Chapter 138 - Starting On The Lathe

The second day back in Hai-Zhu City was a busy day for Xia Lei. He called all the important middle-management to his office once he got to Thunder Horse Manufacturing.

Xia Lei cut straight to the chase. “I looked through the plans for the portable shopping trolley yesterday and I think it’s a good idea. I’ve decided to make some of these and put them in our supermarket to test them. They may become our ticket to breaking into the market.”

“Chairman Xia, how much profit can shopping trolleys bring us? I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Liu Xue-Bing, who had been promoted to Workshop Director by Xia Lei, raised an objection. 

“Please tell us why you think so, Director Liu,” said Xia Lei. 

“Well…” Liu Xue-Bing glanced involuntarily at Yin Hao and Han Bo, who were also in the office. He knew that these two young men had come up with the plans and it was not nice to say negative things about it in front of them for fear of offending them. 

Yin Hao seemed to sense Liu Xue-Bing’s discomfort and smiled as he said, “Say what’s on your mind, Master Liu. You’re a Master after all and we are little juniors. We won’t be mad if you say negative things about our plans, really.”

Han Bo chimed in, “Yes, Master Liu, please speak your mind. It’s all for the good of the company; we don’t mind.” 

“All right, I’ll say it.” Liu Xue-Bing spoke, “How big is the market for something like this? We’re a company, not a small workshop. I feel we shouldn’t be manufacturing small items like this. We should manufacture some respectable products like that bicycle plan of yours. I think that one’s not bad.”

Xia Lei laughed. “So, Director Liu, you objected because you felt like this product is not respectable enough for our company’s image?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Liu Xue-Bing. 

“Your way of thinking is not good. The bicycle plan is respectable but can we sell it if we manufacture it? Respectable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good and would be suitable for us. The company has just started operations and I feel we should focus on commodities which the masses need. This shopping trolley idea is just the beginning; we shall design and produce more commodities like this. We need to use these to accumulate our customer base and consumers. Once we have our foundation, we can bring out higher quality and pricier products.”

“Chairman Xia, based on your words our R&D department shall adjust our goals and focus on commodities,” said Yin Hao. 

Liu Xue-Bing smiled sheepishly. “Looks like I’m getting old and my way of thinking is outdated. But I’ll still be able to make whatever you young people design so long as you give me the drawings to work from.”

“Your workshop will take on this task then, Director Liu. Make ten first and we’ll test them out in the supermarket. We’ll manufacture more if they sell well. If this works out we’ll trademark it and turn it into an official product.”

“Yes.” Liu Xue-Bing thumped himself lightly on the chest with an age-spotted hand. “I guarantee completion.” He took a copy of the drawings and walked off in a hurry. 

Zhou Xiao-Hong reached out and stopped Liu Xue-Bing. “Don’t be in such a rush, Director Liu. Give me a copy of the drawings too. Our workshop would like to make this product too.”

A displeased expression appeared on Liu Xue-Bing’s face. “We’re only going to make ten shopping trolleys - that’s not even enough for our workshop to clean our teeth with and you want to get in on the project? Really.”

Zhou Xiao-Hong made to insist on the project but Xia Lei interrupted her. “Xiao-Hong, there’s no need to fight over Director Liu’s project. I have another for you.”

“What is it?” asked Zhou Xiao-Hong anxiously. 

“I’ll give you a material list later. Prepare the materials for me according to the requirements on the list. Take from the materials China Industrial Group sent for those that need special materials and tell the workers to cut those that need cutting,” said Xia Lei. 

“Okay! I’ll definitely get it done. Heh heh.” Zhou Xiao-Hong smiled happily. She seemed happier about this task than making shopping trolleys. 

“That’s it. Everyone back to your stations and do a good job. We shall see better days and our company will grow,” said Xia Lei. 

Having better days and growth for the company was what Xia Lei and many Thunder Horse Manufacturing employees wished. 

Xia Lei went to his personal workshop after the meeting. The workshop was for him alone and he did the special parts processing from China Industrial Group in there. 

The workshop had several types of lathes, welders and office equipment like a computer. Nobody usually intruded either so this was the best place for him to reproduce Josef’s intelligent lathe. He wasn’t afraid of his employees knowing that he was making a lathe but the origin of the lathe and its design plans and circuits were things he didn’t want people to know. 

Xia Lei got to work in the workshop. He made copies of material lists and filled them in with materials he needed. He had already planned for these materials when he was in Germany and he knew every item needed for the lathe, be it the number of screws or whatever needed. 

Zhou Xiao-Hong came knocking just as he was done making the material lists. She did not come empty-handed; she held a steaming cup of tea in her hands. 

Xia Lei smiled. “Still have time to make me tea when you’re so busy? You don’t have to do this anymore; focus on your work.”

“Big Brother Lei, you have no secretary and Miss Liang is busy too. Who will make tea for you if I don’t? I won’t work for you unless you’re willing to drink my tea,” said Zhou Xiao-Hong.

This girl had learnt how to add heat to her words. 

Xia Lei knew she was not a sweet-talker; she was an honest person. She would be good to the person who was good to her. This was also why he had tasked her with preparing the materials. He had absolute trust in her. 

“Who said I’m not? It just so happens that I’m thirsty.” Xia Lei accepted the tea and blew on it twice before taking a sip. The tea was of a cheap blend Zhou Xiao-Hong had made herself and it lacked fragrance and flavour but he felt that it was more appealing and comforting than high-end teas costing tens of yuan per cup he had had in teahouses.

Zhou Xiao-Hong looked at him, all smiles. “Big Brother Lei, you really should get a secretary. The company chairman on the telly always have secretaries, one more beautiful than the other. If you hire one she’ll make tea for you when you’re thirsty and when you’re tired she’ll massage your shoulders or legs. A man like you should have a woman to take care of him.”

Xia Lei laughed. “What are you trying to say? You’ve picked up some bad thoughts, haven’t you?” 

Zhou Xiao-Hong’s face reddened. “I, I was only speaking the truth. I didn’t pick up anything bad.”

Xia Lei handed her the lists. “Okay, okay, enough joking. This is the materials list. Prepare them as written for me.” 

Zhou Xiao-Hong scanned through the list and asked in surprise, “So many?”

Josef’s intelligent lathe weighed 28 tonnes so of course it needed a lot of materials. 

“Are these small alloy pieces for screws? You don’t have to do these small things yourself. I’ll get the workers to do them for you.” Zhou Xiao-Hong was experienced now and could tell what certain materials were for when looking at the measurements. 

“No need for them to do processing, just get them to prepare the materials,” said Xia Lei. 

Every screw had its purpose and its strict requirements in an intelligent lathe, and the most advanced one in the world at that. He did not want to end up with a machine that would not meet the standards of Josef’s intelligent lathe design because he’d wanted to save a bit of time. He was going to make sure every piece was perfect, down to the last screw, and adhere to the highest of standards in processing. 

“All right, I’ll go prepare them.” Zhou Xiao-Hong made to leave after she finished speaking. 

Xia Lei spoke again, “Prepare the materials on the first list. You don’t have to finish everything on the list before you send them to me.”

“Mm.” Zhou Xiao-Hong gave an obedient sound of acknowledgement and hurried off. 

After Zhou Xiao-Hong’s departure, Xia Lei sat himself back at the computer desk and wrote up a document, then started sorting through all the things he had got from Josef. What notes he had though, were estimates, and some details were just outlines. They would be useless if someone stole them. He did not need physical detailed drawings like Josef did since his left eye saved everything he saw and he only needed to recall what he wanted. 

Over an hour later, Zhou Xiao-Hong came with two workers to deliver the materials from the first list with a forklift. She wanted to chat for a bit with Xia Lei but, seeing how busy he was, she did away with the idea and left with the two workers. 

Xia Lei got to work after the materials were delivered. The first thing he had to complete was the base… 

He was absorbed in work for half the day and Liang Si-Yao came to his workshop at lunchtime to see a sweaty, greasy-faced Xia Lei. Her heart hurt for him. “I know you want to increase the manufacturing standards of our company but you don’t have to work so hard. Who will manage the company if you tire yourself out?”

“It’s okay. This bit of work is nothing. Besides, don’t I still have you if I collapse from overwork? You’ll help me manage the company,” said Xia Lei. 

“I’m not your housekeeper,” said Liang Si-Yao with twisted lips. It was unclear if she said it because she liked Xia Lei or because she didn’t like him. 

Xia Lei busied himself with work again, unwilling to waste even a minute of his time. 

Liang Si-Yao walked over and snatched the tool in his hand away and pulled him towards the exit. 

“What are you doing?” asked Xia Lei. 

“Do you know what time it is now? Time to eat. You have to eat even if you’re busy! Come with me to the canteen!” Liang Si-Yao was not going to budge. 

Xia Lei felt his hunger only then. 

Liang Si-Yao dragged him out of the workshop and immediately drew the eyes of many employees. 

What the employees saw was a long-legged, sexy Liang Si-Yao in her office lady garb dragging around their Chairman Xia, whose face was stained with grease. This was a funny sight and it also made people draw various conclusions. 

“Looks like Assistant Liang will definitely be our Mrs Chairman.”

“That goes without saying - I live in the building next to Assistant Liang’s and I’ve seen our Chairman Xia go to her home at night. Not just once, too!” 

“Woah! Really?”

“Did you take a video? Let me see! You’re my friend, right?”

“Video, my foot. Don’t you know who Assistant Liang is? She’s a Wing Chun expert who can take on eight opponents. Her father is Liang Zheng-Chun, successor of Wing Chun and one of the greatest scholars of his generation!”

“Oh my Heavens! I have to have him as my Master…”

“Oh my god! Why didn’t you tell me this earlier? I wanted to ask her out on a movie date. Isn’t it courting death?”

Gossip flew. 

The Thunder Horse Manufacturing employees were young men and most were single so their conversational topics were very random. Xia Lei and Liang Si-Yao were some of their favourite topics. 

At that moment, Liang Si-Yao suddenly gave them a baleful look and raised her voice to say, “Don’t think I don’t know what you guys are talking about. Keep talking if you want a paycut!”

The employees ran off in the blink of an eye. 

“They seem very afraid of you,” laughed Xia Lei. 

Liang Si-Yao rolled her eyes at Xia Lei. “Someone has to be the bad guy, right? Spare the rod and spoil the child. Come on, go wash your face, you fat greasy cat.”

Xia Lei wiped at his face, then suddenly smudged Liang Si-Yao’s cheek with his oily hand and ran off, laughing as he fled. “You have to wash your face too now, little greasy cat!”

“You… I’ll punch you, you see if I don’t! Stop right there!” Liang Si-Yao ran after Xia Lei.

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