Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Frogging Has Occured

I'd been thinking about frogging these socks, or rather this sock.

The yarn just wasn't right for it. It doesn't have nearly enough twist for a proper sock yarn. But it does have just enough fluff to make a really cozy scarf. So today, I finally did it. I frogged the sock. Here is evidence of said frogging:

Coming soon to a scarf near you.  Just to show that I've been somewhat productive, here's progress on the Conwy sock.

Word in the wind is that overtime is slowing down at work.  We haven't worked a Saturday in a month, and we're working more and more 9 hour days (down from 10).  My hope is that with fewer  hours, my brain fog might clear, and blog posts might become more interesting.  I've got half a dozen half written posts in my little notebook that I carry around, but once I get home, I just don't feel like typing them out.  They'll get done, eventually.

I'll tell you this, though.  It is getting so frustrating at work.  If you don't know, I work in a facility that manufactures evaporator coils for home air conditioners.  I'm a brazer, which means I use a gas flame and a silver alloy brazing rod to join together the manifolds (headers) and adapter tubes.  If you go look at your evaporator coil, you'll see a big copper tube with a bunch of little copper tubes sticking out of it.  That's what I make.  If you don't want to go crawling around in your attic, here is something very similar:

That big hunk of copper in the front is what I put together.  Well, they want the coils to be 100% leak free.  That is a good thing.  Leaks mean that they have to pay out warranty claims, so leaks are not good, right?  We do two different leak tests on our coils before sending them out.  If they leak at the first station, they are repaired immediately, and retested.  Then they are sent to the second station. If they leak at the second station, they are sent back to the first station, repaired, retested, then sent back to the second station, where they are tested yet again.  So, very few leaks should be leaving the plant.  Right?  So, what's the problem?

The problem is, they they want the coils to be 100% leak free before they are leak tested. And without leak testing them, we have no way of knowing whether they have leaks or not.  Sure, if there is a big, gaping hole in the joint, we can tell that it will leak.  Those we fix right away.  But those tiny pinholes...we can't see them with our eyes.  We don't know that they are leaking until they get to the test station.  Yet, somehow we are supposed to be clairvoyant enough to know without seeing which joints will leak. 

We have a big chart where the testers record how many leaks every brazer has each hour.  If we have more than three leaks in an hour, then we have somebody in our faces wanting to know what is wrong.  I guess today, I'd had enough.  When my supervisor got in my face wanting to know why I thought the coils were leaking, I replied, "You don't really want to know what I think!  You just want to hear me say that I was careless, or that I wasn't paying attention."

He said, "No, I don't.  I really want to know what you think."

So I said, "OK, what I think is that I don't know.  I don't know what is causing them to leak.  I'm not doing anything different [from the hour I got 0 leaks to the hour I got 6 leaks].  It's got to be something else--this cheap rod you're making us use, this gas (that none of us like), oil or dirt on the headers, copper burrs....it could be hundreds of different things.  I don't know what it is, but it isn't us!

Amazingly enough, I didn't get fired.  The next hour, the other brazer had quite a few leaks, and he asked her the same thing.  She told him basically what I did--that it isn't us.  And it isn't. If it were, we'd be consistently good or consistently bad. But to go from 0 leaks in an hour, to 13 the next hour, then back to 0--that's not us. Our brazing skills don't deteriorate that fast, then recover just as fast.  I think--I hope --that with both of us going off on him like that, maybe they're finally getting it through their heads that they can't just pin the blame on us.

All of these things that we as brazers have been complaining about for the last 15 years are finally hitting the fan.  Adapter tubes bent wrong--for years, we've been told to just make them work.  Gas not burning cleanly and consistently--for years, we've been told no excuses, just do it.  Burrs in the punch holes, jigs that look like they were put together by a kindergartner playing with Tinker Toys,  header assembly designs that are ridiculously complicated, even that we can't get clean gloves to wear.  All these things we've been complaining about, and were told to just deal with it.  Or in the vernacular of our plant management, "shut up and get back to work!"  Only now, some of the higher ups (and I mean really high up) within the Lennox organization have gotten wind of the problems, and the local management is finally being forced to address these things.  They don't like it one bit. 

For years, they've been saying that we just don't know what we are doing.  Now they're starting to find out that it isn't us.  It's them.  The management.  Engineering.  The tubing department.  They're realizing that the problems run much deeper than they thought. 

And they don't like it one bit.

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