Reminiscing during cold(ish) weather.

November 27, 2016 Leave a comment

I currently work in an L shaped shop and the side branch of the bay is occupied by a machinist who has fitted a wall and sliding door so he can heat his area; we welders keep the bay door open for ventilation.

It made me think of my days as an apprentice welder(resident caveman) in a machine shop.  The boss really resented paying to heat the shop and woe to he who opened the door to clear out any fumes or smoke we might have produced.  One cold day we opened the door for a few minutes to clear out some smoke and the boss came storming in from his office next door demanding to know why the heat was even on if we were going to need to vent the shop at ANY point during the day.  I was new on the job and shaking in my boots.  The machinist was working at his bench and without even looking up from his work quietly said that he needed the heat on to hold tolerances.  The boss was instantly quiet, did an about turn, and walked away without making another sound.  It was such a change in the boss’s demeanor that I had the ridiculous thought that maybe the machinist had incriminating pictures of him!

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They all have an excuse.

October 30, 2016 Leave a comment

I was talking with a guy in Nanaimo about his firewood pile that was beside the road and asked if he was worried about people stealing his wood(this has happened to me) and he said that if someone needed it badly then they could have it.

It made me think of the trials I have sat and watched in Vancouver. Everybody who was there said they really needed what they had been caught taking.  I’m sure many of them did but some were clearly just trying to minimize what they had done.

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Being put in my place by a stereotype.

September 9, 2016 Leave a comment

Last Friday there were some problems at work that resulted in the dismissal of a sawyer.  At the climax of the situation I used one or two four letter words in the office so this Tuesday, after the statutory holiday, I went up to apologize for the foul language I had used the week before.  They said it was fine, especially considering the situation, and one of the staff added that they were used to dealing with mill workers.  What is that supposed to mean?

So, as sawmill workers, just exactly how are we supposed to talk?  There is very little foul language on the floor and NO rude or vulgar subject matter in the conversations at lunch.  There are no rules or policies, just a bunch of guys working in a big shed, and most of the talk is G-rated with the occasional escalation into PG territory.  This is why I felt the need to go into the office to apologize for cussing.

 

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Malicious Compliance.

August 26, 2016 Leave a comment

I was thinking about a place where I used to work where there was a big problem with malicious compliance.

It was an issue in a couple departments where assembly work was being done and was a source of friction with a couple of coworkers there but where it was worrisome was in the fabrication shop where I was one of three welders making aluminum pressure vessels.

There was a constant pressure to reduce lead times on these “tanks” and I was keen to do my part but where I kept butting heads with my fellow welders were with two things:  Cold lap(incomplete fusion) and stop craters the robots left on the circumferential welds holding the tank ends on.  Here is where we differed:

They argued that since the cold lap and stop craters didn’t leak in the subsequent proof test, taking the time to fill those craters and deal with the cold lap were a waste of time.

I argued that cold lap, even if partial, wouldn’t leak but would provide a stress riser and potential failure point in the future.  I also didn’t want to leave the stop craters; they provide another stress riser. One of the first lessons in welding aluminum is that cracks propagate from stop craters, sometimes before the weld is even cooled, and they must be filled; my colleagues’ refusal to deal with it to save a minute of rework on each tank left me flabbergasted.

There was a slow-down and I was laid off from that job and wondered if my butting heads with my fellow welders over this quality and safety issue was a factor in my being chosen as the one who had to go.  A while later a little birdie told me that one of the tanks had a catastrophic weld failure and the company recalled a bunch of the tanks.  I have a pretty good idea why it failed and felt somewhat smug about it.  The smugness was somewhat tempered by the fact a worker was injured when the tank failed.

 

 

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Spotlight Sawyer

August 24, 2016 Leave a comment

I know a sawyer who drags his backside around at work like there’s a piano tied to it.  He typically puts out .5-.75 as much lumber as me in a shift but easily matches me when the manager is on the floor.

Everybody takes it easy sometimes and a good boss can accept that provided that it’s not done in a way he can’t let slide but the production numbers eventually show a pattern…

It made me think of a story that came out of the bush near the village where I grew up.  It was the about a rigging crew(logging) that was really taking it easy and, as we would say, effing the dog.  In a surprise move one morning the boss came out with the choker setters and told them to sit down and watch him work.  The boss set chokers while they watched.  Turn after turn the tension mounted.  The story goes that in an hour or two he had set more chokers than that crew had the entire day before.   The story goes on to say that the boss lectured the crew about it being natural to take it easy sometimes but they were being too greedy and he couldn’t ignore it.  He supposedly fired them all and, out of shame, no grievances were filed.

True or not it’s a good story with a good lesson for managers and underlings alike.

 

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Treating an Emergency like an Emergency or Strange Priorities

August 24, 2016 Leave a comment

I was thinking about a time when I needed some help from a coworker.  He was running by and I stopped him but he quickly said he didn’t have any time for anybody because our air compressor was down and work was halted because of it so this was his top priority.  He needed to run out for supplies to complete the repair and only after that was done would he have time for anything else.  Fair enough.  There were a bunch of guys idle because of this so I had no trouble waiting.

I saw him after coming back with the parts for the emergency repair and he had an iced cappuccino in his hand.  I was shocked.  The emergency apparently wasn’t too important to stop for a fancy drink.

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Corrupting youth?

August 6, 2016 Leave a comment

There are a couple teen summer students helping out at the sawmill.  I was passing by one who was stacking lumber and noticed a couple of small knots on the outside of one of his stacks.  I came over and flipped the boards around so the knots couldn’t be seen from the outside and explained that we should always try to stack our lumber with the good faces on top and the good edges on the outside of the stack so it looks as nice as possible.

I said that his parents and teachers probably taught him that inner beauty is what mattered, and I said that it was true…except for the lumber business.  In a lumber stack outer beauty is what matters.  I added that this wasn’t deceitful because the lumber quality is determined by a grade, or specification, and THAT was the level of quality we promised.  Stacking the boards so no defects are visible is just a way of putting our best foot forward.

 

 

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