say hello to my little friend on night shift


"what do you mean you  dropped the spanner???"

“what do you mean you dropped the spanner???”

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : please excuse the haphazard nature of the blog; I did it before short-term memory fades; you won’t see it every time, but thanks to school paper contemporary Fernando “Fer” Cao and his magnificent wide-angle picture of an idyllic beach, congrats to Fer and Meo Cao, brod Atty Andrei Bon Tagum and every proud parent for their kids’ passing the UPCAT, welcome to Diliman, and advance happy birthday to pinsan Mr Ricky Montenegro! woohoo ! ]

IT’S NOT really night shift, but it ends 11 pm, so that’s half the night gone anyway.  And the friend isn’t so little, almost as big as a small house,  but in relative terms, because there’s a larger, more complicated (and expensive) machine, he’s the small guy.

I’ve done a lateral move from one department to the other, and I’ve been entrusted to operate the newest packer on site, at least on the 3.00 to 11.00 shift.  It turns over between 50,400 bags (the smallest size) to 25,920 bags (the largest) over a 24-hour period, no ifs, buts or maybes about it, smooth as silk and with as little drama as possible.

That’s the equivalent of, depending on the product type, two-and-a-half or four truckloads of something that’s been packed by men and their muscles for as long as anyone can remember.  My participation in the exercise is as custodian and babysitter of one of the most advanced pieces of food manufacturing equipment, yehey for me!

Unfortunately, especially during the getting-to-know-you period, where we pretend we know everything there is to know about the machine but in fact don’t have the least clue as soon as red lights start flashing, potentially a dozen things can go wrong.  Out of the dozen, I’m prepared to deal with at most, two or three.

my little friend, or something that looks very much like it ;)

my little friend, or something that looks very much like it 😉

Glue applicator assembly out of position; tape handle applicator needs reloading (where you go through twenty spools in different directions); a few bags too light; a few bags too heavy; plastic bundler out of plastic, palletizer (which prepares the bundles for loading to truck) not palletizing properly, and these don’t include the foul-ups that the operator isn’t allowed to fix, those electronic, electric and engineering problems need a call-up to the plant engineer, which of course you don’t want to do on your first week alone on the shift, no matter how confident (or unconfident) you are.

Regardless of the nature and gravity of these problems, any one of the above enumeration is enough to delay production and set me back a few hundred bags, which sets back the expected number of pallets by the time my shift ends.

I don’t want to jinx my first few days on the machine, my supervisor has cut me a little slack as everything is new, everything is in the discovery and exploration stage.  Translation : I don’t want to get too ambitious, try anything too crazy, or do anything out of the ordinary.

It helps that the machine is user-friendly, as soon as something goes wrong the corresponding item on the menu lights up and tells you what’s going on, you just do what you’ve been taught.  But so many things can go wrong, and literally a moment of distraction can be disastrous.

And eventually something goes wrong : the oven that sort-of laminates the bundles for neat piling and arranging needs a top and bottom plastic roll that combine to wrap the bundles.  As little as a half-inch length of cellotape left on the top spool gets caught on the bottom roll just as the top roll empties, taking the bottom roll and wastes probably a quarter of the latter.  It takes me between 30 and 45 minutes just to unravel the wasted bottom roll, from the top spool.  So much for a stress-free first shift alone.

Combine this with the slow-downs and time spent replenishing the source silo, and I hardly make a dent on my quota that night.  Sigh.

I didn’t destroy anything on my first evening shift, but I came nowhere near expectations.  But you live and learn.

Thanks for reading!

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