The American Airlines plane touched down at Pudong Airport in Shanghai at about 1:30 pm on Friday, nearly 30 minutes ahead of schedule. It was the first time I had traveled on a Boeing 787, the so-called “Dreamliner”, and I found the flight comfortable and the amenities such as the entertainment system pleasing. The meals, however, were anything but dreamlike.

But I wasn’t focused on a culinary experience as the plane was making its way to Shanghai, from Chicago. Shanghai is the first stop on a 16-day, four-city tour of China that I will be making, accompanied by my wife Irene, which is one part business and three parts personal holiday. The business purpose for my trip is to speak at a manufacturing conference called MIF 2017 in Tianjin, near Beijing in the northeastern part of China that will run from Wednesday, September 27 to Friday, September 29.

I was invited to speak at the conference by the MIF 2017 organizers, a delegation from which participated in the Manufacturing Leadership Summit this past June in Huntington Beach, CA. The subject of my talk later this week will be: The 3 Dimensions of Manufacturing 4.0, a topic under which I will explore the technological, organizational, and leadership dynamics of what has come to be known as the fourth industrial revolution. And I have to do it in about 30 minutes! A second talk I will give will focus entirely on some of the key M4.0 technological trends.

Joining me in speaking roles at the MIF2017 conference, now in its 14th year, will be two ML Council member company executives as well as one of the top winners of this year’s Manufacturing Leadership Awards.  Participating Council members are Dennis Hoeg, Vice President of Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering and Enterprise Systems at Nexteer Automotive, who will be speaking about Nexteer’s digital manufacturing transformation, and Qin Deng, Director, IBM Electronic Industry, who will give a talk about the use of artificial intelligence to improve quality inspections. In addition, Vincent Jao, Director of Asia Sales for Pixelligent, which won the ML Council’s Manufacturer of the Year Award (Small Enterprise) this past June, will be discussing his company’s winning PixClearProcess nanocomposites project.

Following the conclusion of the MIF2017 conference, Irene and I will be heading to Beijing and then to Hong Kong.

We’ve spent the last three days – three days of incessant rain — touring Shanghai, a city of more than 24 million people. This vast city is a study in contrasts – it is old and modern at the same time. There are areas crowded with small shops on narrow streets that resemble the Chinatowns of San Francisco and New York and other, newer and more expansive areas of global high end retailers, trendy restaurants, and skyscrapers. People on small, motor-powered scooters scurry past Rolls Royce, Mercedes and other luxury cars.

We took a half-day tour on Saturday. I found it amusing that we were driven around the city in a Buick van. Buicks are popular in Shanghai, I learned, because there is a Buick factory on the outskirts of the city. The Buick took us to the Yu Garden in the Old Town section of the city, a Confucius temple, the Shanghai Museum, and the French Concession area where many of the global retailers have stores.

The Huangpu River separates Old Town from the area where many of the city’s gleaming high rises stand. A seemingly endless stream of barges carrying raw materials to downstream locations continually plows the waters of the muddy Huangpu.

On Sunday, we had dinner with Richard Sade and his wife Kim. Rich, who is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of S&S Hinge, a manufacturer of continuous hinges based outside of Chicago, has been involved with the ML Council since its earliest days. Rich is a member of the Council’s Board of Governors. He was in Shanghai to attend a trade conference near the city.

And today we visited the Jewish Refugees Museum, which contains the site of the Ohel Moishe Synagogue built in 1907 for the Russian Jewish community in Shanghai.

Tomorrow we fly to Tianjin and the start of MIF2017.