Thanks for the compliments, Bud... But I didn't have to use my whip too much, I had a wonderful pack of packing scum at my command, all dedicated and eager slaves!

Evert Jan de Groot, one of the scum, has slide-showed some of his pictures already, you will find them on :

Just a few statistics :

In 4 days, with a team of 11 to 12 people, we packed 435 complete sets of the Wave I 22 volumes, Reader's edition. This involved fetching, stacking, inspecting and wrapping 9,570 books. We had to unfold and tape 435 crates, and 1,740 small boxes (you will see that each crate contains 4 smaller boxes, each containing 5 to 6 books, the heavier ones at the bottom so as to minimize the weight crushing... turned back to front to minimize back-crushing... padded up with small pieces of cardboard to minimize sliding in the boxes...)

We had 7 "Boxers" : those did the inspection of books, wrapping them and putting them into the small boxes. On the average, the preformance was about 10 boxes per hour and per "boxer".

We had 2 to 3 "Craters/Packers" : their work was to unfold the flat crates, tape them underneath, pad them up with styrofoam sheets, and deposit the 4 boxes corresponding to a full set of 22 volumes. Then complete with a styrofoam sheet on top, tape the crate shut, deposit it on a pallet. Then every completed pallet had to be transferred to a specific zone. Those craters/packers have therefore handled 6.5 tons of crates...

We had 1 "Fetcher", mostly : his job was to fetch 50 of each volume going to a specific box from a distinct area within the factory, and carry them to the "Boxing Area". The Fetcher doubled up as Rejects Examiner and Recycler.

And we had one "Bookie/Adjuster/Organizer" whose job was to look at the other guys and gals working, and issue barking commands and threats from time to time. The rest of the time, he just went out for a cup of coffee and a smoke. In fact, it was more about doing regular stock-accounting, checking progress and rate of production, estimating what work remained to be done, dealing with unexpected shortages of various items, dealing with the FedEx paperwork and labelling, and sundry matters.

The small boxes had to be unfolded and built up too, and this was done by anyone who happened to have some spare time, or felt like a change for a while... I even did a few myself!

Credits are due to :

Boxers :

John Edwards (UK)
Brian Gharst (USA)
Henri Gooren (NETHERLANDS)
Evert Jan de Groot (NETHERLANDS)
Andreas Irle (GERMANY)
Gale Webb (USA)
Billy Webb (USA)

Craters/Packers :

Luke McMath (UK)
Thomas Rydbeck (FRANCE/SWEDEN)
+ great help from Nicola de Angeli (ITALY)

Fetcher/Reject Recycler :

Paul Rhoads (FRANCE/USA)

Slave Driver :


The 435 crates of READER'S edition were distributed as follows :

103 were sent by FedEX to various European Subscribers
17 were picked up from the Bindery by Subscribers
9 spare sets remained in MILAN for future needs
306 are going to the USA in a container, to satisfy the needs of 280 subscribers, with 13 to spare for future (or yet-to-confirm) needs.

The DELUXE sets took some time to be produced. They're a real work of art. Awesome to look at... We eventually got 60 sets of 22 volumes, part on Friday 28th afternoon, the rest on Saturday 29th morning (they were made the day before, but you have to allow for a night's drying out). Each of those 1,320 books has been individually inspected and manually waxed and polished by a team of "waxers" : Paul Rhoads, John Edwards, Andreas Irle, with the assistance of Signor Biffi (a master waxer) and Walter Rocchetti, from Sfera. There was still time to create a number of "Boxes 1" before the plant had to close at 12:30 on Sunday. Paul Rhoads is staying on next week, for as long as it will require to complete the boxing, crating and shipping of those 60 sets. He will be assisted in this by Walter, but it's going to be a hell of a job still... About 210 boxes still to do, and to crate: 2 days' work for two guys. Thanks to Paul and Walter for dealing with this, and sorry the rest of us couldn't stay on...
Those 60 sets will go to :

6 FedEX to European Subscribers
1 local pickup
1 for SFERA as a reference set, maybe...
4 remaining in MILAN for future needs
48 in the USA container, for 41 Subscribers and 7 spare sets.

I will write a fully documented procedure corresponding to the actual organization during those 5.5 days of work, so that we can use it for the WAVE II expedition sometime in 2004... Every single one of the Volunteers who were in Milan this time wants to be there again next year, which goes to show that we must all be masochists, because believe me, it was hard on the leg and arm muscles, all this... But the food was good, even if the wine was not exactly what I had hoped for !