Monday, August 3, 2015

Tiny and Gamo

Chris was the supervisor in Experimental Assembly and he had a problem, a problem named Adam.

Adam was a perennial thorn in his side.  Adam was an engineer who was not doing his job.  Adam had a drug problem.

You would think it would be evident to everybody around him. It was crystal clear to everybody who depended on Adam for anything but Adam had his bosses snowed.  He was always off-site...claiming to be at the test facility or a supplier's facility or at manufacturing plant.

Adam's bosses always granted Adam the benefit of the doubt.  They ascribed Adam's vacant expression to thinking deep thoughts.  They attributed Adam's slow response to questions to a habit of thinking before answering.  In fact, that vacant expression was a high fidelity representation of Adam's mental state.  Adam's slow responses were due to the sparse distribution of fragile, new-growth neural ganglia.  Each neural impulse had to make thousands of cold-calls before it could find another neuron to pick up the phone.

It was beyond frustrating to everybody who depended on Adam for everything.  All complaints were poo-poohed.  Adam's bosses thought he was a rock star.


One of Adam's responsibilities was to order prototype parts to support builds of test product.  Some kinds of parts had high "shrinkage rates".  Those were the cool parts, the go-fast chips, the custom colors.  Shrinkages is code for "theft".  An engineer responsible for cool parts quickly learned to order at least fifty parts to ensure he would have 5 to support the experimental builds.  Adam's parts were not cool parts.  In many cases they were current production parts.  And he still could not get or keep them in stock.

Chris tried calling Adam but Adam was not picking up the phone, nor was he responding to the messages.  Most likely, Adam was "out of the office".   Chris was not surprised.  Adam never responded to the phone.

Blocked out

The experimental assembly process also served to validate the assembly process.  The product was built in the order that mimicked the production assembly process.  Many times, the shortage of an "Adam part" stalled the build and nuked the experimental assembly schedule.  Assembly bays would be filled with work-in-process that could not be finished.  Everybody else had their parts available.  Everybody but Adam.

Sometime an Adam part would be on the shelf but it would be the wrong part.  There is no point in attempting to assemble a cable when the bulkhead has a round hole in it and the grommet injection molded on cable is square.

It had just happened again.  A hot build was stalled due to the lack of an Adam part and Chris decided that he was not going to take any more ass-whippings for Adam's incompetence.

Tiny and Gamo

He made a couple of calls on the phone and then he beckoned Larry and Jim into his office.  Larry and Jim were his two super-star assemblers.  Naturally, he had assigned them to the hottest project.

Chris said, "I am pulling you off the hot build and assigning it to Tiny and Gamo."

Larry,  a bit of a factory floor lawyer with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Union contract said, "Umm, boss;  You can't do that.  Tiny and Gamo are not experimental assemblers."

Chris said, "I called the committeeman and told him what I needed to do.  He said I can use them as experimental assemblers as long as I pay them the experimental assembler pay rate.  The union is all about putting more money in people's pockets."

Larry said, "That might be so...but those guys can't do experimental assembly. They don't have the skills.  And know... "

Chris said, "No worries.  I got this handled."

Force fields

In every large non-air conditioned factory there is a certain class of individuals who are noted for their personal force fields.

These force fields wax and wane with the season.  At their peak, in mid summer, carrion flies bounce off of these force fields.

While there is no sure way to visually identify these individuals, they typically weigh somewhat north of 350 pounds.  Another good indicator involves salt rings.  Salt ring is a bit of a misnomer.  A man with a powerful force field will have three dimensional salt formation reminiscent of coral reefs around a tropical atoll.  Needless to say these salt formations take weeks to develop into the full flower of their splendiferous complexity.

Tiny and Gamo were prime specimens.  It was early-August and they were at the height of their super powers.

Assigning the task

Chris wisely chose to go out on the factory floor to make his assignments to Tiny and Gamo.  Even with the wide open spaces and world-class ventilation Chris had to stand upwind to avoid gagging.

He explained the situation.  He told them he was going to use them as "expediters" and that he would give them an extra dollar-an-hour pay bump.

Chris said, "I am giving you a direct order to sit in Adam's office until he puts the parts in your hand.  We cannot proceed with this super-hot build until we have those parts.  My orders are for you to sit there all week if you have to.  You are to report there at 7:00AM and sit there until 3:30PM.  If I walk by his office and you are not sitting in those chairs I will write you up.  If any body asks, tell them exactly what I told you."

In parting, he added, "You might want to get something out of your lockers to read.  I think you are going to be there a while."

One hour later...

One hour later Adam's boss walked by the glass half-walled cubical and did a double take.  "Ummm, may I help you?" he asked.

The two men, very large men, explained that they had been given a direct order to sit in that office until the parts showed up.  John, Adam's boss, told them that was not necessary, that they could leave and the parts would be delivered to the build cell.

The two men explained that in the union/hourly world a "direct order" had the force of law and John was not in their chain of command.  They COULD NOT leave.

The fact that they were getting paid an extra dollar an hour to sit in padded chairs and read girlie magazines in an air-conditioned office may have enhanced their earnest delivery of that message.

Two hours later....

Ed, John's boss walked by the office and did a double take.

Ed was high enough up in the food chain to be "bonus eligable".  He was a feisty banty-rooster of a man, standing only a little taller than Tiny and Gamo as they sat in their chairs.

Ed, Tiny and Gamo had a repeat of the conversation Tiny and Gamo had with John.

Ed did not like how that conversation went.

Three hours later....

The office space was empty except for Tiny and Gamo.

The air conditioning was not up to the task of keeping these two brutes, sitting side-by-side from perspiring.

By some coincidence the other 19 engineers who shared that office space found urgent reasons to be elsewhere. 

Three and a half hours later....

Suppliers and vendors started trickling into the office.  It was the practice that suppliers would drop in on engineers to extoll the virtues of their products.  They invariably showed up a half hour before lunch and it became necessary to take the engineer out to lunch in order to make the sales pitch.  The cost of the lunch for both engineer and salesperson went on the supplier's expense account.

The more olfactory challenged suppliers (cigar smokers, for instance) had several seconds of wonderment about the vacant office space before the level of aromatics rose to where they were detected by taste.

The suppliers fled.

Three days later...

Tiny and Gamo sat there for two days.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that neither John nor Ed were able to establish contact with Adam.

An engineer who used to be responsible for Adam's parts was pressed into service.  He drove to Toledo and picked up the experimental parts.  John was waiting for Tiny and Gamo, parts-in-hand, at 6:55 AM on Wednesday.

Adam showed up at the office the following Monday.  His termination papers were waiting for him on his desk.  He was escorted out of the building.

Chris is my hero.  He found a way to take a problem that he was powerless to fix and to reassociate it back to its natural and rightful owner.  He did it with the resources that were available to him.  It only cost him $32 in extra wages.  And the problem went away forever the next Monday.


  1. A cautionary tale, perhaps, but very instructive.

    1. Names were changed...well, a few of them anyway. Nearly all important particulars are accurate.

  2. Now THAT is a 'creative' way to handle a problem...LOL

  3. ha! That is good. Being self employed most of my life, and somewhat handicapped with interpersonal skills, a big shop environment would flummox me. Dad used to regale me with tales of Pratt and Whitney, and how sometime in the 70's the rules changed to make it nearly impossible to fire someone. It got so it took reams of documentation to do so. A far cry from the "get the job done" wartime effort.