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:


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!


Is there enough fuel for the trip?


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.


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


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