Thursday, September 25, 2008

NUMMI tour

Today I went on a Lean Construction class field trip to the Toyota-GM NUMMI plant factory in Fremont. I understand that GM is the land owner/factory owner and the factory produces all Toyota products through its standard Toyota Production System. The plant produces the Tacoma, Accord, and all of America's Pontiac Vibes.

During the NUMMI tour, a few things seemed to stand out to me. At first I was a little taken aback by how busy and loud the production line seemed. When I inspected it further as the tour went on, I could see how the employees were working at a comfortable pace (takt time).

The pace was well dictated by the flow of the pieces, but many little facets of the workspace contributed to the worker comfort and constant pace. One of these facets was the arrangement of worker tools, which hung overhead on a track that were incredibly easy to access and get rid of without losing organization. The tour guide constantly reinforced ergonomics. The only station where this seemed to be a problem was when workers had to install items underneath the car, and fighting gravity meant workers rotated from this station every 2 hours.

It was nice to see the kanban system in real time. NUMMI used plastic crates on roller tracks next to each worker station, and when the crates got low, or empty crates stacked up, more crates would come for a specific part.

Automated machines were a huge part of the production process, more than I had imagined. It made me wonder how much maintenance was required for the robots, and how often this disrupted the system. This is especially true for the automated vehicles that carried parts throughout the factory by following magnetic strips. I could see those creating serious problems, but knowing that Toyota is very careful of what technology they incorporate into production makes me think this isn’t the case.

The stamping process was also paused while we were there, and it was not clearly explained why. Talking with some of the other students that went with me, we thought it was maybe to insure inventory did not build up too much. Still, this seems weird to me, as Toyota is very focused on leveling out production and insuring that the pace is kept as long as problems do not need to be solved in the line.

Other than that it was apparent American Toyota factories were seeing a downturn in production, and it seemed the contracted workers were feeling the effects as our tour guide was working his last day dude to “economics.” Either way, it was a fun experience and well worth it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

D&C: Finished Project Photos

My last semester at Carnegie Mellon almost totally focused on one class, Design and Construction, that eventually became a 7 days 9-5 deal towards graduation, and continued into the summer where I only worked during the week. They finally got the granite countertops up on the patio, and everything is looking nice. Meenah, one of the structural designers and occasional site worker, took some photos:

North wall:

White FRP siding was used on this wall since it was hidden by the countertop, not sure how much I like how it looks now.

The stools we constructed are getting repaired by Larry. The north side overlooks the new Gates Building nicely:

South wall:

We used zinc siding here, and still has some oxidation effects from rain that coats it with white stuff. I think it still looks pretty solid. Expensive though. The trim is cedar, and the pergola is made of cedar too:

The pergola shape matches the outline of the south wall and partition, which looks really cool from above in the corridor that overlooks the patio. You can see a little of the art students crappy project back there, that looks like it hasn't been touched since I left Pittsburgh in mid-July. Here's the ramp to the lower level:

Which took quite a while to build. Partition bench:

The sculpture that faces the entrance of the patio isn't up yet, with the students' names on it. Whatevs. For an idea of the scope of the project, here's where we were in April:

All the wood columns are on concrete columns at varying heights, you can see some of them in the back but the rest are hidden by the scaffolding. One more for the road:

Heyo! Playoff beard and all!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I came across this image (google image search: "ecological cycle") as I was trying to put together a graphical example in my Industrial Ecology intro slides. It's representation of the Poo Poo Paper Company that creates products out of elephant crap, sell it, and use it to fund elephant welfare.

In case you didn't know that the Japanese ruled, I've been reading more on the Toyota Production System (TPS), and the basis of lean production. The book, the Toyota Way, details in two of the chapters in the huge achievements of creating the Lexus and the Prius. In both cases, the revolutionary models were created at a time when the car company was doing very well, but the desire for continuous improvement made the company hellbent on achieving more. Sweet, brah.

Steelers vs. Eagles this weekend. Steeler Nation vs. Eagles Nation (under construction). Tommy, Vanessa, Jamo vs. Zhi. If all goes well, I'm defintely buying another State Champions t-shirt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"So? Some people like pickles better than cucumbers."

Linked from mondesishouse comes a sweet compilation of quotes from all the writers and actors involved with Chappelle's show. It rules, and makes me think a lot about staying up to watch it Wednesday nights in high school and then everyone quoting it for a week straight until the next episode. That's right, I was a part of a cultural revolution, screw the Transformers generation. From the quotes, I feel a little better that I haven't seen Dave do anything since and know how true of a duder he is. There's always South Park that seems like it will be on until I die.

Well this is just turning into my personally bloggy, so it's probably won't be so academic related. I'm sure once I get a job I won't be able to talk about it anyways.

Weak post, tried to find a cool picture and failed hard. Long practice tonight, hopefully it will be scrimmaging.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I can solve it! I joined up! What about YOU? This feels like when I got my scruff mcgruff badge.

The main reason for this post is my bike racing experience that I forgot to put in the last post. So going up Durant yesterday on my way to the gym, there's a rasta dude on a nice bike up way ahead of me, and he starts circling at the next light even though it's green. He starts going back down Durant, which is one way, only to get right behind me. First I thought, 'am I getting jumped? Can I even get jumped when I'm on a bike?'

"Got a thousand dollar frame and *something* shifters, and you tryin to race me uphill?!?"

"What? No man, just going to the gym."

"Race time, man!"

"Nope, there's the gym, sorry dude."

"Ahhhhh, c'mon!"

I would've raced him if the gym hadn't been right there. And then he and I would've sat atop the mountain and told stories as the sun set.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Groups Groups Groups

School is really in full swing. Highlights include always reading, group meetings, and squeezing in research. Dad always said that undergrad was a step up from high school, and grad school was a step up from undergrad. Kind of feels like it right now, good thing there is no pong night this year.

The group projects are starting to solidify in many classes, namely my Civil Systems course. I joined a group proposal that was proposing a life-cycle assessment of beef production. The most immediate issues for us are how to define the scope of the LCA, and what to use as our functional unit. After a quick literature search and read, with the help of Scott Matthews, I think we are most likely to focus on the differences between production and transportation, not going so far as the end-of-life sequence. My Engineering and Business for Sustainability seminar actually turned out to be a small group project, and four of us are looking into sustainable building materials/green design in buildings.

Lemme give you a quick rundown of the nutso gang wars going on in the Mission District. Many recent murders, culminating in this dude. So these bros are gonna throw down with these broskis who are backed by these brosefs. Also, there are south duders against north duders. The Incredibles will still be shown tonight in Dolores Park.

My knee tedinitis flared up at practice last night, but went on a short, hard run today with lots of body weight squats and felt no pain. Sectionals with a Cal split squad this weekend, so that will be a good test of how healed I am. About another month and a half till we are playing together as a full team, which I am very excited for.

Up top is a radio hat niners fan Tubs took a picture of at a preseason game. Go Steelers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Starting at Cal

I didn't know if I was ever going to start blogging here again, but after I saw Joe up and churned some new things out, I decided to get back into things a little.

Since moving cross country in mid-July, things are just starting to settle down. I had a flurry of visitors and trips for a little, including WUGC's and Yosemite. Myself and Tubs are up top pushing out a set at the top of Half Dome after a crushing night hike. My form sucks.

Research here has centered around creating course modules for the Engineering and Business for Sustainability program here at UC Berkeley. It's gotten pretty challenging as I'm now trying to create lectures for classes and subjects I have very little background in. If any of my many, many readers happens to have some awesome, free sources for Industrial Ecology pleases let me know. I feel lost at times but am now taking it as a challenge and really want to complete my tasks as best I can.

Classes are interesting, I'm taking public health risk assessment, civil systems and the environment (LCA), and lean construction I. I'm allowing myself not to be so focused on construction management and came into each class with no subjective ideas of what I thought would be most interesting to me. I think it will help when I look for jobs and can be much more open to different career paths. I still find myself really drawn to the lean production concepts, and the more I learn about them the more I find it applicable to everything.

One thing that really caught my attention, other than lean things, was during the civil systems course. I was really impressed when looking through past student group reports, and one group did a well thought out criticism of LEED. Using LCA techniques, they argued that the point system even rewards things that are incredibly inefficient in an environmental sense. When looking at the life cycle inventory of a building, worker commutes and materials completely overshadow other aspects such as construction. LEED does not acknowledge this well by awarding points for multiple level parking garages (to reduce land use). Guess I wish I had thought of that.

On a side note, not playing club ultimate this fall and being in a new place has been pretty good to me thus far. Still, I am dying to play, but the knee tendinitis is constantly getting better, and I am getting into a solid workout regime I haven't really had since last summer. And being really, truly excited for college ultimate is something I haven't really had since... um... end post.