CMS is a Global company with a global presence. With this wide geographical base there are many times we reach out to our other branches and partners to accomplish the job at hand. CMS has 5 worldwide divisions including North America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and China. Along with our own divisions we have many agents, dealers, and vendors that we call upon to ensure our customers’ needs are met and the machinery keeps on producing.
On a Trek…
We’re going to go off the beaten path a little bit this month to a place called Batam, Indonesia. CMS being an Italian based company with a worldwide presence and CMS NA being a wholly owned division of CMS SpA, we sometimes have the “pleasure” of visiting other parts of the world to support our company and customers. This particular time the duties fell on yours truly.
Let me back up a bit and set the scene for everyone. This particular job was for an Australian company who had just moved a machine to Indonesia. CMS SpA and CMS Australia had reassembled the machine. After 7 weeks of hot, hard work they were finished with their jobs and the machine needed final calibration. For those of you who don’t know, Italy’s workers take off a large part of August. The factory asked CMS NA for assistance. After 30 hours on Singapore Airlines and a tired backside I arrived in the city nation of Singapore. Then 8 hours after that I received my visa to Indonesia and off to the ferry for a 30 minute ride to the island of Batam.
The World Where I Came From
Before we get going, let’s define what this blog is all about. What it isn’t about is political, religious, or ethnic opinions. I hope it to be a little geographic, historical adventure as seen from the eyes of a 50 year old white boy raised on a dairy farm in Iowa.
I grew up in a town of 1,000 people in central Iowa, the second son of two school teachers. I started working on a local dairy farm at 13 years old and worked there all through high school and into college. Our ethnic mix was about as varied as banana pudding. One year we had a German exchange student that spoke perfect English and another time we had some Korean kids visit for a summer. Other than that our biggest battles were whether a green tractor was better than a red tractor.
Through my association with CMS and 20 plus years as a traveling technician I have been able to diversify my humble and sheltered upbringing and have experienced many nations, cultures, ethnicities, and religions. The two certain things I have been able to take away from my experiences are; Even though humans come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and religions, most people share the same values and aspirations and … Airplane seats don’t fit my backside.
On to the Stories…
While I’m not as well traveled as many, I am more traveled than most. I have had the pleasure of traveling extensively through all of the United States with the exception of Alaska, all the Canadian provinces except the Northern Territories, Mexico, Panama, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Dominican Republic, France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Italy. I’ve worked in a blacksmith shop with an Amish fellow, had a communal lunch with a Hutterite community, spent the weekend with a Jewish family, had a beer with a Muslim gent, and looked straight into the eyes of a fish in my fish head soup in Indonesia. This reminds me of another story that involved different cultures and governments.
I rolled into Toronto to install a big fancy new machine at a store fixture company. They already had several machines and they were well known to CMS by asking for some very unique machines. This particular machine was about 15 meters or 50 feet long. It had a moving bridge with three independent spindles. The intent was to either use the two outside heads to cut mirrored parts simultaneously or to mask tool change time by changing tools while one head is cutting then quickly switch to another spindle. In both cases the machine worked wonderfully.
The most memorable part of this trip wasn’t the machine though. The ethnic mix was by far the most amazing thing in this company. How they got anything done would have been amazing enough, but not only did they get it done but they got it done well. Here we go. The first thing you must know is that everyone I’m speaking of is a first generation immigrant. English is by far not their first language! It is the common language used though. The owner was a Jewish fellow; the head of production was an elderly Italian man who usually had more pasta on his shirt than in his belly. The head of maintenance was from North Vietnam. A place that didn’t get along with the US very well in my youth. We both seemed to ignore that fact and got along just fine. The guys that ran the panel line were all Sikh’s from India and they must have brought they own tailors with them as they all wore traditional clothes with long robe like shirts and turbans wound tight on their heads. The fork lift driver was Chinese and drove it like he was still in Beijing. The most interesting part was one of the maintenance guys. He was from Bosnia.
Bosnia used to be Yugoslavia. It’s located in Eastern Europe. As a geographical reference, most people know Italy kind of looks like a boot hanging down from the bottom of Europe. To the East of Italy is the Adriatic Sea. The land on the eastern side of the sea is the former Yugoslavia.
After WWII the country was reorganized into a communist country and divided into six republics; Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. Most of the rest of the world probably knows Yugoslavia best from the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo. What the country is unfortunately also known for is religious conflicts and systematic governmental genocide. Yugoslavia’s geographical location has placed it in a prime location for ethnic and religious diversification. It’s dead center on the overland route between the majority of Europe and the Middle East and after Mr. Marco Polo found “the road” it has been heavily traveled. There are over 40 faiths recognized but the primary ones are Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosniaks.
During the Communist years the county remained quite stable – primarily from an overwhelming government presence. In 1974 the country ratified a constitution giving voting rights to different regions to try and reduce some of the tensions between them. A fellow named Slobodan Milosevic was the leader of the Serbian region. He decided his group needed more say in what was happening and started applying his political might.
This political wrangling took place throughout most of the 1980’s a time when some of the economic decisions made by the government were not working out so well. The International Monetary Fund eventually bailed out the government with a massive “loan.” Along with this loan came some rules. The rules within two years bankrupted 1,100 companies and caused layoffs of 600,000 people out of 2.7 million workers or about 22% and an additional 20% went unpaid. This was the final ingredient in the recipe of disaster.
Understandably each of the regions, who have tolerated each other since 1945, wanted to do their own thing and each region started claiming independence from the central government. On March 1, 1992 what is known as the Bosnian war broke out after Bosnia and Herzegovina passed a referendum for independence and it was rejected by the representatives of the Bosnian Serbs and Milosevic. He mobilized his loyal forces and started battling for ground with support from Serbian forces and the Yugoslav People’s Army.
The battle waged on for 3 years most notably know for ethnic genocide and systematic mass rape. It is estimated 100,000 people were killed and somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped. At one point Milosevic was ask about the killing and genocide and he was claimed to have said, “This is how we have always done it.” It also seems as if there are always some groups looking for a good scrum. Neo-Nazi groups from Germany, Austria and Sweden, the Greek Volunteer Guard, Christian Slavic fighters, Russians, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Hezbollah all came out to play.
In 1995 NATO got involved with Operation Deliberate Force. NATO airstrikes were aimed against Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs. The airstrikes were too much for them and in Sept 1995 a cease fire was called and 80,000 HEAVILY armed NATO forces were sent in to stop the killing. By Dec 1995 the Dayton Accord was signed and hostilities officially ended.
With that said as I enter the factory the second day a very large man with rage in his eyes quickly approached me and loudly declared “YOU ARE KILLING MY FAMILY!! WHY ARE YOU KILLING MY FAMILY!!??” He said this with conviction and certainty – and while caught off guard a bit, I’m not a small guy and I’ve been in a scrum or two in my younger years – so the outcome of this morning lay in a tenuous balance. Was it to be a Battle Royal or will we have a “Toronto Accord” this day. Diplomatically I said, “I wasn’t killing anyone.” He responded with, “Your government is dropping bombs on my brothers in Bosnia!” While this was true it was also true that the world had decided his brothers’ groups were committing mass random killings. Before there was an escalation or more discussion several of his colleagues who were hot on his heels caught up with him and removed him. Later we talked and agreed we didn’t have any direct control over those events but we both wish it didn’t have to happen. He also mentioned that is why he took his family and “escaped” to Canada. We remained friends for many years after that.
Earlier I mentioned the Sikh fellas running the panel line. During my research I found this paragraph from Wikipedia concerning a moment of history in the Sikh timeline. Sikhs are primarily from the Punjab region of northern India. Before you read it be very aware it is quite descriptive and brutal:
On December 7, 1715 Banda Singh Bahadur was captured from the Gurdas Nangal fort and put in an iron cage and the remaining Sikhs were captured, chained. The Sikhs were bought to Delhi in a procession with the 780 Sikh prisoners, 2,000 Sikh heads hung on spears, and 700 cartloads of heads of slaughtered Sikhs used to terrorize the population. They were put in the Delhi fort and pressured to give up their faith and become Muslims. On their firm refusal all of them were ordered to be executed. Every day, 100 Sikhs were brought out of the fort and murdered in public daily, which went on approximately seven days. The Mussalmans could hardly contain themselves of joy while the Sikhs showed no sign of dejection or humiliation, instead they sang their sacred hymns; none feared death or gave up their faith. After 3 months of confinement  On June 9, 1716, Banda Singh’s eyes were gouged, his limbs were severed, his skin removed, and then he was killed.
Sorry to have brought that up but it is a fact and unfortunately shows what humans are capable of. On the flip side of that is I once installed a machine in Mexico. The only Spanish I know is, “Dos mas cervesa, por favor” (two more beers please). I worked with a young man who spoke no English and yet we installed the machine together as if we worked together for years and somehow laughed till our bellies hurt.
Back to Batam…
You probably thought I was going to leave you hanging on the Batam story weren’t you? I couldn’t do that, so here is the conclusion to the Batam trip.
Batam Island is one of 17,508 islands making up the nation of Indonesia. Indonesia has a population of 238 million people very close to that of the US. It’s a democratic government and elects a president every 5 years who can serve no more than 2 terms. The capital is in Jakarta. Evidence shows that the early and current Indonesian peoples were very skilled sea travelers. Many of the islands are insight low along the horizon making trade between them even thousands of years ago common.
The equator runs directly through the Indonesian nation. Indonesia lies between 11 degrees north and 6 degrees south latitude. It’s a very tropical climate with high humidity but modest temperatures. It’s about 75 F at night and 85 F in the day year round. Another geographical feature of prominence are the volcanoes and the highly active seismic zone. This is the place where in 2004 the tsunami that killed so many and did an incredible amount of damage was born. It’s also where Krakatoa erupted in 1883 creating a global disaster. In Europe it was known as the “Year without crops”, because of all the ash in the atmosphere. It’s still active and growing at around 5 inches per week since the 1950’s.
The Middle Eastern countries, China, and India have long been trading partners with the Indonesian islands and along with trade they brought their religions. Hindu, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity are all recognized religions here but the predominate religion is Islam. Five times a day the loud speakers would fire up and the call to prayer was broadcast for all to hear. For a westerner it was a little strange at first but the mantra that was sung was actually quite pleasant. I have no idea what the meaning was but the sound was nice.
In the 1500’s after Columbus figured out the earth wasn’t flat and you wouldn’t fall off the edge, the Europeans got brave and started sailing to the East Indies. Actually he thought he was in Indonesia and called the Native American’s Indians, and the name stuck. The reason for the great interest in this area was the spices that were discovered. The Dutch got the strong hold on the area first and ruled the Indonesian area for over 3 centuries. After WWII they were granted independence and have been a developing democratic nation with strong ties to Australia, Japan, and the United States.
As I mentioned, Batam is just one of the 17,508 islands of Indonesia. It’s only 12 miles south of Singapore and is worlds away in its infrastructure. The first thing I was told on arrival is, “Don’t drink the water, don’t even brush your teeth with the water!” The island itself is about 15 miles wide and 10 miles north to south. There are countless smaller islands around the shore and it would be wonderful to have a boat and some time to explore some of them. Singapore is also its own nation and it’s like being in Dallas. Here is a picture from my hotel room. Traffic flows smoothly and everyone actually obeys traffic signals.
Batam is a very industrious place. It has a very large ship yard and is a major producer of off shore drilling platforms. It also has several major electronic manufacturing plants. It is also home to over 1 million people and almost as many scooters. The island’s speed limit is 45 mph but most people ignore this as well as any other traffic device. The real boom for Batam started after they developed a Special Economic Zone with Singapore in 2006. This eliminates tariffs and value-added taxes for goods shipped between Batam and Singapore. It was probably good for both as Singapore is out of land and Batam could use the jobs.
Batam is very much an emerging area (third world). There are the haves and have-nots for sure. I stayed in one of the landmark hotels with a huge beautiful lobby and several restaurants inside but one block behind the hotel there was an open sewer with people dumping their wastes from a five gallon bucket directly into the drain.
Below are the have’s and below that, the have-not’s. The two pictures were taken less than a block apart.
Public safety doesn’t seem to be too high of a priority either. This drain was about 3 feet deep and ran alongside most of the main walkways.
Here is a picture from top of my hotel. It had a heliport. This was at 7 AM on a Sunday morning. Usually the streets are completely filled with a river of scooters intermixed with a boulder of car now and then. The thing with the gold spire is the local Mosque and it had speakers that would rival a WHO concert. Also note the McDonalds and around the corner was a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Below is the crew I worked with. I am, of course, the big one that looks like an Iowa dairy farmer. It was a very successful and an interesting crew. We all worked together and got the job done and even managed have some fun and laugh a bit through it all.
So There It Is…
This was another successful trip and another happy customer. I wanted the premise of this article to be and to show the cooperation between the divisions of CMS and also the cooperation between peoples and cultures. Even though governments and cultures differ all over the world “people” are all nearly the same. I’ve never met a person I couldn’t get along with as long as we both put our propaganda perceptions behind. I remember meeting a Russian in the late ‘60’s as a kid and I was scared to death because of the “Red Scare” we were programmed to believe. I though they all carried nuclear bombs in their pockets.
CMS has machines all over the world and we at CMS are committed to supporting them wherever they are and do whatever it takes to make them productive
If you liked this blog let me know through our comments section and we can mix our technical dissertations with some travel adventures.