I have seen some nice networks in my career. I have seen some pitiful networks. This week, I saw a bit of both. And the great thing about consulting is that I know the difference, and I get to really help these businesses run more reliably. In the past two weeks I have toured every wired portion of four different meat packing facilities in the Midwest. I know how they make pickle loaf and lil' smokies. I saw giant pepperoni ovens and tubs full of meatballs. I cataloged network gear in rooms with names like "Raw Receiving Office" and "South Bacon Office" and "Chorizo Packaging Area". I smelled some familiar aromas and some strange, unknown smells. I once worked in a Tyson Foods kill plant, so the safety protocol was familiar. No jewelry. Hardhats and hairnets must be worn in the production areas. Blue frocks must be worn in areas where raw meat is processed, white frocks in cooked/ready-to-eat meat areas. In one instance, I was given plastic booties to cover my shoes. At first, I turned them down, but after the supply counter lady raised her eyebrows and said, "I wouldn't want to track blood into my car," I accepted. She was right. There were times when I had to kick meat away from where I was standing. There were times when I stepped in blood. None of these plants were kill plants, but I saw that they receive raw meat in giant tubs. I was intrigued by the size and variety of mixers and grinders and stuffers and extruders and giant ovens used in these facilities. At one point, I saw a giant tub of biscuits. They were put onto a conveyor which supplied a machine making sausage biscuit sandwiches. The automation is pretty phenomenal.
Another benefit of this type of consulting: I get to see parts of the country I haven't seen before. This trip around Nebraska and Kansas involved lots of driving. Next week, I get to fly AND drive around Minnesota and Iowa. In a few weeks, I get to tour some facilities in Illinois and Indiana. I'm getting a real overview of the Midwest.