A beautiful one week holiday in Greece!

As almost every year also in 2017 we decided to spend our summer holidays in Greece, together with Mike. Possibly on a boat, maybe island hopping. Besides the airplane tickets nothing was really planned: knowing Mike, we didn’t spend too much time on planning, we agreed on defining details once arrived in Schinoussa, a tiny island belonging to the Cyclades.

But then, somewhere in July, we discovered Ema had no plans for the summer. So we told him to join us. And after a week he did buy plane tickets. Three weeks after even Marco and Maite did. Spontaneously. Which was a great start for our summer holidays. Both would stay with us for one week, more or less, enough to get them introduced to Schinoussa, the Greek food and some of the most common Greek words too.

Just to plant a chronological waypoint in our resumé, the five of us met in Athens, at the Airport on Saturday, the 12th of August and we spent, more or less, a week of holidays together.

Athens

As there was no chance to get to Schinoussa on the same day we decided to sleep one night at the Holiday Inn very near to the airport and to make a quick tour of the Acropolis. Here Ema had the chance to make some experiments with his camera. I did too and here below some of the results.

 

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 As Ema sent me his pictures I may add his too in order to have richer photo gallery.

In the evening we finally met Mike who invited us for dinner in a restaurant very near the Acropolis. It was a sophisticated kind of kitchen, was good, but not really the Greek cuisine we are acquainted to.

As the next day we had to get up quite early we had just a few drink on our way back.

Athens_Night_CrowdedPath
Below the Acropolis, we walk looking for our last drink before going to bed.

Reaching Schinoussa

We got up very early in the morning as our flight to Naxos was starting early. But as we had reserved late this was the only option we got and the one we choose to go with. In 30 minutes we arrived in Naxos.

 

Soon enough we discovered that the information I was able to find on the internet regarding the ferry Skopelitzis wasn’t up to date: Skopelitzis doesn’t travel on Sunday. This was how our first adventure started.

Adventures

Arriving to Schinoussa

Arrived in Naxos Mike was fortunate to meet a friend who was kind enough to take Marco’s and Maite’s luggage on his car as, he too, was travelling to Schinoussa, with another, bigger ship. We tried to find place on this particular ferry, but with our big surprise it was completely full. We still had a backup plan which involved Periklis: he was waiting for us in Schinoussa and could easily pick us up with Tovenaki as Naxos and Schinoussa are very near to each other. This was our new plan and we started to follow it: the first step required us to reach a more convenient port for Periklis to reach us. After having asked a few taxi drivers, we decided to opt for the public bus, as the requests of the drivers were outrageous and illegal. After one hour of bus we reached the new destination, beautiful beach. But. At that time we weren’t looking for a good swim, we were waiting for Periklis to pick us up. Periklis called us, while we still were on the bus, mentioning he couldn’t start Tovenaki’s engines as there was a general black out of the boat. At that point we were on a beautiful sandy beach, carrying our luggage under a burning hot sun, with no certainty of getting a pick up to Schinoussa, and there were no hotels, restaurants, or tavernas, which could smooth out the situation. Even worse, Maite and Marco’s luggage was on the car of Mike’s friend, probably travelling to Schinoussa, already: this particular detail made the option of sleeping one night in Naxos even less appealing!

In the meantime we found an abandoned hotel were we could protect ourselves from the sun and wait for the final announcement of Periklis struggling to start Tovenaki’s engine: luckily the announcement never came, instead P. managed to reach us and soon we were in Schinoussa having lunch all together at Mersini’s place.

 

Choosing the fish…

Once arrived in Schinoussa we enjoyed very much the multiple and different beaches. The nearest to us was Tsiguri, a beach which we went to for a few consecutive days and were we also ordered some fish. As usual in Greece you are asked to got with the waiter and choose the fish (and if they don’t ask you to go, I suggest you should ask them to show you). I was acquainted with this procedure but I never ordered a fish for 6 persons… and in this case the fish was very big. And not cheap either. But it was fantastic. It was a part of a grouper grilled. Still, as we got caught a little by surprise by the price, that 200 Euros lunch grew into a symbol of our holiday!

Engineers at work
The fish was so good that we couldn’t leave anything on the plate. Our engineer worked hard to accomplish this.

… and cutting the rabbit!

Our culinary adventures weren’t limited to the sea and it extraordinary fish, on the contrary! Let me first introduce to you a few elements in order for you to get the whole picture right.

Mike managed to find a room for Marco and Maite at Iannis place, an old man with a big house and a lot of empty rooms which get filled by tourists during the summer months. We were lucky to find one with such a short notice as Marco and Maite decided quite late to join us for the summer holidays. Since the first day Iannis took care of Marco and Maite in a very thoughtful way and one night all of us were invited to his place to enjoy the beautiful view of the sunset on Alygaria’s beach and to have dinner with him. The main dish was based on an oven cooked rabbit. As we tried to serve the dishes we realised that we couldn’t cut it properly as we were missing the appropriate tool… Iannis slowly stood up from the chair and left us wondering where he was go, until, after a few moments, he came back with the proper tool. A bit exaggerated some may think, but it definitely did the job!

The right tool for cutting the rabbit!
The right tool for cutting the rabbit!

As promised, we also managed to take some pictures of the beautiful view during the sunset.

 

Buganvillea
In the front a beautiful buganvillea, on the background Lioliou’s beach
Beautiful sunset
The beautiful sunset from the top of Alygaria’s beach

Iraklia

I thought it was a good idea to take my friends on a tour and see something else besides Schinoussa and experience a little bit more the life on board. Periklis was kind enough to take us in a very nice bay, protected from the wind and where, under the sea, lies a World War II plane. Once there we dropped the anchor and had a beautiful swim. While the rest of the group was still swimming I realised that Periklis was struggling to have electricity: no pumps, no engines were working on the boat. We were stuck. As he tried to restart the engines, we had a few drinks, some more swimming. But the engines wouldn’t start. The boat had to be tucked back to Schinoussa. Periklis suggested that the best option was to get on Anemos a tourist ship, which similar to sightseeing buses, takes visitors on different islands and ships. This we did and joined the group of current tourists, all Italians, and we spent a nice afternoon on a beautiful beach. Although, we weren’t organised for that kind of visit, and we didn’t have any umbrella protecting us heat of the sun. Marco and Ema weren’t impressed by the situation at all and as soon as we touched ground, they started mounting the nearest mountain: from there they could take some beautiful pictures.

Sea Colors
This was the view once on top of the climbing: amazing!

At a given point, on the horizon, we saw Anemos tucking Tovenaki away. Although it wasn’t anything particularly worrying I took some pictures of the scene as it had something of melancholic. Tovenaki is most probably one of the most loved boats we have ever sailed with and in my imagination is related to going fast, splashing water left and right, beautiful and streamlined waves on the back. Not at all the scene that was playing before my eyes in that particular moment. Have a look yourself, doesn’t the boat have an unhappy attitude?

 

Sand constructions

For the whole holiday I have been talking to my friends about Life is Feudal: Your Own a new video game that I have recently bought and that I have started playing just before leaving for Greece. Quite quickly Marco and Ema felt so involved by my reports and stories  that we all had to start some simulation about the game itself. The sand of Lioliou beach was the perfect way to let some of our building phantasies go!

 

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But this wasn’t enough as Marco needed to build the tallest sand mountain ever seen on Livadi beach.

The tallest Mountain of sand
The tallest Mountain of sand

All of this little adventures were accompanied by a lot of eating, drinking, laughing and sleeping following the motto “No stress”!

Soon it was time to pack our baggages, say goodbye to Iannis and to the beautiful Schinoussa. Some had to leave earlier, some later, we all had to, but with beautiful memories!

 

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

 

A long weekend on the mountains

… although it wasn’t decided neither confirmed we managed to have a free Friday and have a long weekend in Pontresina very near to St. Moritz. We had taken into consideration going to Liguria, to the seaside, but the weather forecast was announcing rain for Saturday and Sunday, so we opted for the mountains.

The Hotel we decided to stay is called “Hotel Schloss”: it is quite nice, the SPA, the pool as well as the rooms are new and definitely welcoming. We even tried the different kinds of saunas which I usually avoid since I don’t like walking through the hotel wearing a bathrobe and meeting other guests in the lift wearing usual clothes reciprocally exchanging stupefied looks. It promptly happened. There is another ground why I often avoid the SPAs and saunas: it is the naked thing. I understand that it should be done this way, and, although I did try to have a sauna and obediently left my towel out and after a while I noticed that it wasn’t that embarrassing anymore, at the beginning I always have to make an effort to overwhelm myself. Do I really need to do that?

The funny thing is, that this time, I finished being in a warm water pool were everyone was supposed to be naked, but no one was: beside me! I had a laugh at myself and quickly left the pool…

After a quick research on trip advisor we decided to go to the Restaurant called “Sport stüvetta” were we had very good fish: we spent 150.00 CHF, with just one glass of prosecco, water, soup as a starter and a coffee. I’m not shocked , since we know that here everything is expensive, and also because the food was really good as well as the service, still… it is expensive and it is a pity because it would be great to visit that restaurant more often!

We managed to ski both Friday and Saturday: snow was hard and icy, but really fast. So it was fun both for me and my wife.

Beautiful view seen from the Chamanna Restaurant

On Sunday we decided to go for a walk through Val Rosegg.

Panoramic picture of the valley

The walk takes about two hours, it is mainly plain, so, no difficulties at all. At the end of it there is a restaurant/hotel which is quite good, with huge selection of desserts. We have seen that many preferred to use the coach with horses instead of walking…

Coach to the Rosegg Restaurant

Once we finished our lunch we just took some pictures at the first European Stupa a structure made mainly by ice and we headed back for our car since we had to slowly realize that our weekend was quickly finishing.

First European Stupa

Treviso

Arrived in Treviso! Luckily the rain already stopped therefore as soon as we left the car we went for a short walk through the old town… which is small but lovely. My wife loves the shopping here… we started looking for some ideas for Christmas! For the moment being we just have found gifts for us… a set of Alessi pots, called ‘Cintura di orione‘.