• Field Notes 16.01.2013

    Recovering from the holidays is a drag!  First, you use up all your vacation, then, you come back to reality and realize there are five-day workweeks staring you square on until May. And, no matter the job, there are always those tasks that make it seem as if time stops. Anybody have the least favorite part of their jobs they do, because it has to be done, but it’s mentally wearing or takes an inordinate amount of time?

    My list has two things on it: fab tickets and doors/door hardware.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re necessary, but for me are mentally exhausting.

    Fab tickets are tough, because up until that point, shop drawings, estimates and material takeoffs are all theoretical.  But since the saw’s going to start hitting metal as a result of what is drawn on fab tickets, the information on them is no longer theory; it’s as real-world as it can get.  They have to be right; there’s no longer any room for error.  And even if there’s one hole more or less on this part vs. the next part, another part drawing has to be created.  Doing fab tickets wears me out, but it’s how things get done. If programs like Revit and/or Inventor have their way, maybe fab tickets will go away.  Maybe not before I retire, but soon enough.

    The cellar-dweller for me has always been doors and door hardware.  First, I have yet to see a hardware specification that is 100-percent accurate when it comes to the hardware fitting either in the door, or with the other hardware specified.  Sure as the sun comes up in the east, something doesn’t belong with the rest of the group.  And, there’s usually not enough time in estimating to ferret all those conflicts out.  So, typically, the spec hardware gets priced, and any conflicts aren’t resolved until …

    Someone starts pulling hardware cut sheets and tries to do shop drawings for the doors. Then the questions and issues pile up: where is everything located, up/down, left or right? Or, this panic can’t work with that push/pull, the lock interferes with the throw-rods of the panic, or that lock is meant for a wide stile door rail, not a narrow one, that pull won’t work with that door thickness, or there’s a custom connection device, etc.

    Not to mention swing definitions.  Can I vent here a minute about what I thought the door industry definition was for many years? I was initially trained that if you put your back on the hinge jamb of the door, if the door swung away to your right, it was a right-handed door, and vice-versa for left-hand doors. Come to find out, that was an over-simplification.  Do you know what the door and door hardware industry uses for naming the swing? It’s confusing as all get-out to me. What does the in-swing or out-swing have to do with it?  OK, off the soapbox.

    And once approved, and the fabrication can begin, other conflicts may then come to light, and the process of finding out what it’s going to take to make it work is researched, and then getting approval to make the change starts all over.  Some days, when you’re in the middle of all this, you pray for the world to end, and you think you’re never going to do anything ever again. It’s downright vicious!

    The way around all this rigmarole is multi-faceted. If you have a really good hardware supplier, he gets the biggest Christmas present, birthday present, anniversary present, etc.  If you have season tickets to sporting events (yes, that means you, Lyle), he gets multiple dates without question.  I’d go so far as putting him on retainer, but that’s above my pay grade.  He’s definitely worth it if he can assist your firm in staying out of the hardware quagmire.  Try doing without this resource sometime.  See how far that gets you.

    The second solution is having someone on the shop floor who is only next to God and the hardware supplier when it comes to their encyclopedic knowledge of hardware.  The hardware supplier might be worth his weight in gold, but the mechanic is worth it in platinum. At my first job, we had a guy that all he did in the shop was doors and door hardware. You could ask him anything – the most experienced drafters and project managers–and even the boss–sought his opinion. He would have been the last let go had there been a reduction in force; he was that good.

    Third, admit you don’t know it all and listen to anybody that’s been there. But, get smart really fast, because when that submittal’s made, you’re likely going to need to be the smartest person in the room. You better have it down so cold you can anticipate any question from anyone in the room, and have the answer down pat! Saying, “I don’t know” can be humbling, and it’s sometimes better to admit that than fake your way through, but if you say it here, you shoot your credibility.

    And fortitude. Stick to it. One day, you’ll walk through those doors, and wonder of wonders, they’ll work.  My hat’s off to the guys who do this in the shop! God bless you, some of the rest of us would still be using burlap blankets to keep the wind and rain out.  We may not ever be able to repay you, but we’ll certainly always owe you one. And to Servin, thanks. You gave me a heck of an education, man.

    P.S.With MLK day coming up next week, I highly recommend one of his last sermons, “The Drum Major Instinct.”  It moves me because it’s about remembering who you are, where your priorities should be, and how easy it is to get caught up in things that in the end aren’t very important.  In certain aspects, MLK was certainly someone who could have been considered a drum major, but probably knew from firsthand experience how hard that is to deal with on a personal basis.  My wife makes me read it regularly; I wonder why that is.

    Posted by Blogger @ 11:27 pm

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