Chapter 4


...and counting beans, minutes, and seconds

Most of the time out on the factory floor, management and engineers pretty much left we grunts alone. If a problem cropped up, there might be a couple of managers and engineers huddled around a specific issue, but that was fairly rare. They'd much rather be sitting in their offices or a conference room than standing on a concrete floor surrounded and outnumbered by sometimes pissed off floor grunts wielding heavy hand tools.

So it was out of the ordinary for one of the younger engineers to be on an extended visit to the factory floor, terra discomforta for him, going from work station to work station with a clipboard (or course) and a stopwatch.

"This doesn't look good," I muttered to myself while thinking of a way I could dodge this bullet.

Inevitability torturously arrived with the fledgling engineer's visit to my station. As pleasantly explained as possible, he told me that he was just doing a time study of all the work stations on the floor. "Just relax," he said, "This is nothing personal: everyone is being timed."

I remained both skeptical and unrelaxed...

My job was at Station 1 on the assembly line and involved:

A) placing an assembly board on the assembly line roller track,

B) taking a freshly assembled, bare seat frame and affixing it to the assembly board,

C) roll board and frame onto a combination elevator/lazy susan section of the roller track,

D) raise elevator so frame was at a comfortable working level,

E) install various brackets, hardware, wiring harnesses to frame in accordance to blueprint,

F) stamp assembly paperwork with my personal stamp,

G) lower elevator back to roller track level, and finally

H) slide board and frame down roller track towards Station 2.

Simple enough. However...

...the ship set order we were working on didn't require any work to be done on the seat backs. So I devised a system of putting two boards with frames back to back on the elevator/lazy Susan, thus allowing for two seats to get the Station 1 treatment at a time. It just seemed so right and the only way to do it.

The engineer, thumb at-the-ready on the stopwatch plunger, said "Start whenever you want. Just work naturally. This isn't a race." So I placed two boards on the track, mounted a frame on each board, moved the boards/frames back to back on the lazy Susan, and hit the elevator actuator foot switch.

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" the engineer exclaimed in a panic. "What are you doing?" I explained that for this particular ship set, Station 1 work did not require any work to be done on the seat backs, so I came up with this idea to increase efficiency. Then he said something that completely floored me:

"But I have to record the time it takes Station 1 to complete one seat."

Being shocked at that statement, I stared at him in disbelief. After a pregnant pause in the conversation, I finally said, "Divide. By. Two."

"What? Divide what?" he queried. He was obviously rattled.

"The time. Divide my Station 1 assembly time by two."

"But that's not precise." he whined.

And that was the precise time that I started to seriously question the AeroSeat company's engineering crew.

However, in all honesty, I did have a very positive encounter with one of the senior engineers at AeroSeat. That story will have to wait for another time, though. Until then, stay "tuned."