At the beginning of May I turned in my box cutter for a T-shaped Allen wrench. I said goodbye to the forklift and hello to the coiler, the hammered ear wire machine, and the eye-pin slider. Let me be plain: I transferred from the Receiving Team to the Machine Operator Team.
I had worked on the Receiving Team for more than a year, and it was a fun position that kept me busy. Why then, would I trade my spunky old team for a new team I knew so little about?
Truth is that I loved my old job, but I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t learning something new every day. Don’t get me wrong, Receiving is far from boring, and there’s tons of opportunity to move around to other areas. One of the coolest things about working at Rio Grande is the ability we all have to resource shift and it was during some resource shifting that my interest in the Manufacturing area began.
For an hour or so every few weeks, I was invited over to the Machine Ops area to shadow an operator while they made crimp beads. Many of you may not know that Rio actually makes many of the products we carry. I learned firsthand about the large number of products we manufacture while I was offering my time to help in Machine Ops.
When one of the operators went on leave, they needed some extra help, and I found myself being introduced to the swager, the bull block, and the tube saws.
One day while I was helping out, the blade on the tube saws started making a nasty noise. It had been a while since I’d held a wrench during working hours, but I began troubleshooting the problem and I remembered how much I loved working with my hands. It was the daily challenges I enjoyed. One thing I noticed was how quiet these Manufacturing guys were. Other than giving instructions on how things worked, there wasn’t much conversation. They were totally focused on the tasks in front of them, the findings they made, and the machines making them. When my period of helping out was up, I was happy to get back to my loud bunch of receivers.
When the Machine Ops job opening came up, I hesitated to apply at first. I thought, “No way, I love my team.” Having nine or ten different people doing essentially the same thing on the job sure makes for easy distribution of responsibilities. Our meetings were the fun kind of crazy, and most everyone liked to celebrate birthdays with either Kim’s famous salsa or a quick cake from the store. Would there be salsa and cake on the other side of the building?
Then I noticed how often I was looking for other things to do, like writing for the blog, or resource shifting, or exploring other areas at Rio Grande. I wanted to learn more.
Would pushing myself outside my comfort zone be beneficial? Could I let go of my rowdy team and settle into a quieter one? The business culture of Rio Grande encourages associates to do more, learn more, achieve more, and I decided that I was hoping for that too.
Now I’m one of four machine operators that manufacture findings; well, actually I’m learning how to manufacture findings. The plan is to start in the wire room, master all those machines, refine my techniques, and then move over to the presses. It’s been more than a month, and I’m still refining and mastering.
Right now I’m just producing scrap; I really had no idea what kind of trials were waiting for me in the wire room alone. There are so many ways to make jump rings! Unfortunately, there are even more ways to mess them up!
Eventually I was able to make the coils, but not as quickly as an experienced operator.
I confess my determination is both an asset and a hindrance. Had I chosen to ask an experienced operator to help me figure out why the material wouldn’t move through the coiling fingers, I might have had success sooner.
I think that going from a team of nine or ten outspoken individuals who consistently demonstrated their team-playing capabilities to a small team of four people who work primarily on their own has been a little jarring for me. I’m still working on that, but I’m looking for opportunities to open up the conversation.
So, has there been salsa on this side of the building? Not yet, but yesterday Mario, a Machine Ops teammate, got a Norwegian birthday cake! Yum! (A member of the Findings Development Team had the skinny on the birthday and she baked the delicious cake! Thank you!)