Guys, I'm nearly at the end of my tether. I took on the Electrical/Controls/Automation contract for a local company here about 6 months ago. The company in question manufactures french fries for places like KFC, Wendys and the odd bit of McDonalds.
Since I took the contract on, they have installed all new equipment (by others), as in a palletising robot and it's feed lines. The company that commissioned this disaster, pretty much walked out after they found it to be working properly.
In about 6 weeks, I think I have had about 6-7 days off, that is without all the times that I have been sent there at really wacked hours to reset an E-stop or something like that.
Are any of you other guys in a situation like this? I mean, it's one thing to have work, but having a decent nights sleep would be pretty good too.
All of this crap is making my life shorter, I feel. I have a 2nd electrician, but he is doing a bulk of the work because I am too tired to do any REAL work. I've spoken to the Management out there, pretty much I got a blank stare.
Something needs to give here and it isn't going to be me or my company.
Mike: Sometimes....it's better to say "good buy" to clients like that.
Yes, the economic conditions are not great, but it may be better in the looking forward sense for your own well being. Being available, or standby for any 24 hr plant can be taxing on the person who has to be 'on-call'.
I did it for a printing operation, and was the happiest guy when they went to a 2 shift operation instead of 3.
The installer did his job - the gear was working when he left. Now the responsibility is for you, your firm, the production as well as the maintenance folks, to learn the equipment and behave accordingly.
You're right in suspecting that this isn't a technical issue so much as a 'stress' issue. There's plenty of stress just in learning a new piece of equipment - let alone in re-doing the conduit runs, etc., once you've figured out that you put everything in the 'wrong' place.
So, what to do about stress? If only the matter were so simple. The first challenge is getting stress recognized in the first place, as a detrimental factor just as real as, say, the effect bad weather has on outdoor work.
Production schedules look nice on paper, but they usually ignore reality - and then everyone gets stressed out because "we're not meeting our goals." The problem isn't the people or the equipment ... the problem is the goals.
Sometimes you just have to be the 'bad' guy. As in ... if you're denied necessary training and maintenance time, you just have to let it all fall apart. Then, make clear that poor planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on yours! Risk your job? Perhaps - but then they still have to fix the machine. (FWIW, I know of one such place that has been crying for help for nearly a year - they still have not figured out that THEY are the problem).
Otherwise ... REST is needed. As in: go home, walk the Milford Track, there's NO WAY their 'emergencies' can interfere with your REST. 24/7 operation? Sure, lots of places attempt that; maybe they'll eventually learn that the idea of a 'sabbath' has some merit.
Now, it is possible that there's a role for certain medications, under appropriate supervision. Things like 'beta blockers,' that can help a man deal with the stress he generates all by himself. You'd see a doctor if you had overactive sweat glands, wouldn't you? Well, the parts of the body that control our emotions can get out of whack as well.
Ultimately, it may come to "voting with your feet." That is, telling them they have a choice: they can survive without you on weekends - or they can survive without you forever.
With bean counters, you can be the "bad guy" and just let it fall apart, and I admit that there are times when this is the only option for your own health.
I think you should avoid the "blank stare" and talk their language $'s (I'm US and am unsure what a pound symbol or euro's even look like, what do they use in New Zealand?). If you present how much the failures represent in money due to lost production, wages paid for standing around waiting, and management stress (even if they have met all deadlines so far). They will be far more open to listening.
I took "4" days off last week to try and kick this on-going flu I have, by the second day, I was getting rung constantly asking when I would be back. I turned the phone off in the end and put it in one of the kitchen draws.
Now, I will never play the race card, but most of the problems there, are because of the language barrier, try and tell a guy that you never hit an E-Stop when the robot is moving, especially when it has boxes on it.
This company brings workers in here from Brazil and while most of the staff there do speak very good english, the guy that is operating the robot must have missed a LOT of english lessons.
See, what is really screwed up here is, I signed a contract with the company back before any of this was even in the pipe-line to do Maintenance and Repairs....
Since then, myself and Kendall (my 2IC) have installed 3 100A 3 phase (400V) sub-mains, one of them a pull of 600', panels, boiler controls, you name it. Then came the bolt out of the blue that they were going to get all this new automation gear. The people that installed this stuff, wanted to have nothing to do with us until the install was finished. I was basically thrown a couple of manuals and asked to read them well.
I'd like to get out of this place, but it is my bread and butter at the moment, apart from the domestic work that Kendall is doing and he is doing very well.
There has to be more to life than being a slave to a Chip factory, don't you think?
The "hired hands" might have found that if they hit the E stop they still get paid but get to sit around until you come in to reset it.
IF it takes you longer to come in to hit reset, management may tell the help in a language they understand what they are doing wrong when they see production go down and costs go up.
Is what your doing to reset the line able to be transferred to the production supervisor / walking boss?
There is a computer room I know where the Sr. Operators have been instructed by the Head Electrician of their facilities department in which buttons restore power if the EPO goes off during a power outage after hours.
Stress is a serious safety issue, too often glossed over or simply denied.
The best example I can think of is in the meatpacking industry. That is, the folks who turn cows into burgers and sausages.
It's a classic 'cyclical' industry: lots of orders from May through September, much slower the rest of the year - and a product with a limited shelf life. As a result, there's an excess of overtime part of the year, and layoffs the rest.
"Mandatory overtime" often results in many not having ANY days off between June 1st and August 31st. At this point, folks are simply fatigued. Now they also get to start worrying: is this week my last? Just when will my turn come to be laid off?
It's no surprise that accidents increase markedly in September. These are real accidents - the sort that result in losing body parts.
That's the result of stress- from whatever source. The solutions aren't always as clear.
For example, there has been significant political opposition to certain technology that would help greatly extend the 'shelf life' of food. An extended shelf life would do much to reduce the cyclical nature of the business and thus reduce stress. Yet, details of the technology continue to be deliberately misrepresented by contemporary Luddites, and the regulatory folks never miss a chance to interfere. Thus, the toll continues.
During my days with Ford, one of the production crews found that if their machine got jammed up they got a nice (paid) break during the workday while we repaired it. After the machine 'jammed' 3 times in a single shift, I sinisterly arranged to take 3 hours to find someone to go out and fix it. That also meant that they didn't make their quota that day and their foreman got a lecture from management.
Their foreman quickly wised up to their stunts and straightened them out. End result was that the machine didn't get jammed again for many months.
We had a computer problem that only showed up on 3d shift at one of our government accounts. It was driving everyone crazy because there was no pattern to the failure. They were looking at all sorts of power issues that might only happen at night. I ended up being called in a couple times for support. On the first trip I set up my Dranitz power monitor and we all watched the tape for glitches but nothing showed up over the next several failures. I was looking for any kind of pattern and the one I came up with was the operator was always sound asleep when I got there. Putting 2 and 2 together I hooked up my Dranitz to the cover switches. Surprise surprise, someone opened a cover, about 10 seconds before the machine failed.
IBM back billed them about $20,000 (but we ended up not going through with it). This was the government so the operator did not even get fired. They just put him on day shift where people could watch him ... sleep.