Visit to a Factory

(How things are made: same expressions as mine, although chocolates were badly missing from the highly mechincal and electrical scene)

Last semester i was studying production planning and controls - useful for firms that manufacture where demand is uncertain and it has to decide how to much produce, but also useful for scheduling, sequencing of jobs, marketing, etc. So my senior told me about his friend who runs a factory and has welcomed to do course project on his company, especially in inventory management. As i had already done half the work, i had to let it down.

This semester we contacted and met, and today we finally paid first visit to the factory with the owner who is an engineering student in mechanical. The visits got cancelled due to a geniune problem. we rescheduled and then, thanks to my ability to do work at 11th hour, i had to cancel visit as i had to go to another firm... We Pakistanis are very good at it!

I'm learning how to run factories, and i haven't been into a factory before, apart from a textile mills which was very machine-intensive, but i learned production planning and saw concepts in action. We've been learning lean production tools which is about reducing waste (like, time, transport, handling, defects, wrong worker motions, etc.), achieving full worker involvement in continuous process improvements, and stuff like that. The way we're learning these things in the class room is genuinely amazing for we do things using Lego blocks, simulating factory environment here. (Here's such a class demonstration from MIT lean academy session: Lego Simulation.) That's been a very effective teaching environment. Now i feel ready to do it in friend's factory. And that's exactly what we'll do next time.

The firm produces some electrical devices on demand that means they don't make anything extra or less. And since product is big and parts or not made or assembled on a moving assembly line chance of defects, as per the friend (= owner), are almost zero. I don't know where the losses are taking place, or where the inefficiencies lie.

Nonetheless, we began the tour of the plant by switching on tv and watching a glimpse of Pakistan's cricket match (and yes we won against Australia! Yahoo! - by hook or crook, indeed by pure luck :P). i commend myself for having the sensibility to be ready to give up watching match because i understand "opportunity costs". Off the topic again. Owner took me to the floor. I couldn't see everything of the plant from one point, although i could see 75-80% of the work station. Because of small space it looks like a mess, and that's a problem they're working on, we'll talk about problems later.

He introduced me to the product by familiarizing with the machines, its process, the material machine deals with. We went through all the work centers and process step by step; i saw the product transforming from totally raw metal sheets to highly sophisticated electrical panels used in grid stations. It felt good to discover the product from scratch to finished-good. I felt manliness in that rough and tough, and noisy environment. This is what men are created for (at least partially) :P - biologically and psychologically speaking. This is where metal was crushed, bent, grind-ed, welded, polished, painted, heated, given bath of acid water, phosphate and what not. Then, taken to electrical parts assembling room where locally manufactured (in the company and else) and imported parts where being carefully assembled in a quiet fashion, although background music was generated from mechanical shop.

We sat in the room and talked about the problems, things that we could do together and i as independently. He explained the process flow by drawing a diagram of the factory, i got to make it on visio and on Flexsim, do remind me (i'm talking to the blog... :P).

This is called As-is Process Model where we show what processes are exactly happening - be it how you register for a college, or how you make a car. For illustration see the following picture - fun isn't it!?

Opportunities/Problems with the hidden factory: Spring To-do List
- Time & motion study of each process with a normal worker

-There's no documentation of bill of materials (which shows which materials are used & its details), or the process (of manufacturing, assembling, etc.)

- There are safety issues due to disorgazined work flow

- There are no visual instructions which any person, even if he's dumb and deaf can see to understand what to do without asking anyone

- Space: there's less space and more things - got to think out of box here

- Line balancing: got to organize the physical location of work centers/machines in which workers don't have to move any where

- Cycle times

- Cost accounting: would be an interesting exercise to invoke old concepts.

Doing less but quality work is the key my friend...

Bacha Pass ho Gaya! (Kid passed!)

And tale of two car manufacturing siblings...! Aayan and Maham (again!)...

Song: "Bacha Pass ho Gaya! Ben 10"

Song: "Mein nay gari banai" (I made a car)

Fear & Hope

I was standing before water pot put on fire - it was boiling. I saw the bubbles develop slowly but at a fast pace, and i shrank into meditation. I recalled category A industries our professor was telling us about, which operate at temperatures above 5000 degree Celsius. I shrugged at very thought of boiling tea water touching human skin, too painful to imagine, let alone of 5000 degree Celsius. Again i was reminded of what our scholars and pious men and women tell us about when they recite Qur'an and narrate Prophetic hadith - about the destiny of man. There are three different destinies that all of us would share: heaven (inshaAllah), hell, and a neutral place between the two. I thought, looking at boiling water reaching its climax, how to better to fear hell. Fear of one object is better than all fears of this world, which in fact is the fear of one Rabb... Make your deal...

It is very urgently important to mention a fallacy many good Muslims sometimes fall into: they are told not to fear hell, portraying it as human weakness, in fact the perpetrators of such fallacies make fun of those who fear hell and hope for paradise. Some Muslims, unfortunately, are moved by such profane arguments, which are in fact sentimental in nature, and have you reality attached to it.

'Description of the beauty of Holy Prophet Muhammad'

A description of the Beloved, Sal Allahu 'alayhi wa salam, from "The Sunnah as Primordiality" by Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad
paraphrased by Mustafa Miroku Nemeth

Here is a condensed recollection, a kind of verbal icon, of that Prophetic beauty. It is paraphrased from a passage by Imam al-Ghazali, in Book 19 of his Revival of the Religious Sciences, Ihya Ulum al-Din.

‘The Messenger of God (s) was the mildest of men, but also the bravest and most just of men. He was the most restrained of people; never touching the hand of a woman over whom he did not have rights, or who was not his mahram. He was the most generous of men, so that never did a gold or silver coin spend the night in his house. If something remained at the end of the day, because he had not found someone to give it to, and night descended, he would go out, and not return home until he had given it to someone in need. From what Allah gave him [...] he would take only the simplest and easiest foods: dates and barley, giving anything else away in the path of Allah. Never did he refuse a gift for which he was asked. He used to mend his own sandals, and patch his own clothes, and serve his family, and help them to cut meat. He was the shyest of men, so that his gaze would never remain long in the face of anyone else. He would accept the invitation of a freeman or a slave, and accept a gift, even if it were no more than a gulp of milk, or the thigh of a rabbit, and offer something in return. He never consumed anything given in sadaqa. He was not too proud to reply to a slave-girl, or a pauper in rags. He would become angered for his Lord, never for himself; he would cause truth and justice to prevail even if this led to discomfort to himself or to his companions.

‘He used to bind a stone around his waist out of hunger. He would eat what was brought, and would not refuse any permissible food. If there was dates without bread, he would eat, if there was roast meat, he would eat; if there was rough barley bread, he would eat it; if there was honey or something sweet, he would eat it; if there was only yogurt without even bread, he would be quite satisfied with that.

‘He was not sated, even with barley-bread, for three consecutive days, until the day he met his Lord, not because of poverty, or avarice, but because he always preferred others over himself.

‘He would attend weddings, and visit the sick, and attend funerals, and would often walk among his enemies without a guard. He was the most humble of men, and the most serene, without arrogance. He was the most eloquent of men, without ever speaking for too long. He was the most cheerful of men. He was afraid of nothing in the dunya. He would wear a rough Yemeni cloak, or a woolen tunic; whatever was lawful and was to hand, that he would wear. He would ride whatever was to hand: sometimes a horse, sometimes a camel, sometimes a mule, sometimes a donkey. And at times he would walk barefoot, without an upper garment or a turban or a cap. He would visit the sick even if they were in the furthest part of Madina. He loved perfumes, and disliked foul smells.

‘He maintained affectionate and loyal ties with his relatives, but without preferring them to anyone who was superior to them. He never snubbed anyone. He accepted the excuse of anyone who made an excuse. He would joke, but would never say anything that was not true. He would laugh, but not uproarously. He would watch permissible games and sports, and would not criticise them. He ran races with his wives. Voices would be raised around him, and he would be patient. He kept a sheep, from which he would draw milk for his family. He would walk among the fields of his companions. He never despised any pauper for his poverty or illness; neither did he hold any king in awe simply because he was a king. He would call rich and poor to Allah, without distinction.

‘In him, Allah combined all noble traits of character; although he neither read nor wrote, having grown up in a land of ignorance and deserts in poverty, as a shepherd, and as an orphan with neither father nor mother. But Allah Himself taught him all the excellent qualities of character, and praiseworthy ways, and the stories of the early and the later prophets, and the way to salvation and triumph in the Akhira, and to joy and detachment in the dunya, and how to hold fast to duty, and to avoid the unnecessary. May Allah give us success in obeying him, and in following his sunna. Amin ya rabb al-alamin.‘

This moving portrait by Imam al-Ghazali depicts our role model, and simultaneously our ideal of humanity lived in the form of absolute beauty. His was a life lived in fullness. There was no aspect of human perfection that he did not know and manifest. And his perfection also indicates the nature of specifically masculine perfection. He was a great warrior; a sound hadith narrated by Imam al-Darimi tells us, on the authority of Ali, that

‘On the day of Badr I was present, and we sought refuge in the Prophet (s.w.s.),

who was the closest of us all to the enemy. On that day he was the most powerful

of all the combatants who fought.’One of the Companions described him riding his horse, wearing a red turban and holding his sword, and said later that never in his life had he seen a sight more beautiful.

In 23 years he became undisputed ruler of Arabia. Through his genius and charisma, and the attractive force of his personality, he united the Arabian tribes for the first time in their history. He took his people from the depths of idolatry into the purest form of monotheism. He gave them a law for the first time. He laid down, in his mosque in Madina, a system of worship, self-restraint and spiritual fruitfulness that provided the inspiration and the precedent for countless generations of later worshippers and saints. In affirming the Ka‘ba, he affirmed beauty; so that all else that he did was beautiful.

And in all this, he attributed his success only to Allah. He was, as Imam al-Ghazali records, the most humble of men. He was forbearing, polite, courteous, and mild. He paid no attention to people’s outward form, but assessed and responded to their spirits. He forgave constantly. He was indulgent with the simple Bedouin of Central Arabia, the roughest people on earth. When one of them. who wanted money, pulled his cloak so violently that it left a mark, he merely smiled, and ordered that the man be given what he wanted.'

To home at last!

The phrase (=title) is reminiscint of Free at last! for both express same feeling :D I live in another city, although in a home, minus father, rest of family lives in Sargodha. Its Friday, and tomorrow's school holiday. i get homesick quickly, as i study more at home ('cause there's little else to do there ;). its been a month i've not seen mother, ammi jaan, as we call her. So following things are on the agenda:

1. Big hurray! once i land in 'the promised land'
2. Rub eyes to show disbelief, and suspend it afterward :D
3. Jump, sway, dance, shout, enjoy
4. Hug mother and brother, do it again
5. My first cousin's kids! Awwwww! They came in dream even.... So cute... I survive this city of Lahore by remembering their magical awesomeness... Hug them, kiss them, play with them, video shoot their brilliance moves and dialogues... pray for them!
6. Finally, before you do anything (yes, even to-do # 1) open the to-do list page of home works, around 6-7 things to do :S :/ :( ;( :o :x <_> cheer up! for god's sake, its meant to be play...

Do it! Umer get used to "Do it!"

Before they do it all!

We need to live this dictum as a nation, at least i do... I read an American writer say that people don't like getting out of their comfort zones, hence its true to assume that most of humans don't wanna do things that cause them pain, not the physical pain, but the pain of worry, anxiety, going against the routine, covering an extra mile, etc. We lie when we say we don't get opportunities, 'cause we can easily create opportunities.

For instance, you work for a company: Can you get a world-class professor train your employees for free from a leading world university say from MIT for many hours? We know how much consultants or trainers cost these days; and some of us would laugh at it, admitting their own shyness. Well, a 2nd-year student at my university arranged a 3-hour session to train university employees and faculty via webinar, by a senior MIT professor for free... And he had never met him, he had no relations with him.

Every day Allah creates opportunities of wealth, learning, growth, etc. out of nowhere. Its our shyness and laziness that fails us, and 5 years or 10 years from now we'll regret. May Allah save us from laziness and lack of courage to sail in rough and harsh seas...

Offensive or Curious?

Today i got results of a quiz and assignment in a course . It was depressing, although as a whole i'd get 5/5, but individually i was way behind the toppers. Complacency was the problem. i've not been taking it passionately, often dozing in the class. The result of quiz/assignment was a message to change, and i decided not to miss any opportunity of participation and questioning from that moment on. Usually, my classmates appreciate quietness, and deem speaking/questioning in classroom as an impure state of mind, which can rust their faculties. They believe and act on it only during class time. The moment the painful hours finish off, the oily tongues are unleashed :P :D. (No they're sweet people too...)

So i charged, and multiple times asked questions just out of excitement that i wanted to create in myself. i tried to comment on every element in the topic. Instructor found some questions wide off the mark as it were mere anticipation, and were beyond the scope of discussion. He critiqued the irrelevance of some points, which i did not pay heed to, and despite roars of laughter by the audience (class), i tried to participate to the maximum.

Was this offensive? May be because i's smiling and often laughed when instructor asked to stop being productive... May be i didn't ask questions with more linguistic respect... Yes, questions were out of excitement and curiosity, but it did not fit the temperament of the new instructor, because in many other classes, we're snubbed for not participating... Also because in other courses, teacher doesn't allow one person to ask questions, but our instructor didn't turn down my question/comment whenever i raised my hand... In future i'd try to ask questions that fall in the scope of the topic being discussed, and focus on qualitative comments which combine couple(s) of topics and are case-based...

Liberation for what?

"Proof that girls/women of today are better than yesterday's is that only today girls (who are sitting in the hall) are free to hear what we've said (read: totally vulgar and third-rate slang, dirty jokes, and explicit words); had it been 70s, it won't have been possible for them to listen (=enjoy) to all this and yet not go out of the room."

That was a worthy student who walks proudly on the earth reasoning that he is getting an undergrad degree, although he may devoid of any skill other than speaking on stage. It means that this liberation of women is totally wrong from the Islamic ethical standpoint. If our education has developed an instinct of acceptance of what is out rightly vulgar, and even girls, symbol of bashfulness and chastity, have come to copy men in this regard - shame on it!

Everyone - including opposition or in the audience - had assumed certain premises, like, progress is the epitome of man/woman, that if someone is not progressing, s/he's evil; that all that all education that is being given in Pakistan is good; that goodness lies in awareness, literacy rates, with the number of cars, cemented buildings, hygienic environment, etc. I'm not saying all of this is totally bad, at least many of these things can be wrong to a large extent. However, the government (team which was in favor of the topic) declared that all values are relative! What can most erroneous than that! To say the least, it seems to me that they're contradicting themselves. As it was pointed out that they need to talk about the word better... Wrong assumptions and notions too prevalent in modern world to a fatal degree...

This is what Prof Hassan Askari wrote about in his, Maghrib ya Jadeediyat ki Gumrahiyoon Ka Naqsha ("An Outline of the Fallacies of West/Modernity" - loose trans.).

The Machine that Changed the World: Hands on!

These days i'm reading on how Toyota, essentially Japanese firm, revolutionized the production methodology from a book called The Machine that Changed the World. Toyota's innovation was named as Lean Production by the book written back in 1990, 21 years from now. Previously, mass production was pursued in US and Europe, invented by Henry Ford, in which standard products were produced in a very high volume, leaving little or no room for customization. Before that, as we all know, there was craft production, in which there were highly skilled masters who would make customized products.

Lean production takes the qualities of both outdated methodologies, and eliminates their negativity. The book gives the history and characteristics of all 3 ways of production, and step by step shows how lean developed in Japan and was successfully implemented in US as well. The 2nd book in the series, Lean Thinking, as per my professor, is more important that the one i'm reading.

What has all of this got to do with me? I'm excited about it for i'm going to visit tomorrow a generator producing factory of a mechanical engineering student, who's a friend of my senior. I feel fetting into the shows of Ohno and Toyoda, Toyota guys who innovated lean... i got to make a checklist of lean tools that we need to implement there, study the plant, share it with professors and come up with improvements....

Islamic Banking for Me

Today read a paper Interest and Modern Economy, by Dr Asad Zaman and Arshad Zaman. Dr Asad Zaman is a PhD in economics from Stanford University. He's currently a professor of Economics at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

It has dispelled many doubts about what Islamic banking is. What more could i get from the paper, after studying finance, was a penetrating anti-thesis of debt or interest based economy, and how efficient it would be if we completely ban interest in modern economy. Please download the paper from here.

In a nut-shell, there are two ways you can go about financing your business:

1. Loan from a bank: you pay fixed interest to the lender

2. Equity based financing: simply, you put your money or someone else - you don't give interest, but share profit or loss

Surprisingly, i was taught great deal about interest rates, debt, and also about equity, but never told that most of the companies in US and Japan go for equity than loan. Why not 100% go for equity? Because, as i am taught, there's an artificial tax advantage given to loan. For instance, in US 40% tax is deducted on 1 dollar of loan. Dr Zaman argues that if this advantage is shed off, share of equity will be maximum.

For me, reading up how efficient and less risky Islamic mode of financing is, which's # 2, that's a sigh of relief. All that is worrisome, as pointed out in the paper, is some deception, that is, some Islamic financing is islamic by name only, while undercover it is not different from conventional interest-based, prohibited banking. This is especially true for how government of Pakistan's mode of financing, which is not implementing shariah on itself.

One proof of viability of islamic banking and its market is that Dow-Jones has introduced islamic banking stuff to capture huge market of religious Muslims. Once Muslim governments take islamic financing serious, there's no doubt islamic banking can dominate globe and finish off interest based banking, which was banned in Pakistan for centuries only introduced 50 years back!

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