Monday, June 13, 2022

Industrial Fiction: Last Installment

Paula had Snodgrass shifting his start-time by four hours for two days in a row, then she had him work midnights until the weekend.

On Monday, she had him back on first shift and gave him until ten to type up his notes and observations.

Paula called Snodgrass for another standup meeting and told him to bring his notes. Matthias was there and so was a very young employee from Headquarters.

Paula introduced him. “This is Austin Bell. He is very good at running the simulation software that predicts cycletimes.”

Matthias had a sour look on his face which did not escape Paula. “Matthias, you have a question?”

“Is this the same pie-in-the-sky program the plant’s Industrial Engineers use. Because if it is, it is way too optimistic” Matthias said.

“May I answer that, Miss Stevens?” Austin asked.

Paula nodded her permissions.

“The program I use is called a Monte Carlo simulation. Monte Carlo like the casino.” Austin said. “It is based on plant data. I can mimic years of production with a range of workers with different skills cycling through the station. I can program in random parts getting dropped every so often. I can program interactions between running the same vehicle back-to-back or the effect of mixing them up. I even have the ability to age the current work-force ten years and see what that does to cycle-times.”

“So what are we going to use Austin for?” Matthias asked.

“Austin is here to support the team-leaders in the Random Parts station as they rearrange the pick-face” Paula said.L

Snodgrass was surprised. He thought that was going to be his job.

“Define support” Matthias said. “He isn’t going to be like all the other HQ people and think he can tell the team what to do, will he?

“Part of the reason that I specifically asked for Austin is because he doesn’t have a lot of bad habits. I made it clear, this is plant turf and we use plant rules. If the team asks for something that he thinks is totally outlandish or stupid it is not for him to judge but to massage the input data and run the simulations” Paula said.

“Snodgrass, who do you think Austin should be working with most?” Paula asked.

“Timmy on second shift” Snodgrass said. “I asked the other two team-leaders and neither of them want to do that kind of work. Big George on second shift likes doing the graphics work and the first shift T/L wants to interface with the material-delivery guys because it will impact them, too.”

“Matthias, what is the most politically palatable way to bring Timmy on to first shift?” Paula asked.

“You know the answer to that, Paula. Offer all three team-leaders 12 hours a day. Schedule Timmy’s extra four hours to be at the end of day-shift and have Big George come in two hours early and leave two hours later so he can coordinate with both other shifts” Mathias said.

“What about the day-shift T/L?” Paula asked.

“I suppose you could have him stay four hours after and cover Timmy so Timmy could put a full eight hours into fleshing out the plan” Mathias said.

“How much are you willing to flex your work day?” Paula asked Austin.

“My boss said I would get comp-time so as long as I can get to the hotel by 10 PM I can work whatever hours you need” Austin said.

“What do you see me doing in this?” Snodgrass asked.

“I expect you to swing by twice-a-day and ask for a progress report and to find out if there are any roadblocks they need help with. In fact, I want your meetings to be a lot like our daily-standup meetings.”

“I thought I would be a lot more involved in the actual work” Snodgrass objected.

“Nope. Your job is to be the artillery spotter. Identify the problems and call in the big guns. Keep them on target until the problem is gone” Paula said.

"Your job is to manage this project. I will give you some requirements and you will communicate them to Timmy and the other T/Ls. For instance, one requirement is that they need to shrink the pick-face from twenty-feet to thirteen feet" Paula said.

"No way" Snodgrass said. "Why would you want to do that?

Even as he said it he could see the advantage of making the "pick" for each model narrower. Every model could then be placed closer to the optimum distance from the start of the station which would minimize the chances of having to run up-line, past the job to grab parts and then run back after the job to catch up with it.

"Think about it for a minute. What could we do if we had more room along the pick-face?" Paula said.

Matthias was the first to "get it". His face was split by a broad smile.

"Well, I suppose we could bring in a new model" Snodgrass said, doubtfully.

Matthias corrected Snodgrass. "There would be enough room for two new models."

More work is always a good thing for the Union. More work means more, dues-paying workers.


  1. Well Darn - Now we don't get to find out how it works out with Abigail

  2. I can’t believe you left us hanging.
    Idaho Bob

  3. Nice 'almost' finish... Yes, closure with Abigail is REQUIRED! ;-)

  4. I think y'all are smart enough to know that Snodgrass and Abigail will get together for life and make a bunch of little Snodgrasses and Abigails to help restore humanity.

  5. Abigail is a red herring (although a good palate cleanser and a helpful association). Seeing him drill down into the needs of a single part of the line, becoming invested in it only to be pulled back to what his strength is, was satisfying. He is a troubleshooter. Able to see things that need change in order to make it work smoothly, and Paula is not going to let him limit his impact by allowing him to narrow his focus. He is too valuable to the company to waste his talent like that.

    Great story. It takes a great leader to allow their people to work to their strengths and not think of themselves as the most important.

    My best managers were the ones that made sure I had the tools to do the job and let me do it. They only got involved if I needed extra "horsepower".

    I really enjoyed this. Again!!! Don't stop now!!


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