Tuesday, May 21, 2013
For those of you reading for tales of experiences through France and touristy things, you may prefer to skip this post.
Here's a photo of me in front of the Basilica in Lyon to hold y'all over.
Today we started school. Yes, school, in France. We traveled to the EMLYON School of business, a prestigious MBA school in Lyon. Our lecture (complete with delicious pastries) discussed European Business Systems and Their Diversity.
The part of the lecture that resonated most with me regarded religion’s effect on the history of France and its personality per se. For example, in countries where Protestantism is predominant, capitalist ideas reign. However in France there has been a strict separation between church and state since 1906. This lack of religion and total secularism leads them to a less capitalist point of view. Still, public holidays generally revolve around Christian Holidays. Overall in the EU, there is an anti-Muslim sentiment. Muslims are considered the European enemy, which is why Turkey still has yet to become a member of the EU.
Religion is considered one of the most diversifying factors among the countries in the EU. In fact, it is probably the most obvious and significant cultural issue that still holds EU countries apart. Language is also heavily influential in reducing diversity—most Europeans have a strong cultural identity that roots in their language. The Pan-European identity comes next.
Mobility and technology have brought the countries of the EU together since they have the necessary proximity. However, each of these countries still hold tightly onto their own culture. The resonating conclusion of the lecture offered a wavering statement: by bringing these countries together into the European Union, the identity of European countries is at stake.
This is an interesting sentiment to which some Americans may find difficult to relate. As a Texan however, I surely feel more tightly connected with my state than my country. By no means am I anti-American. Still, as I have met people from EMLYON or around Lyon and they ask me where I hail from, I always say Texas. It doesn’t even cross my mind to say “America” first. It is even more interesting that all of the people that I’ve talked to immediately recognize Texas and do not even question where it is. Texas has such a rich history, despite its youth relative to Europe. My culture as a Texan is something I hold very close to my heart; it is a part of me and is one the biggest factors in who I have become. I believe whole-heartedly that this is similar to how European countries feel in regards to their membership in the EU. The French will identify as French first and then as Europeans; just so, true Texans will always identify as Texans and then as Americans.
Visit to Aldes Groupe
In the afternoon, my group went to visit the Aldes Groupe manufacturing site. The company is in the market for products such as fire dampers, ductwork, motors, exhaust grilles, heat pumps, central vacuums, and casing fan units. They work especially in the indoor air quality market and have invented “Temperation,” which makes a room temperate without using air conditioning. The system involves ventilation, heating, cooling, and now hot water supply.
Throughout the factory, the lean system was obvious. We even came across a rack made for Kanban cards! The flow seemed to be seamless, however the inventory of parts and materials seemed rather large. The kinds of products made at the factory do not have a high inventory turnover, but the factory still works just-in-time.
Perhaps the coolest part of the line was the machine that the company invested in 2 years ago. The machine bends and curve large steel sheets in order to make the casings for the systems that they manufacture. It was so quick and seamless in its working; compared to the worker bending steel manually it was probably 4 times as fast. When asked about the workers’ reactions to the machine’s implementation, the plant manager expressed that while some workers were hesitant to accept it, many welcomed it and the challenge it imposed initially and the responsibility it offered.
Personally, my favorite part of the visit was watching how the manager interacted with his staff. He was infinitely friendly and when crossing paths with any of them he unfailingly said “Bonjour!” to each employee. If close enough, he even shook their hand. Anyone who questioned the friendliness of the French was mistaken; this was only one example of the generally friendly demeanor of the French people I have encountered on my visit.