Transtar Choke Disaster

The great Transtar fiasco: Journal entry, 24 Feb 2004.

Last night went with B to see part three of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Two-and-a-half hours of action and drama followed by fifteen minutes of excruciatingly sentimental poo.
Today, problems at work – Sean M popped his head round door and said ‘Has Paul W been to see you about Transtar?’
So later on I went up to the lab to see Paul & he said that the tank at Transtar had gelled and it happened because I never sent them the tank sample report. (It was in my memo file)
I thought Gill H was supposed to send all the tank sample reports. Haven’t yet had our angry meeting with Rob.
But if so, why have they not complained before? And why didn’t Paul W contact me?

26 Feb 2004: Jean’s birthday.
Strange day at work: I was expecting to get hauled into Rob’s office and shouted at about the Transtar fiasco.
But nothing yet. And it turns out that Norman and Paul Osman are to go to New York (Lincolnshire) to visit the firm.
Why did Gill give me a letter to sign, allegedly from the Section Leader, EPD?
B- said it sounds as if she knew it was going to gel and was keen to let me take the blame.

27 Feb 2004: Very strange day at work.
No approach from Rob or SP regarding the Transtar gelled tank. I recall the letter Gill gave me to sign as a covering note for the tank report.
It was signed ‘Section Leader, EPD Qual Control’ and began ‘Dear Mr.R.Brooks’ with no spaces after the full stops. And the wording was excruciatingly archaic: ‘herewith’, etc etc.

When testing the tank sample it could not be restored to specification – thin down and the solids content goes.
No written procedures available to explain:
–         How far from spec the parameters are allowed to drift
–         How much styrene or inhibitor can be added, and in what order
–         Optimum polymer/styrene ratio.

You know, it is always possible that Rob neglected to send my tank sample report onto Transtar, which would explain why nothing has been said to me at work.
And everyone at work – except moi – has been issued with a new telephone handset, very smart black-and-silver items.

3 Mar 2004: Last night to Stockport with B. Claire was there on her new ZRX 400. We signed up to partake in their new Fantasy Superbike Competition.
Today at work – MR for Brush red oxide.
Letter from Gill explaining how tank sample reports should be put through the system. But DRP told me ages ago that I was to be shifted onto development work and all the QC work would be transferred over to the main lab.

4 Mar 2004: Today a new tank sample from Transtar. Paul O said it was a mixture, and Transtar don’t keep a log of the additions they make.

5 Mar 2004: Wandered into the Sales Office and had a bijou nebette in the Transtar file – it doesn’t even have its own file. There are several tank sample reports in there signed by Gill H even though I produced them and wasn’t absent from work.
At one encounter in the lab (Paul W telling me that the tank had gelled) I said that I thought it was Gill’s job to send tank sample reports to Rob (25 Feb?).
She turned bright red and said ‘No, I always put them in your pigeonhole to sign!’

23 Apr 2004: St George’s Day. ISO 9000 inspection at work – good job I’m not there.

Derek B left a couple of ‘Tales of the City’ paperbacks in the canteen so I read these, and annoyed everyone by laughing out loud. The plot involves some loopy Californians performing cannibal transubstantiation.
After reading ‘Tales of the City’, I borrowed ‘The Night Listener’ from the library, which may be about a woman pretending to be a sick child but who gives herself away by mentioning Thomas Pynchon.
And then I started reading ‘Mason and Dixon’ by Thomas P, a pretty deranged literary fantasia which at one point involves a discussion of the nature of communion and cannibal transubstantiation.

5 Jun 2004: Today rang Liz and Colin; they had a fab time in Sweden, and on the way over kept bumping into Ivan and Debbie. During the conversation, Ivan mentioned that they lived in Burton-on-Trent.
Liz mistakenly thought that I had moved there when I left Derby and mentioned me to them. ‘Oh yeah’ they exclaimed, ‘We know Tim!’
Today went to see ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, environmental disaster movie. A bit too corny and sentimental, and with the hero’s wife played by Michael Jackson.

14 Jul 2004: At work today Rob gave me a booklet he’s printed in which I am to record the in-and out-times of QC batches. Apparently it’s taking too long to get production out the door and it’s all my fault. Late on he asked me about eliminating the lead driers – again – from everything.
And he’s complained about the shambolic dirty undisciplined chaos of the Surface Coatings division, with tubs of peroxide sitting around doing nothing.
So I filled in this log and we went through it, and he said ‘This is just naïve’ – meaning that I should just record the actual hours spent per job. And then he said ‘How come Gill manages to finish QC jobs more quickly even though she’s got her own jobs to do?’

[Note: Gill would simply write the required values on the QC batch card without performing any tests; I once came back to work early after a half-day holiday and found that she had entered the drying times on the sheet – 6 hours – even though the batches had been made just two hours earlier. Rumour has it that she had been offered the Lab Manager’s post, but then when I turned up the offer was withdrawn and she had to stay in the EPD lab]

4 Aug 2004: Today went to see Rob: ‘I’ve done this new formulation and don’t know how to put it on the system.’ Of course he was exasperated – ‘You should have been shown how to do this yourself instead of relying on others!’
Went through my monthly report – ‘what’s all this works assistance?’, and pointed out that I had not understood how to fill in the time log. ‘Gill is faster than you at doing QC batches and she has other things to do so why are you so slow?’
And he’s also on the warpath about lead driers – Andy pointed out that EPD is still using them, and it turns out that it’s a 25 year-old formulation over there.

9 Aug 2004: At work, Kev has tinted a batch of golden yellow marking paint with lead chromate stainer, increasing the cost by about £1.40 a litre. But the cost increase and heavy metal content are not officially logged anywhere.

3 Sep 2003: at work was testing a batch of WB stoving choke paint, originally formulated by D Waring who specified a DIN 4 rather than BS 4 flowcup, but for no good reason.

Also testing a batch of weldable etch primer, based on Mowital and Beckopox resins. Contains a lot of xylene (not really a suitable thinner) but no zinc phos or snowcal, so why only 35 percent gloss level?
Had a go at doing my monthly report using Gill’s template document. The template itself is about 360 kB, so I can’t get it on a floppy disc.

[Note: to prepare my monthly report I would walk over to the QC lab, since there was no computer in my office. I would use a small floppy disc to type out my report. During my interview for the job I was repeatedly told that the firm really needed someone with excellent IT skills, and that computers were a vital part of the job. Even though I funded my own ECDL at the local library, I didn’t get a PC in my office until three years later – and even then, I had no internet access or e-mail account]

Mon 29 Sep 2003: returned to work to find a note from (presumably) Gill H – one of her personalities had scrawled ‘Tidy Up This Shit Heap’ in untidy block capitals.

6 Oct 2003: Today at work Gill H came into lab and started looking at the Hegman gauges. ‘Have we got one that runs from one to seven?’ she asked. I was utterly baffled. [Note: the Hegman gauge runs from 0 to 8 units, or from 4 to 8, where 8 represents particles of zero microns]





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