Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

I love factories

I love factories. I love warehouses. I love getting my hands on machines and learning how they work.

I worked in the semiconductor industry in Japan from October 2002 to May 2004. My job was marketing, but for the first six months I trained in the applications lab, learning to run the dicing saws that cut wafers into chips and the grinders and polishers that gave wafers the right size and texture. I even learned how to use the laser dicing saw.

The machines were beautiful. The dicing saws had spindles that could revolve at 60,000 rpm–1,000 revolutions in just one second! It is difficult to imagine, even when you are directly staring at the velocity.

We did experiments on various workpieces–semiconductor products of all types–that really helped companies create the products they needed to create. Doing so gave me a considerable feeling of accomplishment.

When I worked for a trading company in Japan, I also spent many hours in warehouses, packing products. For example, one time we bought 1950s dimes and packed them with nostalgic Coca-Cola-themed banks we were selling on TV.

I have had my dream job of writer for the past five years, but my experiences of working with gembutsu (real things) in gemba (real places) has had a big impression on me. In doing my writing work, I still love visiting client’s workplaces and learning about their operations in detail. One of my new clients is a dry cleaning company, and it has been fascinating to learn how dry cleaning works, too.

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Walmart's wretched new logo

The other day, I was driving and did a double take when I saw this for the first time:


Wal-Mart’s (Walmart’s?) new logo. I was passing through a smallish city in Northern Indiana, so I thought (charitably) that perhaps this was an ancient version I had never seen before. Indeed, if it were new, why had I not heard of it, and why was I first encountering it in a small city and not a large? I was confused.

A little checking revealed the truth. Wikipedia says,

On June 30, 2008, Wal-Mart unveiled a new company logo, featuring the non-hyphenated name “Walmart” followed by a stylized spark, as it is referred to on store advertisements. The new logo received mixed reviews from some design critics, who question whether the new logo is as bold as competitors such as the Target bullseye or as instantly recognizable as the former company logo, which was used for 18 years.

I’m a marketing MBA and work in advertising, so I think about these matters (I am ashamed, however, that I did not know about this new logo until this week). My take? As the title of this post suggests, I think it sucks eggs.

For one thing, it reminds me of the Ayr-Way logo (a local Indiana discount chain that was swallowed up by Target):

Walmart probably shouldn’t be worried about this vague resemblance. Walmart should be worried that the six-pointed thingie, as thin and sleek as it is trying to be, either looks dated (if it’s a flower, it calls to mind the late sixties to early seventies) or looks like nothing much at all (a “spark,” huh?). Overall, the logo is thin, wimpy, and clinical in appearance. The colors are insipid.

Walmart’s old logo, as unappealing to me as it was, with its color, font, and central star conveyed the rock-ribbed conservatism and laissez-faire capitalism for which the company stands:


Chunky. Solid. American! What was “broke” about this logo that needed “fixed,” I intently wonder? By what pathway of marketing incompetence did the new, misbegotten wretch stumble out into the glaring daylight of commerce?

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