Day 5, Friday March 15

Bring on the Hyundai and KNOC in Ulsan.  It was a drive to get to Ulsan, but we were rewarded with two interesting visits, both showing the pride and effectiveness of Korean business.  What did you learn about Hyundai today and was most impressed you about the assembly line?  How did you react to KNOC and the Korean government’s efforts to stockpile oil?  In the evening, did you have a chance to take in any parts of Busan city?

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29 Responses to “Day 5, Friday March 15”

  1. Nikki Says:

    Starting with Hyundai – I was very impressed with everything we experienced – the assembly line clocks, the doors assembly and the planned tour route. It was amazing to see how Hyundai is a whole world in itself with shopping, eating and everything an employee needs to survive within its bounds with a HUGE shipyard. It felt like it could be its own city.

    KNOC – Reflected a different part of the Korean culture- it reflected how they are preparing for the future, the hierarchical top down leadership, It was also interesting to see there were no women at this company.

    Both these visits made me think how advanced and structured doing business in S. Korea is – and shows how they have been able to make so much progress in the past 60 years and how their vision for the future will continue to put them right at the top.

  2. Leili Says:

    When observing the assembly line, I was transfixed by the stop watch that timed each part of the process to make sure they weren’t falling behind, and the fact that all day long you were in charge of one step in the process, repeated over and over.

    In the evening, we walked through some of the street vendors, and actually ended up eating at a Japanese restaurant. The quality of the fish was incredible. I really enjoyed walked along the beach.

  3. Chase Says:

    I was impressed by the KNOC team’s pride in their mission. They take seriously their role in national defense, and they were proud to show us their work. I did feel a little like Fred Flinstone in the underground stockpile:)

    Seeing the Hyundai assembly line was a highlight of the company visits. I was surprised to learn employees can make $100k+

  4. Nicholas Says:

    Visiting the Hyundai manufacturing assembly line was a highlight of the entire trip. I was amazed by the scope of vertical integration of the Hyundai facilities enabling not only the entire manufacturing process but also the shipping of finished vehicles around the world from their shipyard in Busan.

  5. Chandler Moody Says:

    My group presented on Hyundai in class, and it was awesome to see what we researched in person! The assembly line was a memorable experience. It was interesting to think about the lives of the people who work on the line. They do the same job over and over again each day. I would think this would be very mind-numbing and exhausting, but I also considered how Hyundai provides them with their daily meals – and I think with the company being a whole city, it is almost a way of life.

  6. Jackie Margol Lewis Says:

    It was fascinating to learn that the city of Ulsan was largely developed by and for Hyundai and its employees back in the 60’s. I was most impressed to learn that those on the assembly line work on each car for just 60 seconds before moving onto the next, and perform the same job on each vehicle.

    One thing that stood out to me about KNOC was that they only had one female bathroom in the entire building we were visiting. It really highlighted not only that there are currently very few women working there, but that the expectation is that there will continue to be few women working there. Additionally, it was clear how proud the employees were to work at KNOC. I was also struck by the intentional procession of the meeting, and how important hierarchy was.

    In the evening, I went to a great, small pizza place with Paula a few blocks away from our hotel. There were about 5 tables in the entire restaurant. The food was great! I love trying other cuisines in different countries to see how they differ from place to place.

  7. Margaret Mauel Says:

    I was fascinated that instead of assembling cars of the same color all at once, then moving on to the next color, each car alternated a different color, so that every piece that was attached also had to alternate and match the same color. I would have thought that method would lead to mistakes, but the operation seemed flawless.

    KNOC was a wonderful visit. I agree with Jackie-it was interesting to see how important the hierarchy of the organization was to the employees.

    I had a blast walking around Busan at night- it was so lively!

  8. Rachel Compton Says:

    Given that I have never stepped foot into a manufacturing factory, I was completely enthralled by the Hyundai. In particular, I was fascinated by the continuous stopwatch above one station, timing the individual to ensure he took no longer than 60 seconds to complete his process. I watched him complete his portion well-under time and thought how overwhelming it would be to constantly be “on the clock.” In the evening, I finally had the chance to dip my toes in the water and was surprised to realize it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting.

  9. Emma Blumstein Says:

    I honestly thought the guide must have been mistaken when she pointed to a parking lot of cars and stated that they had all been created that morning. It wasn’t even noon and there must have been a couple hundred cars! After completing our visit, it was clear that Hyundai has an incredibly efficient process and has been able to scale massively.

    I was also surprised to see the price tags on the Genesis line as our guide explained that these were the premium cars yet they did not cost that much more than the other Hyundai lines, in my opinion. I supposed Hyundai isn’t known for high-end, expensive products so while Genesis is considered a ‘premium’ line in Korea, it might not necessarily be such in the States. I’d have to look into it more to confirm.

    In the evening, some of us went to a sushi restaurant and found the sashimi to be relatively thick cut and a little tougher than the typical Japanese sashimi in the US. I later learned on a David Chang podcast that Koreans sushi is actually known for being thicker cut and “crunchier” than Japanese sushi. Learn something new everyday!

  10. Jeffrey Ochfeld Says:

    The Hyundai visit was a very cool experience. It was astounding to hear how extensive Hyundai’s operations are in South Korea, which includes car manufacturing, ship construction, and even department stores. Seeing the scope of the facilities and the speed in which cars were produced and shipped around the world was quite a sight. I was surprised by how many humans I saw working on the assembly line and hearing how assembly line employees can attain a high quality of life. Given the rhetoric around automation, I was expecting more processes to be performed by robots at the facility.

    I was very impressed by the hospitality shown by KNOC. The presence and gratitude shown by the KNOC SVP was quite humbling, and when he spoke to Orlando it truly seemed like two representatives of their corresponding institutions meeting one another, which created more significance to the overall visit.

  11. Paula M Says:

    I couldn’t believe how big the Hyundai operation was until we went to the assembly lines and saw the shipping ports. I also can’t believe that the workers only get a 10 minute break every 2 hours..eee. I thought it was interesting that cars are assembled differently depending what country they are going to (i.e. Genesis in the US vs. SK — thank Sol for that tip!)

    Stockpiling oil makes sense! I liked that they are prepared people! Also – I can’t believe how excited KNOC was to have us there b/w the leadership presence, personalized tunnel visit, and sheet mask gifts!

    Re: Evening – went to lovely italian place with Jackie complete with a stone oven and vino galore! Noodles are global!

  12. Anika Urfi Says:

    I loved the Hyundai visit and thought it was so remarkable getting to see where the cars were made and all that goes into the manufacturing and assembling process. I was impressed at how quickly the workers worked and stunned that their process time for a single task could be as little as 30 seconds and that there was a time clock that they were performing against! I was surprised to learn from Sol that because the driver safety standards are much lower in Korea, that Hyundai actually makes lesser quality (cheaper) cars for the Asian market and that many upper-class Koreans will buy their cars in US and ship them back home to Korea.

  13. Anna Edelman Says:

    I really enjoyed the Hyundai visit. It was very interesting to see how intricate the car assembly line was and the down to the second timing of the car assembly. One thing that struck me was the lack of women working at Hyundai. Our guide was the only woman I saw at the entire plant. It was also very interesting to find out that Hyundai cuts quality standards for cars sold in Korea and charges a premium to local consumers. That is unlike any business model I have heard of in the US. It was shocking to me that the company has not come under more fire for that.

  14. Bryant Buraurk Says:

    I thought that Hyundai had a great presentation – short and to the point. They gave us a brief overview of the company and then showed us straight to the assembly line. What I found most interesting was that Hyundai actually owns Kia and considers Genesis a completely different car make.

    Coming from an O&G background, I found the KNOC visit and presentation fascinating. I found it extremely interesting to see learn about the storage techniques and how it vastly differs from salt dome storage in the U.S. I also found their attitude and approach to O&G exploration very unique when compared to the culture I worked in that was, “drill, drill, drill”.

  15. Laura Greissing Says:

    Still in awe over the hyundai plant and the fact that they produce over 6,000 cars (in one day!). The precision and hard work of their employees was unforgettable. I had never heard of the Genesis before going and found it very cool that Busan has the only factory for them in the world.

  16. Cecile Cosby Says:

    Hyundai was hands down my favorite company visit (LG was a close 2nd). I thought it was so fascinating to see how precise and organized the manufacturing line was. Also, it was very tangible as a consumer to see the product and be able to touch it (in the show room) and then go down and see how it’s put together.

    Additionally, as a future Energy Investment Banker I really enjoyed visiting KNOC and learning about how they are developing stockpiles of oil and how they store it. Plus, it was another example of a company that was so kind and welcoming (with the facemasks and the energy drink). The other interesting takeaway was that they only had one female bathroom!

  17. Amanda Wilson Says:

    Getting to watch a car get put together at the Hyundai visit was the coolest thing. I have never seen anything like that before! I distinctly remember being “wowed” as I watched a man in the factory hand place each bumper on to the cars. Not to mention, the cars were in a seemingly random color order – I saw grey, grey, white, red, grey. Crazy! I also loved seeing all of the freshly made cars organized by what continent they are going to…that really put things in perspective! I couldn’t believe it.

    In Busan, I got to take part in the ultimate cultural experience, the Korean Spa! And I truly loved it. Per Helen’s recommendation, I went to Spa Land which emphasized the differing cultural perspectives on nudity. (Everyone was naked in the pools and it was totally normal…very liberating experience). The spa also emphasized the cleanliness of the culture. Very relaxing experience with a variety of saunas to choose from. I loved it and will definitely try out the Korean Spa in Dallas.

  18. Grace Ferguson Says:

    Visiting Hyundai was the most interesting business visit to me. I have never seen anything like that! Organization and efficiency is at the core of the Hyundai plant and I think that is something that permeates throughout South Korea. It was fascinating to me that an employee works for 60 seconds on one part all day long. They are in charge of one very small part of building the car and they do the same thing over and over again. The cars were moving from one station to the next so quickly. I kept thinking that there is no time to mess up or use the restroom. Their system is a well-oiled machine that seems to produce a lot of cars in a timely period. It was crazy seeing how many cars were lined up all over the grounds of the plant.

    I loved walking out of our hotel and onto the beach this night. It was great to get out of the big city of Seoul and step into nature.

  19. Molly Pfister Says:

    Hyundai was hands down my favorite company visit. The operational logistics and efficiency of Hyundai manufacturing plant blew my mind. They produce over 6,000 cars in one day! The speed at which the cars are assembled is beyond comprehension. As someone who works in the tech space, I loved looking at how automated robotic equipment performed much of a heavy labor. The effectiveness of Hyundai’s assembly line is something I’ve pictured in my head, but like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

  20. Waldo Arreola Says:

    From me being a huge fan of the “How It’s Made” tv show, it was a special treat seeing the Hyundai production line, especially seeing how all the “lego pieces” get put together. I was very impressed with Hyundai’s Genesis line, as I hadn’t heard anything about it before this trip, and it got me wondering about the lucrative margins that the Genesis product offering bring to the company.
    There was a lot of reading between the lines going on with the KNOC visit as far as Korean diplomacy and energy need risk mitigation by stockpiling hydrocarbons. I had so many questions, but had to respect the secrecy.

  21. Blake Schwartz Says:

    The Hyundai manufacturing facilitating was an amazing experience. The precision involved in the process, not just in assembling the vehicles, but also loading at the shipping dock, was a fantastic example of the precision in Korean culture–very much like a lot of the simple, but precise phrases we learned in the Korean language.

  22. Kathryn Robinson Says:

    I don’t seem alone in the opinion that Hyundai was INSANE. I’ve never seen a manufacturing production line in process and thought the whole thing was wild and very impressive. It blew me away. I couldn’t help but keep thinking about the employees’ quality of life while working in these seemingly monotonous roles (Amazon factories and some things I’ve heard about those came to mind).

    As for Busan, we were able to explore some of the nightlife and ended up going to a very small, Austin-y cocktail bar. There was no menu and the bartender whipped up some delicious drinks. My favorite part was that they were projecting NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts (the one on at the time was Kurt Vile) and I had a brief, fragmented but excited conversation with the bartender around how these concert videos were our favorite. Music is universal : )

  23. Ramon Cordova Says:

    I can’t decide if I liked the Hyundai visit more than LG or not. Between the showroom where we sat in cool new cars and took photos, to the AWESOME Electra assembly line, even to the enormous cargo ships that take thousands of brand-new cars overseas, I was spellbound. Not unlike LG, Hyundai is at the forefront of the technological curve in its industry with respect to its automation and production efficiency. The stopwatch that counted how long each worker took to complete a repeated step in the process was pretty cool, too. I also learned that the luxury Genesis line is only produced there, which is interesting.

    Busan might be my favorite destination in SK. The sea-side location, the compactness yet urban feel of the city, and even the nightlife all spoke to me. I can see why the well-to-do in Seoul vacation there. The first free evening we had, a few of us got caught in a torrential downpour several blocks from the hotel and had to seek cover under the tented section of a chicken and beer restaurant. Soaked, cold, and thirsty, I used my handy dandy Google Translate app to convince the lovely lady proprietor to sit and have a few Somac without having to stay for a full multi-course meal (it was 3:30pm). After a fun stay in there, we tipped her for her kindness and generosity, and she was ecstatic! It goes to show you that South Koreans are kind and giving and have a culture that is clearly influenced by a sense of respect for one another.

  24. Clare Lanaux Says:

    I really enjoyed seeing an assembly line in person. I was very interested in what each worker was specifically doing and why those jobs were not automated, since so much of the process was. Thinking about the logistics that one factory has — suppliers, workers, production of thousands of cars with thousands of pieces — was mind-blowing and really showed how efficient and productive a large-scale factory can be.

  25. M. Ku Says:

    This post reminds me that I have to do a deep-dive on the founder of Hyundai! Between Helen’s story about the 101 cows and the origins of Hyundai’s shipbuilding business to become the largest in the world, the company is a fascinating example of the sheer scale of Korean innovation and work ethic and the deeply personal roots of these family-owned enterprises. I loved driving through the shipping port and seeing which car colors were popular in which countries, and then watching them get driven like little toy cars onto the massive cargo ship.

    Helen made a comment that Ulsan is the wealthiest city in South Korea. I’m curious if this wealth is concentrated amongst the founding families or if it’s more equally distributed. She did mention that long-time Hyundai workers can make a very comfortable living, but given how industrial the surrounding town seemed to be, Ulsan didn’t fit my notion of what a wealthy city looks like. Perhaps a sign of my own cultural bias, but I’d love to read more about it and the Hyundai family.

  26. Jaey Li Says:

    Today was all about seeing things I’ve never seen before. This was my first time seeing a real assembly line (or any factory for that matter), and it surprised me how it highly skilled and detailed all the jobs are. I had expected lines of identical cars passing through and everyone repeating the same motions robotically, but on the contrary each worker was doing several things and each car was slightly different from the one before (and after). It was very eye opening.

    It was also my first time visiting any oil company, and definitely first time going to see an underground oil reserve. I felt very honored to be among the first group of outside visitors to KNOC and was really impressed by the among of effort and sincerely they put into preparing for our visit. The energy drink, the face masks, the lighted display with UT Austin on it, and well-organized presentations all showed that they really cared about our visit.

    In the evening a few of us went to Busan city for their famous pork rice soup. It was located in a very local area of the town and we really enjoyed the meal. We also went to the Spa-Land afterwards, which was really quite an interesting and relaxing experience on its own.

  27. Garrett Arras Says:

    The visit to Hyundai was great! Other than the opportunity to see some of their top-line cars prior to our assembly line tour, the most impressive part of Hyundai was the number of cars they produce each day, the number of on-campus bus stops, and the number of meals they provide their workers!! The large cargo ship and dock was extremely impressive as well.

  28. jolene wang Says:

    The assembly line put what I have learned in operation class into action. It was not an easy task to manage operations with such scales.

    KNOC shared a very similar vibe to China’s government-owned corporation. It gave the definition of bureaucracy and had extremely strict social and working hierarchy.

  29. Neomi S Says:

    Visiting KNOC was a privilege! Despite not having visitors often, they were incredibly warm hosts and gave us lovely individually wrapped gifts. Interesting dynamic with the S.VP’s visit – clear indication of hierarchy and respect. As the group that presented on KNOC, I was excited to see them use the same intro video we shared in our presentation.

    Hyundai was one of my favorite visits – as an engineer who has worked in a plant before, I was nerd-ing out! I noticed the well-lit working conditions, wide roads and clear signage at the plant. I was blown away by the scale and efficiency – especially at the shipping dock. I also thought it was cool that we did the tour with ear pieces and walked on a designated tour ramp – so well equipped.

    Later that evening it was interesting to see how many luxury car showrooms we walked past in Busan – clear indication of wealth in the city and also a contrast from Hyundai’s mass-market. We did find a surprisingly good Indian restaurant – a nice break from bibimbap!

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