A long way to go….or….SEXY!

July 25, 2014 Leave a comment

In a previous life as a welder for fabrication and machine shops, I had a taste of small scale production runs of different kinds of products and while some aspects of the work were monotonous, others were rather sexy.  I’ve been working on a different production lines in a local factory (not just a few guys in a shop like before)  and it’s about 80% sexy….

Anyway…tonight I’m watching and episode of Megafactories showing the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan and think how sexy things could actually be….

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A non-disclosure agreement prevents me from saying anything more.

July 25, 2014 Leave a comment

I know that the production engineer I work for had something to be proud of when I heard one machinist warn another that his automated test rig would “fink” on them if their parts were out of spec.

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You’d love it, it’s a way of life!

July 19, 2014 Leave a comment

I was thinking about a time, about a decade ago, when I was watching American Hot Rod with an auto-mechanic friend and he mused about how nice it must be to work on new machines and never having to deal with dirt and seized bolts……

….well, I have to say that I’ve been doing that for the last 15 months (assembling diesel engine driven air compressors) and it’s WONDERFUL.

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Plastic fantastic!

July 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Have you ever seen a product that mad you sad?  That made you think about how the engineering and labour hours invested, along with all the oil used to make and ship that stupid thing to your local outlet could have been used to feed people?

This qualifies.  Check this out: 



….And using the William Tell overture bothers me too but I don’t know why….

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Predestined for damnation?

July 4, 2014 Leave a comment

I was doing errands in town with my plant manager today and the conversation drifted to my diverse work history but I had to make a point that I’ve never seen so many stand-up, quality people under one roof as with this company.  I constantly feel like a reprobate among saints……like the time I worked for/with a crew of gardeners.

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Making sure that only I will be the victim of my misbehavior.

June 29, 2014 Leave a comment

When I work at my day job I wear a shirt with my employer’s company name on it.  When I don’t have a chance to change shirts before doing something else then I often put a piece of tape over their logo.  It’s a trick policemen used when I was a kid; they had their badge numbers on their shirts but would tape over it if they wanted to remain anonymous.  Anyway…This leaves me free to tell people off for cutting into line or make other trouble without my boss’s name being dragged into it.  It’s not that I’m afraid of getting in trouble so much as I like them enough that I don’t want them to have to deal with any crap I might stir up on my own time.  

Sometimes I get asked why I have tape on my shirt and usually I practice my deadpan, “Oh, this is a work shirt.  I get into fights sometimes and I don’t want to get into trouble.”  Tons of fun.

The last time I was asked about tape on my shirt was while buying gasoline.  All I got out of my mouth was, “this is a work shirt,” before the clerk said that he understood:  My boss would have to pay to advertise on my body outside of working hours.  We had a little chat because this wasn’t my view at all.  Actually, advertising would be fair pay for my FREE shirt (I day I wear a swishtika is the day NIKE GIVES ME A SHIRT).  I explained that I was doing some side work and if there was a problem with it then they should associate the problem with me rather than my day job.



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Reminiscing and misusing tools/not measuring things properly.

June 28, 2014 Leave a comment

The other day I was pondering the andon on a semi-automated test rig at work.  I was also thinking about a comment made by the speaker at a lean manufacturing seminar I recently attended.  He gave a hypothetical example about improperly measuring a process making trouble:  If a call centre’s performance was measured solely on the average time a phone rings before it’s answered by a worker, what would happen?  One possible outcome is that customers would get prompt answers and be put on hold.  The workers would be fulfilling their mandate while still giving bad service.

It made me think about my introduction to andon systems.  I believe they’re potentially worth their weight in gold but not true for the first one I used.  Managers that the system was made to assist scuttled any chances of it doing any good because of the way their own performance was gauged.

The andon system was part of an order picking line that had a large conveyor with cones placed on it to separate orders; the pickers would fill their part of the order and place it between the appropriate cones.  If an order picker had trouble they could press a button at their station that stopped the conveyor, lit an indicator light to summon help, and start a timer to record stoppage time.

The problem was that the floor supervisors’ pay was performance based…sort of.  Their base pay was low and ~60% of their income came from bonuses based on meeting production goals (# of items picked on their shift).  Where the bonus system went wrong was that it simply counted how many items were picked and didn’t take errors into account.  When a picker had a problem they’d hit their button, the line would stop, and the light would summon a supervisor and additional help. …Then the supervisor would get the line restarted without concern for errors if he didn’t think the crew had time to get the 100,000 unit goal he depended on.  If we had time to fix errors then it was usually OK with him.  What really concerned us was that his managers didn’t have a problem with this approach!  Did I mention they’ve gone out of business?

A funny additional detail:  The original andon system was poorly designed and the indicator lights were powered in parallel without over current protection or thought given to what would happen if a lot of sections came on at once.  There wasn’t a problem because there was never more than a few concurrent problems until the day where the order pickers refused to work anymore and they all hit their buttons at once.  The current from all the lamps burned up the wiring in the system enclosure!

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