Before Trinity bought Brighton we didn’t get many visitors. The Hocks were extremely secretive about their process. I suppose this was because the founder, Alvin Hock Sr., supposedly sneaked in to watch how a competitor fashioned heads. At least that’s the story I heard. Anyway, it got worse once Geoff L. installed the new machining arms. Whenever someone would be escorted through the shop the arms were covered up. Geoff didn’t want anyone else to know what kind of machining arms we were using.
But since Trinity bought us, all that secrecy is gone. We now have a lot of visitors come through. Mostly they are prospective customers being escorted by salespeople. They come singly or in pairs, or sometimes mobs. They all have to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) such as safety glasses and ear plugs and hard hats. But since they stay in the aisles and don’t come close to any machines, they don’t have to wear steel-toed shoes. Most of these visitors are sensible enough to wear sensible shoes, but I have seen women come through in heels. Our floor is so full of holes and cracks it’s a wonder none of them have twisted an ankle. Anyway, these customer reps are shown all our operations. They’ll stand in the aisle and watch me flange or machine a head, never saying anything, just watch, as the salesperson explains to them what I am doing. Then they’ll move on.
We also have vendors come through. They are people working on something in our plant. Such as digging a pit and pouring a concrete foundation for a new piece of equipment to be installed. Or someone installing new exhaust fans or pouring new concrete outside or repairing our roof. We’ve even had people come in during the night after second shift left, when we weren’t running a third shift, to clean and paint the machines. All kinds of people. We’ve had window washers come in the spring. People to replace our fire extinguishers. People to stock the vending machines in our break room. Cintas gathers dirty work uniforms and delivers laundered ones. One of the most interesting vendors to come in stocks our automated supply cabinets. We’ve never had a stock room, with an attendant to dispense supplies. If we needed something we rooted around looking everywhere for it. It was very disorganized. Our current plant supervisor, Mark L., finally got tired of people coming into the office and rooting around looking for stuff. So vending machines were brought in and stocked with our most common needs. It’s great. You log in with your time card, like a plastic credit card, so they can keep a record of who is taking what, and the machine spits out whatever it is you need. It’s one of the best improvements made since I’ve worked there.
We also have a lot of truck drivers. They used to wander all over the shop, but lately they’ve been restricted to staying outside or waiting in our break room while they are being loaded or unloaded. Truck drivers are a colorful lot, you see some strange-looking characters climb out of their cabs. They always help the shippers with the loading and unloading. They have to sign off on the load, agreeing it has been loaded to their satisfaction. Which doesn’t mean the load is always secure. We ship some huge unwieldy heads, and loads have shifted and broken loose during transit. So far no one has been injured by any of our heads, none that I know of. Although the office once got a call from a company about thirty miles away who reported that a bunch of our heads were laying in a ditch alongside the road. Apparently the driver had lost the entire load and had kept going. He must have known the heads fell off. I don’t know what happened to him, if he was a new driver who freaked at losing his load or what. But the company who saw the heads were a customer of ours and recognized what they were and where they came from. So another truck was dispatched, along with a crane, to load them back up, There have been other mishaps in shipping our heads. When we ship really large heads by truck they are flagged as ‘oversize load’ and are escorted. Somehow one such load was badly misjudged. It was sitting too high, and got jammed in a low underpass on Interstate 75. Sometimes, loads are so big they have to be shipped by barge. Only Brighton is twenty miles north of the Ohio River. So they have to be moved by truck to the river. This involves plotting a serpentine route through the countryside to avoid anywhere the load won’t fit through, and traveling by night to avoid traffic, and having a police escort. This can take days to move something really big down to the river. It’s not always easy shipping the big stuff we make. We frequently form big heads, then cut them in half to be shipped, and the customer will weld them back together once the halves are in their plant.
These are some of the welcome visitors we get on a regular basis. But we have plenty of unwelcome visitors, also. I’ll cover those in the next post.