I spent all day today visiting the various Smar facilities scattered all around the city. There are buildings everywhere. Many of them are quite old…Smar is moving into a new facility that is half-constructed but in the meantime, space is tight.
But while the buildings are old, what is going on in them is not old at all. What is going on in them could be going on in any top tier automation manufacturer in Western Europe, or in North America. You see, Smar decided to make themselves a world class company, and they succeeded. You could take the Smar facility and plunk it down in any city in Europe or the United States. You would find a world class company.
This is a crystal clear example of what is happening throughout the world. Thomas Friedman´s new book _The World Is Flat_ is about this very same thing. For the first time in the history of the world, it doesn´t matter where you are, what country you live in, or who your parents were…if you have access to education, information and the Internet, you can do anything that anyone in what we used to call the First World can do.
Smar´s manufacturing processes are as good as any in Germany, the US, or Japan. Their QC system is as good as anybody´s I have ever seen. They even own the only conformal coating machine in Latin America, and every board Smar manufactures is conformal coated as standard.
They showed me some really cutting edge machines, some typical CNC, some homebuilt. One of the office jokes at Smar is that if they need to have a sales meeting somewhere, they´ll build a hotel to put it in. A lot of this insistence on build-it-yourself came from the fact that Smar was trying to do things that no company in South America had ever tried to do before, and there was no local infrastructure to help them. They needed to develop a culture of extreme self-reliance and innovative ingenuity. For example, they were the second company in Brazil to pass the ISO9001 audit (the first was IBM-Brazil). They needed high speed data communications between their various facilities in Sertaozinho (I know, the tilde…) so they put in wireless over a decade ago. Now the municipality has laid fiberoptic cable to connect all the Smar plants, and they have high quality high speed broadband. Do it yourself, or do without.
Smar´s engineering teams are cross-functional, work as teams, and do concurrent engineering practices. Some of their engineers are world-class experts in fieldbus, and some have contributed large amounts to the Foundation Fieldbus infrastructure.
The bottom line is that Smar has proven Friedman right: the world is flat.