This July: the July of 2021, I complete ten years as a professional. From graduating as an engineer to becoming a professional automobile engineer, this journey as a car doctor has been an enriching one.
Working with machines is every mechanical engineer’s dream, and I have been fortunate to have lived it through. To give a peek into what I did during the last 10 years: I handled after-market quality issues in all Toyota & Lexus cars that are manufactured in India. So, this largely involved travelling to dealers to diagnose problems in customers’ cars (clinic), testing them and taking suitable countermeasures (hospital) through investigation (Read here to know more about my work).
This has been one of those rare jobs that helped me to couple my passion for travelling along with opportunities to learn new technology and science. From the paddy fields of Fatehgarh Sahib to the casting foundries of Aranmula, my work has taken me to the remotest places that I had not even imagined. With dealers and suppliers located across India, it was a unique opportunity to experience different cultures from across my country. Culture not just in terms of traditions, customs or cuisine, but also the culture that influences the habits of people using automobiles. Every state in India offers diversity in terms of their purpose and intent of using a car, I believe is unique to India.
After 10 years, it is now time for me to hang my boots…. Or the stethoscope, should I say! Although I will still continue to serve the same hospital, I will be taking over newer responsibilities: in car forensics! With a decade long experience spanning across functions in the organization and technical areas like plastics, paint, glass, fabric, electricals, rubber and metals, I will now be wearing the hat of a specialist in metallurgy. More on this, some other time!
For now, it’s time for this car doctor to hang down her stethoscope and take a chill pill. Let me find the hat of an investigator and try to get my hands on that magnifying glass!
So, we finished our exams in March (Read- Annual appraisal). There’s an ongoing worldwide pandemic. And our summer vacation began (A nationwide lockdown in India). We were not allowed to go out anywhere to spend the vacation. All we had to do was stay indoors for the entire period, until school (Read- workplace) re-opened. Until when? That was indefinite!
But yeah, typical of any Indian schools, they would not let their pupils enjoy their summer vacation just like that. So, load them with holiday assignments. (Yes, I worked from home. From Monday to Friday!)
But believe me when I say that even without leaving home, this was the BEST summer vacation ALL my life. As a matter of fact, we have visitors in our house almost on 360 out of 365 days in a year. And when our family of four decides to take a vacation, it is either one person short or we have a tag along. It has NEVER been “FOUR” of us. And this has been the story of every vacation and every summer for as long as I remember. On the contrary, we are glad we lived this NEW normal. Chilling at home with JUST family was the most luxurious vacation EVER. (How we chilled staying indoors, that’s for another story- Click here to read further).
Come May’20: It’s result time. Performance card didn’t look good (company & market condition is bleak, thanks to the global pandemic).
Come June’20: India unlock 1.0 begins. My summer vacation ends. And the school re-opens…. 08-June-20, I’m asked to report for work.
Typical scenes on a night before first day at school: Pull out the uniform from down under the shelf. Press them to perfection. (Yes, my workplace has a uniform). Find the school bag from the upper cabinet (yes, I carry a backpack to work). Pack the essential books and stationary (oh, they’re called laptop, electronic gadgets and their accessories). Set an alarm so that I catch the school bus on time, the next morning. (Yes, I travel in a company provided bus/ transport). I have barely slept that night. I’ve checked my phone every half an hour to know if the alarm was working fine.
On the morning of 08-Jun-20: Hell yeah! First day, after summer vacation. Gobbled down the breakfast in a jiffy, packed lunch (just to avoid mass gathering at the company canteen) and happy feet (wearing a training shoe for the first time since lockdown). Off I go!
Did I forget something? Remember, a handkerchief was always pinned up to your uniform bib? My mum came running after, this time with a facemask (Times change, man!) Dad pulled out his favorite friend from the garage. He has mostly continued his tradition of dropping me off on first day of school, this time too. Mom stood waving a bye from the portico. I waved back at her while riding away on the pillion seat…
Butterflies in the stomach. I’m going back to school after summer vacation. The only difference now, I go back to the same classroom. I’m not promoted. Again, this year too!
Toyota is a brand that the world recognizes for high quality standards. The Toyota Way of doing things is something that the rest of the world still fails to match. These 7+ years of my incredible journey with Toyota may have helped me grow personally and professionally, but here are four key things that I always associate my travel sojourns with.
4. Nemawashi: is the process of discussing problems and consensus building on potential solutions. This will allow to collect ideas of those involved in the event and get agreement on a way forward. I don’t mean that you need to get consensus from many people on your travel plan, but what I mean to say is- Discuss, Talk more to real people! Instead of depending on internet for information(Which are many a times paid articles for promotions), Talk to different people. While you are planning- talk to people who have been there before and take their experience based opinions; while you are on the road- talk to the localites and take their suggestions. You will eventually end up doing, eating, exploring something new and that’s unknown to most people. This way, you can create your own experience based stories.
3. Yokoten: This is something I have been hearing day-in and day-out. Toyota believes in documentation and standardisation of best practices so that these can be used as references by others. Yokoten means to copy/implement good practices from one process to all other similar processes. Also, I guess talking to other travelers let’s you pick and decide what’s good and bad for you during your travel. So I guess, that’s what I have been doing through documentation of my travel stories in my blogs.
2. KeshiGomi: It literally translates to ‘Eraser’ in Japanese. But what they use this for is quite relatable for a traveler. Japanese are strong followers of the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) in all things that they do. As an important part of their planning, they always make a ‘KeshiGomi sheet’ which is a simple ‘things-to-do list’. Keshi here refers to striking off the activity after it is completed for better visualization of activity status. So, how is this related to a traveler, you may ask??? So that’s where I call it a ‘Bucket List’. Its always good to have a bucket list of places you want to see and things you want to do. Whether it is accomplished or not comes second, but it is a great motivation to chase those things!
1. GenchiGembutsu: Literally translates to ‘Go & see’. One of the most important rules that the Japanese follow is to go to the place and understand the case by self rather than depending on facts narrated by others. The facts may be moderated or altered when it is passed from one person to another and is usually based on somebody else’s perception. So stop imagining about how a place could look and get your bums out of that couch, go travel and experience it all firsthand!
Do you have any such weird places from where you derive inspirations? Let me know through the comments below.
It is that time of the year yet again, when everyone wishes good for their near and dear ones.. And for me- it was time for another surprise gift at work with a thought to ponder for the year ahead.. Remember- I received an aquarium from secret Santa in 2013 ? This time, I had a paper crane placed on my table with ‘Happy New Year’ written on it… It looked sweet 🙂
And then the man behind this message, himself spoke. ‘Do you get what it means?’
“Hmm yeah.! Its the paper I had circulated in office for everyone to write the farewell message before Mr.ABC left.. You’ve made an Origami bird out of that and returned it to me.. That’s sweet.. Thank you :)” I said.
“Yeah.. But, this is the one from Prison Break..” he explained.. “Anyways.. Happy new year :)” he said.
The lead character in this TV series sends origami cranes with coded messages on them to his significant other. The cranes signify the fact that everything will eventually be okay. (I think that’s what it means in Japanese culture).
This little thing on my table was trying to communicate to me that it was time for me to start finding a way to break out.. Break free from the monotony of life.. Oh yeah..!! This simple piece of paper craft makes so much sense to me now..!! And it is high time I start considering it.. Thank you sooo much friend… for putting that reminder on my table.. I will now be reminded when I see it every morning until I find my way.. 🙂
Having completed 2 years of work- I can say I have put in my best to handle work in 2 areas(filling in for another member). As explained in my earlier post: The car hospital job, I have loved my job as a neurologist, dermatologist and as a general physician. Even though the hospital wasn’t a great place for the doctors- the nature of work was a great pushing force to wake up every morning and board the bus to office..
In what seems very unusual compared to other employers, this place does not believe in letting a person to settle in one area, specialise and build a comfort zone.. When they find someone picking up things soon, they bring in a change with something called as job rotation. In the last 1 year, I have been considered for this change thrice:
Option 1: Customer Relations: This is an extension of the ward boy job
Once the check-up, surgeries and trans-plantations are done, it is the time to handle the patients’ reactions. The Out-patient Dept.(OPD) or the CR does that. You don’t need to be a doctor or a technical guy to do that.. Situation 1: A few come back complaining that they lost their bananas in the car during service- You only have to promise to give them a replacement to close the call. Situation 2: Some hear kala-kala noise while some hear laka-laka noise. Some find durr-durr sound while few others find tur-tur sound (read the sounds as you want to) All are referred to from the engine. All you have to do is record the voice of customer(VOC), find the root cause and convince them. Such occurences are not isolated and have to be dealt on a daily/hourly basis. This post for a quality person at the CR was later withdrawn due to managerial issues.
Option 2: Quality Planning
Considered to be one of the powerful departments in the company- I was on the TPL(Top Priority List) for the barter of candidates for an intra-division rotation. But, it was a definite NO from my side for the job which is definitely non-technical.. Great tools like setting the company road-map, hoshins, quality rules sounds alluring but it is definitely NOT my thing and I was enjoying my surgical job more.. Finally, after a week long drama and refusals to give away candidates like me 😉 – another guy was pulled in for the role 🙂
Option 3: Claims reduction- THE destination
I really have no idea why this one had to come to me.. Numbers and I don’t share a comfortable relationship.. Moreover, there is no clarity on the roles and responsibility of the PIC here.. But, there are reasons galore which has finally led me to accept this new intra-department rotation. So now- cutting down on medicines, not giving free replacement for broken parts, heavy diagnosis charges for scans, X-rays etc. all to reduce warranty and increase profitability is going to be my work..
I would like to move forward taking the positive things of this change.. Setting new targets, standardising rules and paving a new way itself is going to be a challenge I am going to set for myself.. Taking it by my stride- It is going to be a good learning opportunity and a great way to prove myself and make all those people envious of the same job that was rejected by them….
P.S.: All paretos/graphs do not hold any references to real values.
With a new month, a new season has set in.. The southwest monsoon has arrived here on 02-Jun-13. And with it, it has brought to me the showers of hope 🙂
As I carry my back pack, handover my drawer keys, wear my safety shoes, walking past the parking lot and waiting at the main reception lobby to get introduced to a new boss.. Similar memories of when I walked in on the first day flashed in my mind today. Excitement and apprehensions flocked my mind together while I was waiting in the lobby with a bated breath to take up the new challenge. Starting June’13, I am taking on a new assignment @ work.. A much needed breather after a crazy past 2 months.. Greater opportunities await me with a new team, new office and new culture.
But the last 2 days, back in my old office- wasn’t an easy thing for me to get over.. It is one of the worst feelings, when you have to leave back or give away something for which you have put in all your hardwork. All the data, enormous volumes of customer survey results, investigations, follow-up sheets, pending activities’ list– “NO”.. It wasn’t an easy thing to do at all.. It leaves you with a sense of agitation.. Not because you don’t want to give it; but because you fear if the person taking over will do justice to that job.. But, there is not just a silver lining; the horizon is seemingly golden for me this time 😛
However, the challenge ahead is a tough one and needs much harder efforts from me- And I take it in my stride to prove what I am here for..
n Oh- Did I mention travel yet..??? I’d probably be travelling for most of the time auditing my suppliers and working on MY improvement through them 😉 So this new journey is going to be fun…
In a bid to wake up the dead souls of a boring office- Someone rightly came up with the idea of celebrating Christmas week.. And one of the events was to play ‘Secret Santa’. We all picked up our chits a week in advance and were thinking what to gift the person whose choices we barely know.
Finally the day was here –
I walk into my office in the morning and when I reached my table: I had the biggest surprise that I could least expect from any colleague in office 🙂
Well- It was a gift from my Secret Santa 🙂 Right next to my desktop laid an aquarium with 2 pairs of swimmers inside. A stick-post on the glass read: “Dear Hitha, your new friends :)” and another note read their names: “2 yellow Gouramis & 2 Blue Gouramis”
I was like >>> Wowwww…. It’s such a lovely gift for Christmas..!!
The thought that struck me first was “How could someone in this office ever have the patience to carry an aquarium with water and fishes from home? That too by (company) bus traveling about 50kms??
My Santa is a real patient one :)” Hmm.. But I took a wild guess and I was right the first time itself 😀
The reason he gave me for choosing this gift was: ” Your grumpy boss sits to your left side; So these fishes on your right side would take away all the negative energy that flows across :D”
Anyway… Thank you for such a thoughtful gift dear Santa- You made my day.. and Everyday 🙂
So now, the 4 new inclusions to our work force have not only become my responsibility but also my obsessions.. Every morning and evening I feed them the granules and make sure that I get a glimpse of what they are upto in between my hectic schedule.. Having no net access in office has led me to sitting for hours infront of my PC at home google-ing for facts about these new pets.
It did not take me too long to figure out that I have 1 male and 3 females in my tank- The man is too horny and kept chasing the hottest chick for over 2 days; In a bid to survive the hyperactivity caused due to gush of the hormones in the male; the 2 blue females have lost half of their tail each.
Though these kids are from the same species, this threat to the females had caused me immense worry. So, my homework was to google further to understand the behaviour of these fishes. I realised that these fishes need hiding places-usually plants, clay pots & other aquarium accessories which would help them to camouflage. Then, it was shopping time for accessories for my little friends.
Next, morning I arranged these plants in the tank. Also, It was time for me to name these fishies. Since, they were 4 new manpower (fishpower rather) to our team, we named them according to the area what each engineer handles.(I prefer using the 1st letter of their names owing to company policies of information security- E, B, C & T) It took sometime for them to get used to the new things in their surroundings; but soon it was followed by a lot of peace in the tank. E & B (2 blue females) found comfort and security amidst the ferns. However, C (yellow female) chose to attract the yellow male(T) by chasing him. However, T seemed uninterested in her, and grew equally restless while he was unable to find B. This continued for the day..
However, next morning was worse, T had chosen to chase C with no other choice as E & B were still hiding. On some aquarium hobbyists’ online discussion forum, I found the solution. I had to finally separate the male from the tank. But, I rather took a chance and added some more plants in the tank. But, the risk was worth it- There is utmost peace in the tank now with all the girls hiding safe in their confines 🙂
Watching and studying the behaviour of these kids is such a relief I tell you… truly..!! It literally boosts up my mood every time while I am pissed off at work.
I thank you Santa- For such a thoughtful gift that keeps me alive every morning 🙂
Its 1st of December.. At 10a.m.; an e-mail was delivered to my inbox from the canteen department. “Monthly menu”- the subject head read. My immediate action was to click on the trash button which straight away dumped the unread mail in the trash bin. This action was not unique to me alone.. At least ten others in my office would have done the same.. And another ten would have just opened the mail to simply trash it without really reading it.. Nobody usually expects anything unusual in the menu. But just incase, some fresher bumps into you with a humble intension to strike a conversation and brings up the topic of breakfast menu:
“Hey ! You know what’s for breakfast for this month?”
The poor fellow is bound to get an equivalent reaction: “Aiyya…!! Looks like you have not had enough of a bath in the canteen..!!”
The oldies all know the menu by-heart. So what’s in a bath?? Read on…
Tuesday: Green- bath (Methi bath)
Wednesday: Red- bath (Vaangi bath)
Thursday: Deadly-oil bath (Darshini Pulav)
Friday: Mixed colour- bath (Chow-Chow bath)
Saturday: Brown- bath (bisi-bele bath)
Sunday: Yellow- bath (rice bath)
If I missed out on Monday in the list: that’s the 1st working day of the week; So the company tries to give us some motivation to enter the company gates.. That’s the “Have no Bath”-day. It is the only day when Idly-Vada-Sambar-Chutney is served.
Now: How do the employees identify what is for breakfast without actually entering the canteen or reading the menu? It comes with experience. Just a month’s time is enough..!!
Well, a Monday’s menu barely changes; so you know what is there. You go or don’t go depends on how bored or excited you are to get away with the Monday morning blues..!!
And the other days.. Usually standing at a distance and a small peep into someone’s plate from the canteen door is enough. By the colour on the plate, you know what it is.. and then, do an about turn and walk towards office.!!
But, a special mention needs to be made about Wednesdays.. The day being the mid-week and one would already have lost the motivation to work; the day greets you by serving a deadly bath on your platter. This is the original “Darshini Pulav”. I prefer to call it the deadly bath. It is because you don’t need to walk till the canteen door on that day. The strong smell of fried bread cubes doused in dalda oil and mixed with a weird coloured masala hits your nostrils instantly at the time you alight at the bus bay. So, you directly walk away to your office without wanting to even get closer to the source of smell.
Friday’s are special because not one, but two baths are given on a single platter. Chow-Chow-bath: as the name suggests, it is a combo of Rava bath and Kesari bath…!!
Oh.. Are you wondering why we even go near the canteen door every morning, huh? It is just out of curiosity and nothing else.. The curiosity to know how a bath can be had in different forms and in different colours- and every time, smell similar and taste the same even with different names..!!
Occasionally, Pongal, lemon rice, puliyogare, khara bath, tomato bath, curry leaves bath, vegetable bath, green peas bath are served too.. But considering these are still different colour forms of the same rice dish: it is an array of Bath-o-baat..!!
I agree that we are South Indians who are mainly rice eaters and fond of our daily showers. But nowhere in the peninsular India, would you find a Southie eat so much rice a day.. We have other better forms: dosa, poori, chapathi, akki-rotti, ragi-rotti, jola rotti, puttu, appam etc. etc… Why the hell on earth are we forced to have this bath every morning..!!
This is a serious allegation coming from a deeply disturbed rice hater who has stopped taking a bath just because of the traumatising “bath-o-phobia”..! Time the management does something about this one..!
“Let’s Go Places” evokes the forward-looking and optimistic momentum of Toyota in America. It invites consumers on a journey to see new places, discover new possibilities and dream big dreams together with Toyota. “Let’s Go Places” begins today to engage consumers to discover Toyota and will debut nationally on December 31, 2012, as part of the campaign for the radically new Avalon, the embodiment of Toyota’s new direction. “Let’s Go Places” replaces the previous Toyota tagline “Moving Forward.”
Toyota has changed its global tagline from “Moving forward” to “Let’s go places”. This has come much in the wake of my next trip.. It is a great sense of bonding I feel that I am able to relate the thought of my mind and the feeling of my heart with the new tagline 🙂
Just as I discovered a new group of travel minded friends, I have set a target for myself to go on atleast one expedition/adventure travel per month. This means, I am looking forward for a lot of trips to see new places, meet new people and explore new civilizations 🙂
The phrase conveys a dual meaning of physically going to places and taking off on an adventure, while also expressing optimism and the promise of exciting innovation that enriches people’s lives… Toyota and The Lost Lander together take off on a new phase of life- “The Travel Phase”
It’s just a great feeeellliiinggggg…..
I wish Toyota all the best in its journey ahead and I wish the Lost Lander to have many more pleasant landings and successful missions in future.. Toyota and I move forward for a new life with new ways of Quality Innovation… 🙂
If you are new on my website, WELCOME! If you have been following me for sometime, you may be already aware that I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and soon after graduation, I was recruited by one of the LARGEST automobile manufacturers in the world! It is every mechanical engineer’s dream to be able to pursue a job in the same field that we studied. I was lucky to have JUST that.. My first job gave me an opportunity to work closely with cars with a sort of freedom that I had seen only in documentaries or on episodes of Top-Gear on BBC.
But, Since there are SO many things I involved in my roles and responsbilities in this position, that I often find it difficult to explain it in a ‘ley man’s’ language. The simplest I can call myself is a ‘Car Doctor’. In this post, I would like to share what I do (apart from writing travel articles) on a daily basis, in my first job at the car hospital.
<14-Sept-11> I’m on the mezanine floor….
A cap whose colour is forgotten behind the thick layer of oil & grease, a pair of knitted white gloves which now look like dark leather ones with the dirt, black heavy leather shoes with metal cover for the toes, newly introduced punk looking helmets which make me look like a cyclist, arm covers, wrist guards, goggles- the deep sea diving types…. These are my safety gears at work… and I’m all set for some action..!!!
I’m told that there’s some problem with the shoulder joints(the front door hinges) and he needs a physio- so I ripped both the hands(the front doors) apart.. His eyes (headlamps) were flickering.. And I checked for some electric signals that the brain sent across.. The MIL(Malfunction Indication Lamp) was glowing.. So I removed the eyes out of the skull. Even then, the MIL was on. Now, it was time to pull out the nose and dig deep into the nostrils (the hood and everything under). Then, the spine (the steering column) came out. It was then time to shave the head off (the dashboard/ Instrument panel covers) and I directly pulled out all the nerves (wiring harness) that I could catch in a grab. The signals continued… I removed the medulla (immobilizer ECU), cerebrum (theft warning ECU), cerebellum (injector drivers) and the current flow still continued.. I have removed out every possible source of these signals and now I know the source is “the Master Control- The engine ECU”. It is in my hand right now. Yes, the blinking has stopped!
My job doesn’t end there. In fact, it starts only now.. So, there I am.. Investigating which Neuron (circuit on the PCB) lead to this current outburst.. I broke open a few capacitors and relays. The resistors were already ripped apart.. and finally found the culprit… Unbelievable but true- a tiny ant had pee-d on one of the soldered circuits which lead to corrosion which in turn caused the malfunction of the brain. Hmm…
But my work continues… I will now send the part to the supplier(literally..!!) and follow up with him to identify the root cause and take countermeasure on priority..!!!
OKAY…!!! So, I’m Dr.Neurologist cum dermatologist here… I work with the brain(ECU) and nerves(all electrical and body parts)
But there is a cardiologist too.. My colleague-friend: He treats all heart related ailments (Engines).
And there’s an orthopaedician too- he treats the limbs (the chassis, suspension systems etc.)
We are the soldiers guarding the Siachen border- We have complete freedom to rip a person apart- part by part and win accolades for it.. Destruction gives us all a complete sense of accomplishment.
We are rarely idle. But, when we think we are, we put back everything and go for a long drive.
And then, we are back for yet another postmortem..!!
Ofcourse, I have MUCH better pictures of my patients going through even worse treatments.. But, I had to rely on this internet photo for confidential policies 🙂
Picture courtesy: Google images
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