiple languages (translation still need to be made though) and a very simple forum, which we may use to exchange information between us and with new team members of course!

The hosting company couldn’t decrease the prices on the long term but still, they offered us the free registration of our domain for one year which is a nice gesture from their part.

I have been able to configure the site as it is also thanks to Roberto who is always a valuable source of information.

And here we go… nothing stands us in between now! We may very well start spreading the word about the team and the whole project! Put the link on Facebook, in your mail signature… get it going and let’s make The Swiss Folding Team the best performing team in Switzerland!

Swiss Folding Team: looking for a hosting service

I’m so excited! Since weeks I have been thinking and/or dreaming of the best ways of promoting our Swiss Folding Team. Of course we are going to need a homepage to do that and this automatically implies having a hosting service. I have done a quick research on what is available on the Swiss market now and the cheapest (at least on paper) seems to be ServerTown. I have asked my hosting service if they can do something similar and this is why I’m so excited right now.

On a first thought it would have been definitely better to go directly with Server Town without wasting energy/time in formulating an appropriate request to my current hosting company since the kind of leverage I have is very small: it is not that I don’t have any kind of leverage as I’m a customer having new ideas and plans for the future which may evolve and create a bigger business for them too and, let’s don’t forget, satisfied customers promote by word of mouth: I already have sent to my friends a message on what’s app announcing my request… if it goes well, for sure I will be happy, not only because I have received something that costs less, but also because, it would mean that somehow I have managed to move someone else to support our Swiss Folding Team! In fact, since I was writing to have a better offer, I took the chance of explaining what it was all about: just a few lines to explain about the Team, put it in the link to Stanford University… maybe if I don’t get the rebate we may get a new Team Member, which would also be great!

I have been thinking that should my provider not be able to directly reduce the prices maybe they could offer me some kind of sponsorship in exchange of some advertisement on the homepage: I could do that by publishing the name and logo of the hosting company. Although this is would probably the only one advertisement I would allow, as I don’t like having flashing banners everywhere…!

I really hope they don’t come with answer like: “I’m really sorry but our packages are already configured and we may not modify them”. Which basically is what I think I will receive as answer as it is very common (also they couldn’t do an exception for every crazy guy asking for rebates, do they!?!), but… do you imagine how cool this would be if they would offer me something? For me it would be great, not only because the Swiss Folding Team would have a cheaper hosting service, but because in order to achieve an objective, human beings were able to do an effort and come together.

Am I exaggerating things right now? Maybe. But I feel this way and it feels great to have such expectations, even though it is for a very, very small thing! 🙂

I’ll let you know how it goes, for sure. And… I also decided that, no matter how things will proceed, I will send the link to this post to whoever from the hosting company answers my request (hopefully it won’t be an automated answer 😀 ).

BTW before I go: I used Hostingliste to get a comparison among the best Webhosting services in Switzerland.

Cheers!

Bee home – Three weeks later

It is impressive how this animals keep up the good work. As for the moment being the bees keep filling the small bamboo tubes with eggs and close them with mud. This time I was lucky enough to to record a bee while it was placing some mud so to close the entrance to one of the bamboo tubes. Have a look at the video!

Beehome – Two weeks later

The beehome is standing since two weeks: the number of bees hasn’t increased by a lot. There are probably two or three bees which are flying in and out the small bamboo tubes, but there is no continuous buzz. On one hand I’m relieved, on the other I start wondering where all the other bees have gone. Already “installed” in the beehome, you should receive 15 bees as starting population.  Probably it will take some more time for them to completely develop.

In any case there have been impressive changes in the small hive: multiple tubes have already been closed by the bees with mud, which means that they are already filled with eggs!

20170402_Beehome_2WeeksLater
At least six bamboo tubes have already been completely closed by the bees. Inside the tubes the bees place eggs and once finished they “close the door” with mud.

As I was there checking the progression of the work and tube counting 😉 I had the opportunity of recording the following video, which is very sweet. I’m not sure if this behaviour is an exchange of information regarding flowers (direction, distance, …) or if it  is a part of the mating process, still is very sweet to look at. Enjoy!