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Turkey: Local R&D As In Japanese Tailor Tale – OpEd


The last time your writer has attended a social gathering, our highly experienced professional colleagues of the local market complaint that in general there is no R&D made in recent years in the local market, but only copies. “Nobody is making a sheet of technical drawing, but there is a practise to substitute for copying and duplicating the equipment, machine, and device that come in front of them.” Most of the other members in the meeting were inclined to participate to this notion. Your writer does not quite agree with this market assessment. In the 1980s, we had an obligatory R&D experience, let us tell you about it.

Your writer had worked in manufacturing halls more than 10 years in a public machine production factory. Then they took him to the design section. At that time, we got a license from a German VKW (and EVT) companies for 50 tph coal burning and 100 tph fuel oil burning steam boilers. Two each boiler pieces were sent to us with 100 percent material and we installed them on site.

They gave us a new task of reproducing the missing technical drawings. A small number of general arrangement drawings were received but they were inadequate. Boiler materials, tubes, grids were physically sent. We drew all of them in detailed drawings, then we produced these boilers. We installed these boilers on site, we operated for many years.

Later in time, management gave us a new task. “Now you learned how to copy. Now copy the guillotine, heavy duty lathe, and steel sheet cold bending benches. Continue to copy the horizontal sludge press, sugar centrifuge, raw factory lime tower.”

So we gathered all the technical draftsmen working in the design bureau. We gave each one tasks for copying a machine. Wherever they do not understand, we interfered and drafted the detailing. After a long tiresome disastrous period, technical drawings were prepared and we finished the drafting work.

When copying large-sized workshop drawings, we were trapped with old-age “Japanese Tailor” fault. What did “Japanese Tailor” do first? Let me explain it. Japanese tailors are doing great designs around the world today. It was not like that at the beginning. They had a learning period. In the 1850s Japan forced by the US fleet to open its doors to the western world. Later, top rulers decided to open the embassy in other countries. They would send diplomats to Western countries. The managers thought, “It’s necessary to dress like a Westerner. It would not be appropriate to go there with our own traditional clothes, let’s create western dresses”. They asked a Western Christian missionary in Japan to give his western dresses. They would create the same and wear it on the diplomats they send. The poor missionary gave his worn-out old western dresses. Because dresses were so old and used, there were patches on the knee and elbows of the clothe. “Japanese Tailor” made the patches exactly the same. The wrong addition of the patches on new clothes was quickly understood. It was corrected after they noticed the reaction at points they were assigned to and tailors created new dresses. The rest of the diplomats have received new dresses, but the “Japanese Tailor” application has become a necessary lessons learnt to be taken in copying practice.

When we copied it, we made the same mistakes, as ancient “Japanese Tailor”. Heavy big tools were made of steel casting. When we made copy, we evaluated that most of them were suitable to make in welded steel constructions. When we were re-designing, we examined the thicknesses, but some unnecessary attachments were duplicated. It turned out that we made the same mistake of patches of the Japanese Tailor copied. After we made the first machines, we noticed the situation. We made necessary corrections in the next manufacturing.

Later, necessary budget money was allocated by the top management. Heavy duty shop machines were produced for other machine factories. Capacity of sugar equipment was enlarged and re-built. This process continued for years. Meanwhile, the technical pictures we sent to the manufacturing workshop were to disappear. Shop asked more blue prints. “Blue prints are worn out, damaged, lost etc”, they said. We have never ceased to give a new blue prints to workshop.

Your writer left the factory in 1984. Time passed, in a casual trip to nearby organized industrial zone in Ankara, we noticed that in some workshops our steel sheet bending, guillotine, lathe, centrifugal are produced with the same design. The technical pictures were our pictures, but nameplates have been changed. Auto-cad design introduced, catalogs were printed. We, engineers, draftsmen, technical staff, have not earned any more than our monthly salaries. But the technical drawings we produced in the public factory have been used free-of charge in the market. We have no objection, it was very good.The market produced these pictures. At least it was a start. So R&D was done, but it was not done as it should be. It was made inexpensively in accordance with the “market” conditions. That’s the rule of our game!

Later in time, on the market we also saw the steam boilers that we copied. Our technical drawings have been transferred to the market in some way. We have no objection to that. We wish we could also design larger thermal power plants and transfer them to the market.

In the energy and mining sector, we have designs for both open pit coal mining (Elbistan-Eüaş etc.), or in coal-based thermal power plants (Çatalağzı, Çanakkale, Tufanbeyli) each with capacities up to 6×900 KW, with maximum length of 3.6 Km, and conveyor facilities and equipments in carrying capacities up to 11500 tons per hour, and manufactured in Ankara. There is no objection to copy from the examples, or to benefit from the old projects. Because, without first and preliminary information, there is no new development.

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Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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