Factory follies

Thirteen years of my industrial career were spent in a certain manufacturing plant, seven of those as a machine operator.  It was a job that required considerable training, and you were initially hired as kind of a “first mate”, pairing up with the actual operator, helping out, doing some basic changeovers, and learning the ropes.

When I was finally given my qualification, I was proud, and sincerely wanted to do my best to match the quality and output of the senior guys.  It was a learning curve with a lot of responsibility, and I made my share of mistakes, but never enough to lose the job.  It helped that I had a reasonable boss, who I think saw that I was genuinely trying to do better.

As I became more proficient, I did match the big guys on many occasions, and eventually found ways to increase the output from there.  As you can guess, this was not very popular with some who had their set ways of doing things, took extra long coffee breaks, and were members of the Old Boys’ Club.  When new people were promoted to operator after I had been, some of them sensed which way the wind was blowing, and took part in a program of sabotage.  This would consist of any number of things, including leaving the machine in a mess, without product changeover being done, putting out parts for the changeover that I believe were deliberately damaged or incorrect, and needlessly shutting down the machine in the middle of a run, while waiting for me to relieve them.  I put up with this crap for a while, until my boss came to me one day at the beginning of my shift, and asked me why it had taken me over an hour to get started the previous day. I told him to refer to my production report, where I had penciled in the reasons:  cleanup, wrong parts, changeover not done, etc.  He nodded and we did not speak further.

Next day, I was approached by my counterpart on the opposite shift, who said  something like “So, Lee, you ****, how come you had to rat on me yesterday?  I got chewed out by the supervisor this morning.  You f**** ass****.  I said ” If you quit booby-trapping the machine, you won’t get into this kind of trouble.”  That did the trick, but of course resulted in greater unpopularity and more ostracism for me.  Two of them actually attempted an ambush down the road from the plant one day,  but I was tipped off and managed to avoid them.

Eventually, I was befriended by a small group of people who were of like mind to myself, and just wanted to do their job and go home feeling some kind of accomplishment.  Out of the 500 people who worked there, we were in the minority, which is pretty sad when you think of it.

6 thoughts on “Factory follies

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    1. Yeah, too bad. It was the status quo that we would only do so much, the mentality being that we would get more overtime, and not allow the company to stockpile, especially near contract time.


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