One Thing At A Time

Blog 1705 – 05.23.2020

One Thing At A Time

I have long believed that the promise of multi-tasking is for me at least a lie. A greater productivity idea fostered, I think, by unthinking and unreasonable bosses seeking bigger bonuses for themselves and neither concerned for quality nor the well-being of their employees let alone the long time viability of the companies that they work for. Doing several things fast is more often than not disastrously half-assed. That semi-hole (not) Indian tribe thing again.

The only things really done well are with focus, attention, and, I think, one at a time. Yes, this is an opinion piece, and others are entitled to their opinions on this and any other subjects too, but I hope you will at least take a few moments to follow my train of thought on this one. In our endless quest for bigger profits and higher pay we have lost sight of somethings important – the satisfaction of producing a product or providing a service we can be proud of and at a price people are more than willing to pay. We have all I think, like Esau, sold our birthrights for a hot steaming bowl of not porridge but crap, producing crap and delivery crap service and getting used to getting the same.

I have heard the slogan “looking for ways to add value” for many years but seen far more often compromises to quality in the name of sales quotas and on time delivery. Here I share again one lack of quality story that I experienced personally. I have for for over ten years been a AWS CWI (American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspector) and for twice that many years served several oil tool manufacturing companies in that capacity and as a dimensional or mechanical inspector. At one of those companies I worked for just one year. They reworked blow-out preventers and sold them around the world to oil well drilling companies. Part of the process required machining out the bores where they rams in blowout situations are closed to cut off the flow of oil from the well. Over time operating the rams in testing or actual emergency closures the bores wear out causing leaks and have to be reworked or be replace with new blow-out preventers. The high price of new blowout preventers created quite a niche for reworked BOP’s and this one company I worked for had a whole division housed in a separate facilities that focused primarily on reworking BOP’s.

It was my job to inspect the completed welds after the old welds were machined out for surface cracks and again after re-welding, repair of the bores, re-machining of the bores, and grinding and polishing of same to a tight tolerance within a few thousandths of an inch. The welding itself took hours and the machining too but the grinding and honing were the most time consuming step. The last dimensional inspection and final liquid penetration non-destructive testing of the weld were critical. That was my job and even years before I held my CWI certification I had Level Two certifications in two non-destructive testing methodologies, Liquid Penetrant and Magnetic Particle.

The Liquid Penetrant steps in brief are first a thorough cleaning of the welded area with a solvent and lint-free cloth, time allowed for all remaining solvent to evaporate, application of a penetrating oil/dye solution allowing it to stay on the area for the penetrant manufacturer recommended dwell time, then wiping clean again with link free cloth, and then applying a white developer which reveals any cracks measurable after its dwell time. If no cracks are indicated by the test and the ram bore dimension is measured within tolerance, then the blow-out preventer bore can be cleaned, protected with a coating of oil, the outside painted and then shipped to the customer.

Our customer on this particular job was in Mexico and the drop dead delivery date was to be the next Monday morning. On Friday the last of the grinding, honing, and polishing of the blow-out preventer bores was complete. Before even measuring the bore I conducted the Liquid Penetrant Test and it revealed an obvious series of spider web cracking that to me resembled a “fried marble” appearance. I rejected the weld and it was machined out and I LPTed it to be sure all the surface cracks were removed. I asked the Operations Manager if he wanted me to come in on Sunday to reinspect the completed blow-out preventer before it shipped. He surprisingly said to me, “That will not be necessary.” That I knew to be a mistake, but since I reported directly to him it was his call.

On Monday morning when I arrived at work he called me into his office and said that Friday would be my last day because the customer was furious that the ram blocks would not fit in the blow-out preventer that they had received and that I had okayed to ship. He went on to tell me that if I needed time off to interview for a new job that week to just stay on the clock, that I would be paid for it. The Sales Manager at the company told me later that day of an inspector job opening at a company his son worked at even closer to my home. I went for an interview on Tuesday, got the job, and started work there Saturday morning after my final work day Friday at my old job. I made no fuss about leaving never wanting to work where I was not wanted nor allowed to do my job correctly.

As the picture today says, instead of our goal being to get more done, I think it should be to do less but correctly. Hey, but that is just my opinion.

Your friend and fellow traveler,

Focusing on quality not quantity,

David White

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