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Self-Disrupt or Be Disrupted

September 22, 2017

TEM Lab - Fall, 2017
Romania, Montana
Written by Nate Flake

Our Final Week

Team Montana here from our final week in Romania and it has been one for the books. We were able to finish everything we wanted to do here both in and out of the office. The final presentation to Montana MG went great. We were able to get all the major department heads into the meeting, which was a victory of its own with how busy this company has been. They were receptive to our recommendations that were aimed not only at helping them be more productive but also helpinh them to cut costs.  

Our final presentation with Montana MG

After the meeting they thanked us for taking the time to come all the way from Arizona to help them grow as a company. We did one more walkthrough on the production floor and even managed to gather a lot of the employees together for a group photo. It must have been our lucky day. While in weeks previous we had run into complications with arranging meetings, obtaining documents, and even having to hand wash our clothes in our hotel showers, this week has gone smooth as butter. It seems like that is always how life works, though; as soon as you find your stride in something it is already time to move onto something new. 

Some of the employees on the production floor

“Out of Office” Activities

The high energy of Bucharest was a welcome break from the small-town life we have been used to in Campulung. We stayed in the heart of Old Town that is lined with cobblestone streets filled with restaurants, kebab stands, and nightclubs. We had heard that Bucharest had some of the best nightlife in Europe, but it wasn’t until after pushing our way through packed streets of people dancing at two in the morning and meeting new friends from all over Europe in the largest club in Bucharest that we were convinced Romanians can party with the best of them.

Chris at Triumph Arch in Bucharest

 

Old Town Bucharest

While last weekend the northern part of Romania was getting hit with torrential downpours, we were hanging out by the pool in Bucharest in 90 degree weather. Great timing on our part. When we heard about Therme, the largest wellness center in Europe that is built on natural thermal pools, we had to see what the hype was about. We were not disappointed and spent the day relaxing in the thermal pools and trying out the different waterslides. We thought it was important to get a full R&R in as a team so we could bring our A game going into the final week. 

Relaxation is the key to preparation

Self-Disrupting 

We returned to Campulung ready to tackle our final week with Montana. We were able to wrap up all the last-minute meetings and questions that we had with different department heads within the company. One of the things that I wanted to do before we finished the project was to go through the facility and speak to some of the workers about the machinery. A lot of the machinery in the plant is as old as the building but still is maintained and operational. Some of the machines look like they came straight from a Soviet Union labor propaganda poster. In fact, Montana still has some signage around the plant that is from this era, with one reading: “The prestige of our factory can be maintained by the quality of our work!” I guess they keep it up for nostalgia’s sake.

The sign over the production floor that reads, "The prestige of our factory can be maintained by the quality of our work"

 

Top: Hungarian drilling machine from 1978 | Bottom: "Titanic", the newest machine from Taiwan

As we walked around, I asked some of the more seasoned workers about the machinery they were working on. Some of the machines are from China and date back to the '60s and '70s. A good portion of the drill machines were purchased from Hungary in 1978, while others came from Germany in the early '80s. Another young worker who hasn't been working at Montana long, also named Razvan (I think that is the 5th Razvan we have met in this small town), was working on a simpler machine that looked relatively new, but it turns out it was also 15-20 years old. In this factory, it is considered one of the new machines.  

Top: One of the machines from Germany in the late '80s | Bottom: Razvan working on a "newer" machine for early employees

The factory isn’t all dated however, and they have quite a few new machines that stick out like a sore thumb. These machines have been replacing processes that multiple machines used to do and the plan is to eventually phase out all of the old machines; but, so far it has been a slow move. Montana is in the middle of transitioning as a company. They also want to purchase new machinery because they will require less manpower to operate, as they project a wave of 25% of their workforce retiring in the next 5 years!

An experienced machinist showing a young engineer the ropes

The future of Montana, however, is stored in a little room that sits off to the side of the warehouse. Razvan, our liaison, explained to me that this room held “his baby,” as he slid his access card and we walked into an almost empty room. The only thing standing in the room is a yellow robot that looks like it belongs in an Audi factory in Germany. Instead of using 3 different machines and 10 different people to create one piece of a die, Razvan explained that the robot could do all of it in a fraction of the time. And the best part: Montana made the robot themselves.

I look excited to see this robotic arm, but it pales in comparison to the excitement Razvan had showing me it

They eventually want to move away from manufacturing all of the dies in-house and, instead, make robots--first for themselves and then to sell to other factories. Great idea. As AI is becoming a necessity to stay competitive and continue to innovate, this seems like the perfect disruptive move for Montana. If they don’t do it somebody else will. We are hoping that in using some of our recommendations, they will be able to continue to grow as a company as they use the latest software and KPIs to drive that growth. Perhaps TEM Lab Montana 2020 will be for helping them keep up with the high demand they will be facing for these robots.

Lessons from Team Montana

As we wrap up this project and the past 5 weeks of traveling to different parts of Romania as a team, we are each taking away different lessons that we have learned. This TEM Lab project had its ups and downs, but overall we enjoyed the challenges and being able to see and experience Romania. Here are some of the lessons from each member of the team: 

Chris: Traveling to Romania and consulting with Montana MG has been an adventure. I am grateful for the opportunity that Thunderbird has given me to participate in TEM Lab. The country is super beautiful and green. Its people are friendly and welcoming. There is so much to see and experience here. Romania has a bright future ahead.

Chelsey: I have always wanted to visit Europe as I heard it was beautiful; you always hear about Paris and Germany but not too often do you hear about Romania. If you have the chance, visit this beautiful country. You will see and experience culture that seems frozen in time but progressing in technological advancements everyday. Just be forewarned, there are a lot of stairs but its great exercise and weight loss even when you eat the deliciously rich food. Thanks Romania for the hospitality, I will be back!

Saranya: The highlight for me was the beautiful landscapes of Romania. We had the chance to hike Mt Moldoveanu, the highest peak in Romania, and the view was breathtaking. I also was pleasantly surprised at the ease of finding vegetarian options throughout the country. Overall my experience in Romania was enjoyable and one that I will always cherish. 

Nate: For me the big takeaway from this project was learning how the millenials see their own country. The mindset is very similar to that in the west where the younger generation wants to turn the system on its head and take the country in a new direction. They are proud of their country and took every opportunity to tell us about the history that Romania has. I enjoyed getting to know Romanians my same age in each of the cities we visited and hearing their stories. They not only provided insight into their future aspirations for Romania, but also always came through with recommendations for the best restaraunts and hot-spots in their cities. 

The team at the final presentation. From left to right: Chelsey, Saranya, Nate and Chris