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If It’s Stupid But It Works, It’s Not Stupid

, , , , , , | Working | March 2, 2023

I play the part of weld engineer for one of my jobs, as well as filling in as a welder, and have been doing this for better than thirty years. I was on a secured job site over the New Year’s holiday for an emergency repair, and as getting off-site to grab a meal is hard, I dropped half of my fridge into a cooler before leaving the house.

When a meal break came up, I grabbed a skillet-sized scrap of steel, clamped it to a work stand, gave it a quick cleaning with a grinder, and set up a torch under it. My crew was looking at me like the fool that I am, but when I pulled a half-pack of ham and three eggs out of my cooler and dropped them on the “skillet”, they perked up.

A few minutes later, I had a great breakfast, and my crew learned something about resourcefulness.

His Attitude Could Use Some Maintenance

, , , , , , , , | Working | February 28, 2023

I’m a woman, working in a factory that produces NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) motors. My particular line assembles the stator core, and my job is to press the wires into their final shape and test them for any defects. I’ve done this for going on five years now.

However, my press hasn’t been working right for months, and maintenance has been lazy about getting around to fixing the problem. It’s an automatic hydraulic press, but it’s putting on too much pressure, forcing us to set the pressure lower and lower to make up for the problem. It should be on level five or six; it’s on level two.

Lately, the press has been destroying part of the motor if left to its own devices, and to account for that, we have some stiffened paper as a shield to protect the delicate part from being ruined. This is causing the machine to kind of fault out at times because the sensor isn’t reading the motor correctly. There are two options at this point: fix the pressure issue or fix it to where it won’t fault out.

I’ve put work orders in for this the entire week. It was running fine and just decided to stop running fine. There’s been no change in the settings I can see; it looks like a timing issue, which the head of maintenance agrees with. He sends out one of the workers that I can’t stand.

This man is convinced he’s the smartest person in the room and you won’t tell him otherwise.

Maintenance: “So, the cause of this is this paper here.”

Me: “Yes, I’m aware that’s the most likely cause. If I don’t have it in there, the press will eat the leads, and we lose time by sending them back to be redone, then repressed, and then probably sent back again.”

Supervisor: “Is there anything you can do to patch it up for now? It needs to be fixed, but it’s the end of the shift. Can we run it for the last forty-five minutes?”

Maintenance: “Yeah, I can do that. As long as people don’t mess with settings without knowing what they’re doing, it’s fine.”

I feel like this is a personal jab at me, but I take it. I don’t care; I just want to run my machines without issue. My supervisor leaves and [Maintenance] begins to work.

Maintenance: “You know, I checked the logs. You’re the only person who calls us out to fix it every time it messes up a little. No one but you has this problem.”

Me: “Uh-huh.”

I continue to take it, not telling him that I can see those logs, too, and I can see where every person who runs this machine puts in for various major issues they won’t come out to fix. I also happen to be the ONLY woman who runs this kind of machine in my area.

He runs a few motors, causing the exact problems I’ve been having, proving my need to have the stiffened paper in place. He comes up with the genius idea that it’s a timing issue, and the upper press isn’t putting on enough pressure. I say absolutely nothing to him about it because what do I know?

He sets the pressure to three and I walk a short distance away. He runs the press, and there is the LOUD noise of metal snapping.

Me: “It broke a bolt! The machine’s down. I’m done for the night. It’s not running again!”

He pulls the completely destroyed core out of the press to see that it’s snapped a major bolt.

Me: “This is what happens when people mess with the settings without knowing what they’re doing.”

He gave me a look and repaired it fairly quickly. He set the pressure back to two, put another motor in, and ran the press. It snapped that new bolt at once, meaning he had made the problem WORSE.

Ten minutes to the end of the shift, I told my supervisor I would not be in the next day and went to talk to a friend of mine for the last little bit of work.

Paperwork Isn’t All Bad

, , , , | Healthy | February 26, 2023

I’m a supervisor in a machine shop. The crew I work with is usually pretty great about safety and protocol, even if it gets annoying sometimes. We all realize that a little bit of inconvenience now can be worth it to prevent bigger problems later.

We have a new employee who is in his first week of real work after the training and probationary period. He’s been pretty open about going through some personal struggles, and he’s been acting like a stereotypical “tough guy” around work to make up for it.

He manages to nick his thumb with a box cutter. It’s not bad, but there’s enough blood that he needs to step away from his work and find a bandage.

New Guy: *To me* “Hey, boss, do we have a first aid kit around?”

Me: “Yeah, over here.”

I take him to the office where the kit is kept.

Me: “What do you need?”

New Guy: “Cut my thumb on a box-cutter. No big deal, but I need something to put on it.”

I get him a bandage and then pull out “the incident book”, where we keep reports of all injuries that happen on the job.

Me: “While we’re here, let’s get this report done, too. What time—”

New Guy: “Nah, I can head back to work. No need for a report.”

Me: “[New Guy], we’re doing this report whether you like it or not. If you refuse to do it, I’ll have to talk to Human Resources about it.”

New Guy: “All right, whatever. I can’t believe I need to do a whole big report for a cut that’s barely even visible, but let’s get it over with.”

We go through the report, confirming as many details as possible about the situation, and then I send [New Guy] back to his station.

A few days later, [New Guy] calls in to request the day off.

New Guy: “My thumb got infected, so I need to have the doc look at it.”

Me: “Is it the cut you got a few days ago?”

New Guy: “Yeah.”

Me: “Okay, in that case, make sure you get a report from the clinic to submit to HR. They’ll add it to the initial injury report and get started on your worker’s comp claim.”

New Guy: “Wait, I can get this covered by worker’s comp? That’s… That’s actually good to know. I wasn’t looking forward to the bill for this one after [previously mentioned personal stuff].”

Me: “Yeah, it should qualify.”

New Guy: “Thanks, boss.”

Me: “No problem. Let me know how it goes and when you’ll be back to work.”

New Guy: “Also… thanks for making me do that report. Guess it wasn’t such a waste of time after all, huh?”

His thumb healed pretty quickly with proper care, worker’s comp covered his costs, and he learned to be as diligent as the rest of us when it comes to safety and reporting.

While You’re At It, Pick Up A Board Stretcher, Part 2

, , , , | Working | February 22, 2023

This happened in the late 1970s or early 1980s, as told by my father. It happened in a small country east of the Iron Curtain, where meritocracy was sort of turned around. Your career wasn’t determined by what you knew or even who you knew. The one point that would determine your status in life was your (and your parents’) devotion to the Party. If your parents weren’t big enough fans, you would never attend a university or get a decent job, and vice versa.

Enter Alfons. (Obvious fake name is obvious.) Alfons’s parents were devoted communists, so he was pushed through a university, passed with flying colours without doing any work and, having his fresh Master’s degree, was placed in a cozy middle-management office job in one of the country’s largest wood processing plants. This place did everything — trees went in, furniture went out. It covered something like eighty hectares of land.

One fine day, the huge wooden board that served as the tabletop of a massive table saw snapped in half. Line outage was a big problem even in the communist paradise of planned economy, so even Alfons left his office and made his way to the shop floor in order to help the workers stand around and shake their heads. After a while, he asked no one in particular:

Alfons: “What are we going to do?”

Everybody knew Alfons was barely more intelligent than any random piece of lumber found in that plant, and the foreman didn’t give a f***, so he said:

Foreman: “We’ll weld it.”

Alfons: “Weld it? We can do that?”

Foreman: “Yes, we need a special electrode for the arc welder. They should have one at [Department].”

Alfons was now ready to save the day, and off he went to [Department]. Halfway across the campus. On foot. [Foreman] obviously picked up the phone and called [Department] to warn them. When Alfons got there, they said, “Sorry, we’re out, but there should be one over there.”

Rinse and repeat, with Alfons running across the campus from place to place only to hear that they couldn’t help him. At last, he got to a place that couldn’t be reached by phone for some reason, and the lady there explained to him the full extent of his stupidity.

Thus ended the quest for the Wooden Electrode. The nickname stuck.

While You’re At It, Pick Up A Board Stretcher

Sir, EVERYONE Is Replaceable

, , , , , , | Working | February 22, 2023

I’m lower-middle management at a machine shop. I’ve got a welder on shift who works very fast; he produces about ten parts per shift each with a 120-inch weld. I’ve also got a welder who’s a bit slower; he produces five parts on each shift each with a 49-inch weld.

The thing is that my fast worker’s welds all fail ultrasound testing. He does 120 inches of welding per part, and every single part has about an inch that fails ultrasound and needs to be redone. This is part of the time it takes him to do the ten parts per shift.

My guy who does 49 inches on his parts fails a section of weld less than once a pay period.

We have a holiday shift open up doing different parts because a lot of people are going on vacation. There’s a two-times holiday differential pay for the people who stay on.

Both of these guys apply for one of the slots. Obviously, I take the guy whose welds don’t fail very often over the faster guy who fails a weld every part and needs to redo them. He’s not going to be as fast working on unfamiliar parts and is likely to make even more errors.

The faster guy gets b****y about it, complaining about how I didn’t take him for the holiday shift. He complains to me. He complains to his buddies. He complains to my manager.

So, I sit him down and explain that I would be more than happy to take him if he improves his failure rate. He nods along.

The next week, he produces only two parts per shift. This would be… acceptable, but less than ideal… if they didn’t fail ultrasound testing, but he still fails ultrasound testing twice that week.

I approach him about it, and he says, very smugly, that he is working on his accuracy. He practically sneers it at me. It is clear that he is daring me to complain about his reduced speed.

The next shift, I watch him, and he is mostly goofing off. He is making an effort to be more precise… but he is also doing every other task comically slowly.

I confront him about it and threaten to write him up.

Employee: “You need me more than I need you! A guy with my speed and welding experience could find work anywhere. You can’t write me up; I quit!”

Me: “Okay.”

We’re operating a bit slower without him, and his replacement isn’t fully trained up yet, but we certainly didn’t need his attitude.