Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great Day in Shanghai

Today was a full but interesting and productive day. We took six taxi's to an industrial park on the outskirts of the city to visit Gentex. Four taxis arrived as planned, and the other two got a little lost and arrived late. The adventure made for some good stories and a few laughs, though.

Gentex, based in Zeeland, MI, is the world leader in manufacturing electronics in mirrors, supplying 80% of the world market. The are a supplier to the major auto manufacturing companies, providing rear- and side-view mirrors to vehicles with special trim packages. All mirror components are designed and manufactured by Gentex, including microelectronics, microphones, chemicals, glass processing and coating, vision systems, and automated assembly equipment. Their mirrors include features such as auto-dim, compasses, temperature display, lighting, and communication systems such as OnStar in GM models.

While Gentex has about 2500 employees worldwide, the China operation employs about 20 people. What started as a sales office has grown to include mirror assembly as localization of suppliers increases among auto manufacturing companies in China. We were given an overview of the company before viewing the product display area and visiting the assembly facility. Our students had a lot of time to ask questions and speak one-on-one with the Gentex staff.

We decided to take a bus to our next company visit, and while we waited for the bus to arrive our faculty facilitator Shanshan gave a brief lecture about localization in China and other observations he had about Gentex. The other trip facilitators have labeled Shanshan our "fixer," because he can make anything happen for us. We're grateful for his language and problem-solving skills, as he helped to arrange our bus to the next visit, Brady Corporation.

Brady, based in Milwaukee, WI, is a global corporation working to identify and protect products, premises, and people. They supply safety products to all types of businesses, as well as components for a number of manufacturers, such as computer and smart phone manufacturers. We are fortunate to know Allan Klotsche, the President of Asia-Pacific Operations, whose son is travelling with us. Mr. Klotsche's leadership team has been meeting in Shanghai this week, and stayed an extra day to meet with us this afternoon. Brady provided an excellent presentation on a variety of topics including a company overview, managing talent in China, managing financials in China, strategic sourcing, product development, and working and living as an ex patriot. Again, our students had ample time to ask questions and interact one-on-one with the Brady Corporation staff.

Since taxis and buses were not enough, we decided to take the subway to our alumni reception this evening. It was a little daunting, since some of us had never taken a subway before, and none of us had ever been on the Shanghai subway. 22 million people make for a crowded subway system, but the system is fairly new and was very clean and nice. We got separated twice, but everyone made it to the final stop.

The reception at the beautiful Swissotel was great. The food was amazing, with everything ranging from shellfish, to made-to-order pasta and pizza, to fruit, pastries, ice cream, and a chocolate fountain. We met a number of alumni living in the area, as well as the Kelley MBA students who have been traveling in China and some of our students who are currently studying in Shanghai. In this picture, Kelsea networks with Kelley Professor of Marketing Greg Kitzmiller and an alumnus who recently moved to Shanghai.

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