ESS Testing

I spend a good amount of my time in the Environmental Lab freezing, frying, shocking, and vibrating the shit out of our products. The various procedures, equipment, and tests I run are all part of the Environmental Stress Screening (ESS) portion of our process. Most of the stress testing simulates real world conditions to ensure when the units get into the field they will work properly. I’ve never worked in an Environmental Lab before and all my training has come from just one person. That’s Jerry.

Jerry is a technician that I kind of admire. He’s a pure workaholic. I see him in the lab working long hours every day. He’s here on almost every weekend too. I’m sure his home life must be suffering as a result but I’m glad to have him around to keep me from doing dumb shit. Jerry took the time to show me everything in the lab. He explained every station in detail and put in extra effort to make sure I knew how it all worked. I mean, he could have shown me just enough for me to get by but with the additional information I feel like I really know what I’m doing. Jerry is a fairly short man that came to TDS from the Air Force I believe. He’s a hardcore 49’ers fan and his uniform every day at work consists of a 49’ers ball cap and the red and gold satin jacket. Rarely do I ever see him wearing one of our light blue lab coats.

Some people don’t like Jerry too much. They think he has an attitude problem as if he goes out of his way to be rude and condescending to fellow employees. I haven’t had a single problem with the guy. From what I have been able to gather most of the people that don’t like Jerry did something stupid in the lab and he kicked them out because of it. To be honest from some of the stories he’s told me if I was in his shoes I’d probably do the same thing and banish them from the E-lab too.

An example of this happened shortly before I was hired here. A test operator came back to the Environmental Lab to use a shock machine on a commercial product. To test this specific product line the operator has to solder the unit under test into a fixture. It’s a little odd, but that’s what you do. Then you hook up the test equipment, power it up, and start the shock machine. When the tests are finished obviously the operator has to de-solder the unit to remove it. Well, this one guy decided he could remove the units much faster by prying them out of the test fixture with a screwdriver and not bother to de-solder them.

Leads coming from the header in the units were being ripped downward inside the casing and destroyed the internal electronics. In final testing all of the units were dead and no one could figure out why because from the outside of the casings they looked normal enough. Engineering had to get involved and still the operator who was prying the units out of the shock machine didn’t come forward and admit what he was doing. The company was losing alot of material and time. By accident, Jerry happened to catch the test operator in the screwdriver removal act and busted him for it. That guy has hated Jerry ever since. He was exiled from the lab and told never to set foot in it again. I’m surprised he wasn’t fired for all the damage he caused.

I learned a valuable lesson from Jerry telling me this story that’s stayed with me ever since. If you make a mistake on the job it’s best to fess up to it right away. Be honest, and say you fucked up. In the short term it might be rough but the long term consequences could be much worse. By not being honest about doing something foolish the company might have to engage much more manpower to get to the bottom of the problem. By the time it catches up with you, you could be facing a whole lot more than just being yelled at.

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~ by factorypeasant on December 18, 2004.

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