© 2009 David Gustafsson Ben and Antonio on the yard

Vineyard work in Penola

We finished school the 16th of November and left the 17th to go working for a vineyard in Panola, South Australia. Sofia found the job when she got back after her last exam. I have been calling all day with no luck. Only one job existed in New South Wales and Victoria did not have anything available at all. (We searched through the national Australian harvest trail that manages the harvest work). However we got a job in the state South Australia in a small remote town named Penola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penola,_South_Australia), located close to the coast about 7 hours drive from Melbourne and 1500 km from Sydney.

The journey

We arrived here two days after we left Sydney. We spent one night in Melbourne on the journey here. The car was working fantastically all the way here. The oil and the water level has been the same all the way and the cooler has made a fantastic job in the 40 degree Celsius heat. To mention in this context is also the road conditions which is very much up and down along the Australian coast. However, after visiting the employment office and signing all papers we were going into town. Or we thought we were but it was just one problem, the car refused to start! For some reason it had decided to die exactly at the location which was a extremely strange destiny! We felt totally devastated about it since we have put down too much money on repairing the car already. On the other hand it was convenient that the car stopped at work, we got the job and have been working every day since we got here! This way we could earn some money to pay the repair man that has been fixing the car. I just spoke to him and he said he had solved the problem. The emission coil was the problem. This is an electrical device that gives power to the spark plugs at certain points in time for the gas to fire. Luckily it was rater easy to fix!

Leaving Sydney…

Driving from Sydney 5 pm

Driving from Sydney 5 pm

A picture of Penola!

Main street Penola

Main street Penola

Our accommodation

We live together with Jong (Thailand?), Ben (England) and Antonio (Italy) in a house that belongs to the farm. The house is located on the main street in Penola which doesn’t tell you much… The house is in very bad condition and has probably not been clean for a while. It only accommodates seasonal workers and I guess that no one really bothers with cleaning. There are a graveyard at flies in the kitchen, old food everywhere, a huge pile of dish, very disgusting restrooms, at least three spiders in each room etc. It is so sincerely bad so we don’t care about it either. We pay $120 each which we believe might be a little too much.

Here are some pictures of the boys!

Ben and Antonio on the yard

Ben and Antonio on the yard

The house and our car that is now working

The house and our car that is now working

The work

The work we are doing is called pruning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruning), which basically is about cutting the lower branches of the whine trees. Wine trees are inherently lazy and the fruit will end up on the lowest branches. If the fruit touches the ground the quality will be affected and the fruit will basically be useless for whine. The work is therefore very important to make good wine. Yesterday I made the boss a favour so he gave me a bottle of the wine. It was white and actually very good. I will get back to you all with the brand name so you can buy it in stores!

The weather has been varying the two days we have been here. The first day was extremely hot, about 42 degrees Celsius and today it was opposite with rain. I must however say that the heat is worse! Working in 42 degrees for 8 hours is very hard. We drank > 4 litters each but still got dizzy.

All around the wines the flies are very many. They love the yellow colour of our wests that we must wear and hence they also love to be on me, in my face etc. I think I am getting use to them. Our boss does not mind them at all and I guess that is the tactics I need to use as well.

Apart from flies there are also many spiders in the field. They have their webs from wine rank to wine rank and you have to walk into it to get between the ranks. The spiders are normally the size of a big coin (50 cents or 5 SEK). There is one of them that are dangerous and that are the red back spider. Getting stung by the red back spider should feel like an eclectic shock and make you sick. However you will not die from it. I think I have been walking into more than 100 spider webs and had spiders in my face twice. Hopefully and most likely it will take quite much for them to attack!

The operations management of us is in my opinion very old school. Managing by fear is the policy instead of trusting the employees. The past days 4 people have got fired for not working enough, leaving earlier or doing the job with bad quality. The payment is being done per piece or row of wine ranks that are being done. It is therefore likely that the quality is suffering. Everyone wants to do as many rows as possible. An opposite system is to pay per hour. That gives very good quality and a sincere job but lacks the speed. I am not in favour of any of the systems as an operations manager. I do believe the mixture would be best. That is pay per piece and give extra money for the best quality of the day (let’s say $100) or alternatively pay per hour and give extra pay for the most rows done (highest speed) of the day.

About the getting fired policy I do believe that it is not the employees that are doing wrong. It takes a while to get the pace and technique to do the job right. Doing this the first day is very hard. I think it is very important that the managers gives the employees confidence to do the job right and help with technical details. There should be a most efficient way of doing the job and this way can be thought by the manager and improved by the workers. The managers should also mention why the work is important and what we are doing. That has not been done and I have had to found out about this myself (see the introduction). Knowing the importance of the jobs helps to keep th motivation up.

A good aspect with the work, all though it is tough and everything I have previously stated, is that you don’t need to think about school. I do that anyway however, thinking in terms of the huge potential that exists for process improvement. I do believe they have a lot to benefit to use my suggestions but I doubt they will be interested if I ask. I will probably get fired? I am thinking about doing a case for them, presenting some of the recommendations and charging for the remaining. What do you think?

Pictures from the farm come later!