Monday, November 14, 2005

Commisioning or commissioning

I'm unsure how to spell commissioning is it double "m" double "s"? A spell check would no doubt sort out this dilemma of mine, but I don't like computers telling me how to I'll leave it as commissioning for this post.

It has been a hectic week at work.

There are four production lines where I work at a beverage factory, one does cans of fizzy drinks. The other lines (including mine) do fizzy drinks in glass and plastic (PET) bottles. Mine primarily does 2 litre and 1.25 ltr PET bottles and has been under utilized of late..... so "The management" decided to send some of the other sized bottles my way....... little unamanageable 600 ml ones. My entire crew has been dreading this size ever since we were told we would be running it.

Friday was a "commissioning" day where we set up machines for a completely different size and carefully note and dial in settings. Usually a "commissioning" is slap dash, without any thought of how long these things take. Production is assumed to be at 100% within a couple of hours which is ludicrous. It's akin to building a prototype motor car and expecting it to run at 160mph at the first start of the key. Unrealistic and unbased in reality.

The management on Friday gave me 12 hours to get it right and not put pressure on me for "production".....wooo-hoo! I had a whole day to get things right.

Then there's the tradesmen and technicians. If you've ever tried renovating a house and have two or three tradesmen at the same place at the same time you'll appreciate the dilemma. Tradesmen work in different frames of linear time reference, around 10 o'clock can mean anywhere from 8am to 5pm and that is assuming they turn up at all. I had a total of six equipment technicians (including inhouse ones) along with the regular nine production technicians. Outside technicians were flying in from all parts of the country and managed to be in the same place at the same time AND they STAYED..... A previously unseen parallel universe had suddenly opened up...... cue twilight zone music.

The commissioning Gods were smiling at me.

There were a couple of problems that were fixed by days end. A filler which had seized in it's vertical adjustment setting which was found to be a seized worm drive and some corroded electrical fittings. A labeller that required some MAJOR fine tuning before it would run at speed. A bottle packer that required a LOT of fiddling around so that bottles did not end up on the floor in a mess of bottles and smashed up cartons. An argument between my manager and one of my subordinates which made its way from the shop floor to men's changeroom. A conveyor that was feeding bottles too fast and causing a MASSIVE bankup was fixed rather quickly.

An awesome piece of German wizardry which mixes, carbonates and pumps fizzy drink...... operated by a touch screen was up and running in specification and at speed. All the computers, pumps, transponders, actuators, plcs, circuits, pneumatic valves and whatnot were working like a treat.

By day's end we were pretty confident that we would get some production out on the Saturday. We reckoned the line was about 90-95% ready....whether we would finish the schedule was dubious, after a commissioning you expect some minor niggles to further iron out. I told my manager not to expect any miracles..... we may get out 80,000 bottles at the most.

I had my bottle of Lourdes holy water brought back from my trip to France, just in case.... it was at the ready to douse any daemons out of the machines. These are the problems that technical and experience expertise just will never fix. Bring out the holy water and the problem is solved.... it works, I don't know how but it does when all else fails.......there's another post there.....

Saturday came and we ran and ran and ran...... finished by 2:30pm. It had been my best days figures EVER! I actually doubled the 80,000 estimate.

Yep, the commissioning Gods were indeed smiling.


  • "But Captain, I'm givin' her all she's got!" Love these stories, struggling to keep the machine moving. I would wonder of the music of all those machines (might have been clinkier in glass bottle days).

    By Blogger Peter (the other), at 8:11 am  

  • I'll make a recoding of a glass line for you and send it your way when we do glass on another line.

    I'll also do some recordings of machines running. One sounds like a steam train, another clinks and clunks, another makes a pfffft noise and clicks and whirs as it shoots out hot melt glue. Another makes a deep whining noise as the hydraulics take control.

    By Blogger Johnno, at 8:31 am  

  • I would love to smuggle my DAT machine into the plant. Noise is a form of torture and even with ear plugs, a twelve hour shift can leave your nerves SHOT!

    Twleve hours of NIN from a neighbours apartment, you know kind muffled.

    Great story. Of course now you'll be expected to do it all over again next time.

    By Anonymous moff, at 9:43 am  

  • Heh, this is around the seventh or eighth I've been part of, the first one I've pulled off.

    I did a de-commisioning of a pesticide plant once, which was a great experience......... believe it or not.

    By Blogger Johnno, at 11:02 am  

  • I work on the front lines. I work to survive. I know what it means to work hard on machines. It's a labor of love :-)

    By Anonymous Sammy, at 5:08 pm  

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