Gut Rumbles

April 12, 2003

it's a training thing

Our Training Department just got a wild boost of inspiratation from on high, with a little help from our sister plant in Australia (which I hope to visit some day, when I have a week's vacation to burn along with the business trip). They tested my operators for "Job Competence" and a mere 45% of my operators passed.

The operators are pissed. "THEY SAY I DON'T KNOW HOW TO RUN MY JOB!", they screamed. I disagreed, saying that obviously they could run the jobs, but the tests showed that they didn't have a clue what they were doing when they THOUGHT they were running the job. They didn't like my take on the matter.

But Friday, I had the perfect opportunity to TELL them and SHOW them what this training program is all about. They fought feeding "B" micronizer all night long Thursday. It wouldn't take feed. It kept blowing back. Dust was everywhere and my people worked their asses off that night. I heard every theory about what might be wrong from a slipped venturi to a complete overhaul of the micronizer.

I went to look. The micronizer exhaust blower was pulling 32 amps. It should run 65 with feed on the mills and 75 with feed off. I don't run that job every day of my working life, but I KNOW THAT. I got two guys together who DO RUN THAT JOB EVERY FUCKING DAY OF THEIR WORKING LIVES and asked them, "Look HERE!" Do you see anything wrong?"

They didn't. I wanted to collapse on the floor.

I have people operating jobs where they know what buttons to push and how to turn it off when something goes wrong, but they don't have a glimmer about how ANY of that shit actually works. I ended up giving a speech in the control room after I had mechanics tighten the drive belts on the exhaust blower and put a vacuum back on the mill. The mill ran fine after that.

I told everybody in the room that I wanted to hear NO MORE SHIT from them about the training department calling them "incompetent." If an entire shift spent 12 hours pissing in the wind and I find the problem in five minutes, I've obviously got a bunch of incompetent assholes working for me. Even when I POINTED to the problem, my fucksticks didn't recognize it.

I said that if I were an operator and I needed somebody like ME to bail me out of that kind of trouble because I didn't know what I was doing, I would admit that I was a dumbass. I would SEEK the help of the training department so that I never embarassed myself like that again. I would PLEAD for them to train me.

But my real problem is raw material. You've got to have a brain to start with before you can stuff it full of knowledge. I realize now that I don't have a lot of active brains working for me. No wonder the training department says that I'm in trouble. I am.

But the operators think the training department is picking on them, and they've copped an attitude. I can't have that situation in my ranks.

I may have to shoot a hostage.


"shoot a hostage"
go on, you know you wanna

Posted by: Dan F on April 12, 2003 08:22 PM

No, Acidman! Don't do it!


Posted by: Kevin McGehee on April 12, 2003 08:41 PM

God help you if it's a union shop.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip on April 12, 2003 08:53 PM

Ralph, it's a union shop. But I've shot hostages before and gotten away with it.

Sometimes you have to be radical just to attract the right kind on attention.

Posted by: Acidman on April 12, 2003 08:56 PM

I still do not get it. I have never seen a micronizer and do not know what it is, but I assume that it is irrelevant.

Anyway it has an exhaust blower that was pulling 32A (amps).


I should run at 65 what? Ampere, revolutions per min or gallons per min?

If it is amperes, why is the current higher when the feed is off?

OK, it isperhaps rpms, it runs slower when you feed something to it.

Next, it seem to be sensitive to wheater you run the load every day or just one day or another.

Can I run that load one day and let it rest a bit the next? Does it get too hot? Or does the fuse blow? If if gets hot during one day and cools a bit the next then it must be a big thing.

I still do not get it. I cannot see what is wrong

It is probably impossible to train me.

Posted by: Raymond on April 12, 2003 09:29 PM

I've been a blue collar peon all my life and frankly I've found that most copmpanies really hate to spend time or money on trainning and when they do it is aimed at the salary people rather than the hourly. I've been dependent on manuals, co-workers, and learning by fuking it up. OJT they call it. I'm so damm envious of your employees I could just spit. They actually have a chance to increase their ecinimic value, reduce heart ache ( I wasted a full day last month trying to get a machine to work), and increase their ability to survive in the employment market place all on the company's dime and time.
I've spent so much of my time and money trying to learn and advance in the trades and technical field it ain't even funny. I'm still paying off a school loan at the age of 58.

Posted by: Toad on April 13, 2003 12:12 AM


As I noted elsewhere, I work a lot with the mining industry. Your experience is not uncommon. The company I work for provides service and equipment for industry, and we make big $$ going in and doing what you did - finding the obvious when the people who run the process can't see the forest for the trees. Of course there are those time when we find the not-so-obvious too, but I can't count the number of times we've walked into a situation and had to handle the repair diplomatically because the problem is so obvious - and so stupid - that solving it quickly would be embarrassing. Embarrassed customers tend to not want to have their noses rubbed in it. I imagine it's the same for your operators.

But sometimes I wish I could shoot a hostage.

Posted by: Kevin Baker on April 13, 2003 12:15 AM

Raymond: I believe Acidude means the blower should draw 65 amps of current when working properly. As it was only drawing 32, it's safe to assume that load had somehow been removed from the motor. In this case, the belts connecting the motor to the blower turbine or drum were loose and slipping, causing the motor to draw less amperage.

As for why it draws more amperage, I assume this exhaust blower's purpose in life is to create a vacuum in another part of the machine. When you're feeding crap into it, you're basically changing the volume of the area it's creating a vacuum in. As such, I suspect it would draw more of a vaccum (and thereby draw more amperage) when crap isn't being stuffed into it.

At least, that's my semi-educated guess.

Posted by: Mr. Lion on April 13, 2003 12:40 AM

Wait till you get your Derringer before you start shooting hostages.

Or you could borrow one of mine -- I think one of my ex-Wehrmacht Mausers might have a little experience in the "hostage-shooting" department.

Or you could always borrow Quinton's .22 rifle and try for head shots....

Nahhhh, wait for the Derringer. You need the practice.

Posted by: Kim du Toit on April 13, 2003 01:53 AM

You are experiencing one fo the problems with modernization/technological advance.

We have reached the point that technology is making things easier to run. All you have to do is push buttons. As a result, management thinks they can get away with hiring less intelligent/less educated people for less money. And the employess can get away with being less educated/less intelligent/lazier most of the time. But some times, the lack of knowledge bites everyone in the ass.

I like knowing how things work. Not only have I learned how to program in the language my company uses (Cahe'/Mumps), but I learned how the language itself works. This doesn't significantly help me in my job, but I like knowing. But you never know when it might help.

One thing I don't know, is how the dimming mirror in a car works. :( I need to go find out.

Posted by: Byna on April 13, 2003 03:33 AM

Amperage on any fan or blower is an indication of how much air it's moving-- how much WORK it's doing. The higher the amps, the more air the fan is moving. Thus, when it's moving nothing but air the amps are higher than when you introduce pigment into the airstream.

It moves less air because it's moving entrained pigment along with the air. The amps drop.

I thought EVERYBODY knew that.

Posted by: Acidman on April 13, 2003 07:33 AM

I'm just an hourly wage working schmuck for a large newspaper publishing company. Almost everyday I see some of the crap you touched on. God forbid if you actually expect someone to know their job, even worse if you expect them to learn something new. It's gotten to the point that if you don't coddle people or treat them like 5 year olds, you are "harrasing" them. If you point out a consistent procedural problem someone has in doing their job, even if it’s with a smile on your face, you are creating a “hostile work environment”.

In a large corporate institution, such as the one I work for, it’s getting to the point that employees expect to be made to feel good rather than do their jobs. It’s really beginning to bother me.

How I was raised was that, along with getting paid, doing ones job well was a matter of pride. If it meant someone pointing out your mistakes then so be it. If someone points out my mistakes I’m actually fucking thankful instead of getting my ass in a knot and feeling defensive.

You sum it up best with:
“But the operators think the training department is picking on them, and they've copped an attitude. I can't have that situation in my ranks."

Cap that fucking hostage.

Sorry about the rant; just that I've been putting up with similar nonsense at my work and you touched a nerve. If I have to go into one more office meeting and explain how I shouldn’t have to treat grown adults like 5 year olds, how I shouldn’t have to coddle people, how I shouldn’t have to do the job of three people because to expect them to do their jobs is “harassment” I’m going to fucking go nuts.

In fact, just now, I’ve made up my mind. My wife finishes her graduate studies in chemistry June 1. As soon as she starts bringing in money I’m going job hunting.

Posted by: Lobowalk on April 13, 2003 08:23 AM

Sounds like the old "is your computer plugged in" question that all HELP departments have to ask because most people don't start with the simple things when trying to solve problems.

Just like the telephone companies, too. Just got through solving a dead telephone line problem by first checking the line at the interface on the house; when I called the phone company, I didn't have to go through all the bit about "it may be something wrong with the wiring inside your house" bit. [ Turns out squirrels had built a nest in a cable junction a half mile away! :-) ]

Always the simple stuff, first !!

Posted by: MommaBear on April 13, 2003 08:29 AM

I've got two suggestions for you:
1. Hire submarine sailors (if you can get them).

2. Have your 'operators' start taking hourly logs of all the key readings on the gear, so they *know* what normal looks like. I strongly doubt they ever actually read the ammeter on the exhaust blower before.

Maybe a few months of writing down every meter reading on the equipment will teach them to see. After a couple of months on a watch station I knew what normal was, and I knew when the guy adujsting the lube oil temps forgot to tweak the control valve, 'cause my bearing temps weren't where they should have been for the turns we were making.

A qual program wouldn't hurt either. Did any of your operators know what the normal pull on the blower was *or* why it the difference with feed on or off? Sounds like a good qual question to me.....

Rob, I don't envy you, but this sounds like part of being the Tall Dog on shift.

Posted by: Rick Tengin on April 13, 2003 01:31 PM

Whine, whine. It's just life. Deal with it.

Posted by: Jeff on April 13, 2003 02:16 PM

Jeff, it's not "just life". It is technical work in a dangerous industry.

Training is vitally important in the industrial world. Operating equipment improperly is not only costly to the company, it can have serious consequences. You might scroll down to a previous post where two dimwits burned themselves badly with acid because they didn't follow a standard safety procedure. Rick hit the nail on the head with the idea of a qual program. Also with hiring submarine sailors, although surface ship nukes are every bit as good.

It is not enough to just know "At one o'clock I push the red button, at two I push the blue one". A chimpanzee can be trained to do that. What is supposed to happen when you push it? Why is it important that it happen? What indication do I have that things are operating properly and at max efficiency? What are the consequences if I happen to push the red button twice?

Acidman, you do have a problem on your hands. I hope you can get it through to your people that knowing how and why something works, is just as important, sometimes moreso, as knowing how to operate it.

Posted by: Gene K on April 13, 2003 03:07 PM

Jeff, there are more ways to die in that plant than you would believe, and having "Just deal with it" attitude means attending *a* *lot* of funerals. If Acidman can't turn some of these monkey operators into REAL operators the last line of their obituary will read

"Too Stupid To Live"

That, or they will all be laid off when the plant is closed by the EPA (et. al.) for violations *caused by idiot, ignorant, arrogant operators*!

Acidman is trying to "just deal with it", unfortunately he has to rub their noses in the fact that their high self-esteem (spit) doesn't mean squat when the hardware breaks.

Posted by: Rick Tengdin on April 13, 2003 04:37 PM

Laziness is everrywhere. I am not working in anything nearly as dangerous as Acidman, but I LIGHT the places like Acidman works in, among other places.

I find myself fighting a sales manager who THINKS he knows the lighting field. He does not. He SELLS lighting. He has a nasty tendency to get in my way when I try to provide the customer with the best (and, yes, the brightest as required) for the actual money spent, rather than his way, with is to go in with a low-ball price, sell the job, and get out. It's a variation on a theme: this guy does NOT wish to learn anything.

I am fortunate in that his sales force comes to me and asks a lot of very good questions. The results are starting to show, and in a favorable way.

Posted by: bear, the (one each) on April 14, 2003 08:57 AM

You may wind up shooting multiple hostages (has putting heads on pikes gone out of fashion? Pity.). Training's the way to go assuming that the training dept isn't the dumping ground of the outfit.

Posted by: John S Allison on April 14, 2003 01:23 PM


You want the Straight Dope on dimmer mirrors?

You might also check out the main page for a comment on George W.'s military service.


Posted by: Ernest Brown on April 14, 2003 07:22 PM

The function of the artist is to provide what life does not.

Posted by: Speck Will on May 3, 2004 12:30 PM
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