Making the Rewards - Part X
We apologize for our recent lack of communication. It has only recently become clear to us the total effect of a series of delays that have happened over the last three months at the factory - and it has taken another week to wrap our heads around explaining it clearly to you.
As we mentioned previously, asbestos was found in the coater room. In the end, the removal process took over two months - not the six weeks we had said before - and these were precisely the two months that we had scheduled all of our tests leading up to final production.
Below, we explain in greater detail how this has caused a domino effect in delays, but for those of you who want a quick answer, here it is:
We remain entirely confident in our overall plans, but our primary production schedule will not resume until later this year.
Asbestos was discovered the week before we were to begin our first tests of the coater. The process of finding, bidding and scheduling remediators took several weeks, and it was more weeks until the crew arrived. The actual work only lasted a few days, but our team was locked out of two critical floors in the building for well over eight weeks in total.
It's impossible to overstate how much this changed our timeline because nearly all of our production milestones were scheduled between March and May. In fact, we expected to be shipping spools of film for finishing by the end of May.
May 15th was the first day we were allowed back in - and we discovered additional problems, which we discuss below.
April: Tick, Tock
Our team was able to access other parts of the building, and so they used the downtime to begin some preliminary R&D that will be useful for us in the future.
But without access to the coater, and much of the building under quarantine, there simply wasn't much to do but to wait for the remediation team to arrive and clear the way.
Perhaps most frustrating was that the schedule for the removal was constantly changing - so much so, that the minute we prepared an announcement about the schedule change, it changed again.
We should also mention at this point that it was unseasonably hot in northern Italy in April. This would prove to be another domino.
May: The Umbilical
The waiting game for asbestos removal continued and then, on the 14th, we announced to everyone that the factory was reopened and work could resume based on a new timeline.
However, just days after we made this announcement - the umbilical was demolished and the schedule was disrupted yet again.
The LRF received filtered water and steam through a simple overhead delivery conduit that ran from our neighbor, Ferrania Technologies to our building. The water wasn't so much the problem as the steam, because much of our factory is powered by steam.
We have been aware for a long time that this lifeline would eventually be removed. For many years, the government has planned to create an connection between two well travelled, but disconnected, highways. This connecting road goes right through the center of the old Ferrania campus. (see the demolitions photos at right)
In our original schedule, we were to begin production well before the demolition of the umbilical. But while our schedule was thrown way off by the asbestos, the road project was very much on schedule.
This immediately toppled two more dominos in our incredibly complex start-up plan.
June: Hard Facts
NO STEAM = NO POWER
As we said, we knew the umbilical was going to be cut, so we long ago ordered our own steam generator, and installation has been ongoing since it arrived. Unfortunately, the original schedule for installation fell during the asbestos lockout.
The one bright bit of news is that the installation is now complete (first three pictures, at right) and we are one step closer to being fully self-contained.
LITTLE CHILLER ≠ BIG CHILLER
"The Chiller," as we call it, is a very complicated piece of machinery that is required for the coating process. Actually, there are TWO chillers - a small capacity machine for coating in colder months, and a high capacity machine to coat in warmer months.
Our plans called for using the little chiller because we were to be testing and coating in cooler months earlier in the year. However, we were stopped in mid-March, and as we mentioned before, April was unseasonably warm. By the time we were allowed back into the factory, the very quick spring had become a very early summer.
After some quick calculations and tests, we discovered that during the summer there is no possible way to use the little chiller - even if we run it at night only. It simply cannot produce the proper climatic conditions necessary for coating.
We now have no choice but to wait for the big chiller, which is being built as we write this and expected to be completed, delivered and installed by the end of August.
About the Emulsions
Back in March, we wrote a dispatch about the process of preparing the chemicals and acetate for the production process - then the asbestos was discovered...
Unfortunately, the emulsions have now expired and some of the acetate was damaged during the remediation process. We will need to re-do all of this work once we have established a new schedule.
Despite this, these preparations are an important part of our "Making the Rewards" story, and so we share it with you now.
It has been our intent from day one to be as open and transparent as possible, even if that means sharing less than ideal news.
The initial two-month delay caused by the asbestos started a domino effect that set our production schedule back at least six months. We are reluctant to announce a restart date until after the big chiller is online, everything is cleaned and inspected again, and we sort out the usable acetate and prepare new emulsions. The last thing we want to do is make promises we can't keep.