Day 4 of Tech Trek 2017: Breakfast, Brexit, and more in Cork

By Paul Tallon, Ph.D.

Picture this… breakfast overlooking the gently flowing River Lee set against a picture-perfect pink sunrise. Well, after some late night showers, this morning did not disappoint.

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The River Lee Hotel is known far and wide for its breakfast and this morning was no exception. Would you like honey still in its honeycomb with your toast or maybe a berry yogurt shooter or some smoked salmon? Yum!


We boarded our bus very early this morning for a 30-minute drive outside Cork city to the tiny village of Ovens to visit Dell EMC. The sprawling EMC manufacturing facility has been in Cork since 1988. Much of our visit was taken up with discussions of the ongoing merger between Dell and EMC and what this means for IT. While the merger closed in late 2016, the belief is that it could take three years to integrate IT systems across both companies. Merging the IT systems across this combined $76 billion company is no easy feat.

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One of the most significant changes for legacy EMC—the name given to the EMC part of the Dell EMC business—is moving away from a build to forecast model towards a build to order model. Our factory tour highlighted several aspects of how Dell EMC assembles its high end products. From the “shake and bake” testing of its PCBs to wrapping the finished product for distribution to the customer, we say the impact of automation at every turn. Here, as at many of our other company visits, we talked at length about the cloud. Dell EMC was also anxious to talk about their new product lines that combine server and storage technologies in the one box. The days of separating server technology from storage technology—essentially two separate boxes, one from EMC and one from Dell—is no more.

For our next visit, we drove a few miles back towards Cork to the village of Ballincollig to visit VMware, a sister company of Dell EMC. Here, our host—Gerry Murphy—provided a warm Irish welcome to the group. While we have spent some time on our study tour hearing about server virtualization—an area that is dominated by VMware—we learned about other forms of virtualization that VMware sees as the future. We heard from the Director of HR about how VMware sees Brexit and how VMware in Cork expects to weather the uncertainty that Brexit has created. Suffice to say, after a series of three detailed talks, the group can now claim to know what virtualization is all about. Do you want to know anything about the cloud? Go ahead, ask us!

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Our final visit of this fourth day of our study your took us to Boston Scientific. Half of our group—that is anyone wearing socks, no makeup, and no jewelry—donned protective garb for an hour-long visit to one of Boston Scientific’s clean rooms. Here, we saw up close the entire manufacturing process that Boston Scientific uses to assemble and test its Encore product line.


Automation and robotics play a pivotal role in the manufacturing process. Indeed, there is an annual target to reduce the cleanroom headcount by 12% each year and so the future entails more automation, not less. Defects are still possible and during our visit, we say a defect rate of less than 1%. New Encore products were popping off the end of the assembly line at a rate of one every three seconds. The finished product can end up in any part of the world. If a product recall is ever needed, products can be tracked to the end user in order to protect patient safety. Boston Scientific is deservedly proud of its manufacturing processes. In 2016, the Cork facility was one of two medical device facilities worldwide to receive a Shingo award, considered the Nobel prize of operating excellence awards worldwide.

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Day four was definitely impressive. Nobody expected to be able to visit a clean room this afternoon. Playing dress up was kind of nice too! Tomorrow will be our last day of company visits. First, we’ll travel to Pfizer in Ringaskiddy and then onto Flex in Kilbarry. In both locations, we will see more production processes and see up close the impact of automation and robotics on manufacturing.

Follow the students’ journey here.

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