Airline seating is comprised of parts: lots and lots of parts. In the manufacturing world, there are always parts shortages and outages. It's just the nature of the JIT beast. Unless the facility adheres to the vertical integration philosophy of manufacturing nearly 100% of what goes into a facilities final product, the facility is at the mercy of parts supplies.
Other than the petty dramas and shop mentality to deal with, I actually did enjoy my job. Keep me loaded with parts, keep feeding me seating frames on which to install parts, and I was one relatively happy camper. "August's child must busy be - If he lives quite happily" was a needlepoint work my great-grandmother completed in the month of my birth. I have that very needlepoint framed and displayed over my workstation here. The verse is most apropos and holds true to this day, more than half a century later.
Therefore, parts shortages at AeroSeat drove me crazy.
At the start of the shift one morning, we were informed that the parts for our next scheduled assembly run hadn't come in yet. The truck was expected to arrive "around" noontime, and we were told the shipment would "probably" be all checked in, inventoried, and kitted out to the assembly lines by the time we returned from lunch.
Our supervisor using the words "around" and "probably" didn't exactly project any degree of surety. It sounded more "iffy" than anything else.
In that it was 6:10 A.M. when this announcement was made, it was just shy of 6 hours until lunch break. And there was a whole lot of nothing for us to build between now and then. Therefore, we were given "busy work." The list included refreshing our parts bins (with what parts were available), cleaning our workbenches, cleaning the assembly line roller track, and then sweep and mop the floor around our workstations.
This is going to be torture, I thought to myself.
Going down the list of busy work took all of 15 or 20 minutes max. This was even "riding the brakes," but you can only ride the brakes so hard before you find yourself not moving at all. And I'm not a fan of milking a job.
So with my busy work list complete and nothing left to do, I decided to float an idea past the floor manager.
FLOOR MANAGER (FM): "What's up, Jeff?"
ME: "Well, seeing how it's going to be 6 hours before we see any parts, and if there's nothing else to do, I'd like to punch out and return at 12:30 P.M."
FM: "You can't leave, Jeff. The truck could arrive early, so we need you at Station One. Did you refresh your workstation parts bins?"
FM: "Did you clean your workbench?"
FM: "Did you clean the assembly line roller track by your workstation?"
FM: "Did you sweep and mop the floor around your workstation?"
There was a pregnant pause in the conversation ... or questioning.
FM: "Then sweep and mop the floor again."
FM: "Yes. Again."
This was exactly the kind of chicken shit that makes my blood boil. For whatever reasons, I've never been able to bring myself to accept it. I then knew what the game was: sweep and mop the floor. As soon as it's dry, sweep and mop it again. Repeat until the parts are in. Well, I wasn't about to play that game ...
ME: "You know what? I just finished sweeping and mopping the floor around my workstation no more than 5 minutes ago, and I'm fairly certain it hasn't gotten dirty since then.
Leaning forward, a most stern yet evil look washed across her face.
FM: "I said to sweep and mop the floor again.
I had hit a brick wall. There was no budging this one. No further negotiations. This was absolute: absolute bullshit! I turned away and walked back towards my workstation.
On the way I noticed an assembly line that did have parts and worker bees there were cranking out the seats. The stark difference between producing product and my being sentenced to a seemingly non-stop cycle of unnecessary floor maintenance disgusted me. And that disgust was the impetus for a cure for the boredom.
Abruptly changing course, I approached my Station One counterpart on the line, told my story, and asked if he minded if I were to set up shop on the other side of the assembly line roller trolley to build seats. He was agreeable to my idea. He worked on the front of the seat frames and I worked on the backs. The only flaw was that we'd both have to work only at half-throttle, so as not to overload the poor bastard at Station Two.
Things went along swimmingly. We chatted back and forth while performing our respective assembly steps on the seating frames. Life was good.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the floor manager lumbering her way down the main "avenue" of the factory floor. As she was scanning the area our eyes met and her face changed expression: first surprise, then abject anger. She approached me and started another one of our pleasant exchanges.
FLOOR MANAGER (FM): "What do you think you're doing, Jeff?"
ME: "I'm building airplane seats!"
FM: "You're away from your workstation without authorization."
ME: "Well the floor was still wet from all the mopping. I didn't want to slip and fall, so I came over here to help out until the floor dried."
FM: "Pick up your tools and go back to your workstation. NOW!"
My now-former Workstation One compadre gave me the "Sorry dude, but you're really fucked now" look as I reluctantly packed up.
Back at my home assembly line and workstation, I returned to the floor sterilization project. Sweep. Mop. Let dry. Sweep. Mop. Let dry. This went on for about a half an hour until the floor manager came over and requested my presence in the personnel manager's office.
This isn't going to be pretty, I thought to myself.