On a cold Halloween evening many years ago, I lay curled up on filing cabinets staring out a foggy window wondering how these ghouls ever managed to get the best of me.
I wasn’t sure if sleep was possible but my mind was at the end of what it could take. Just a few hours until day break and then my nightmare would continue. Several weeks prior, my managers had called me into a conference with the words “no need to worry, this is good news.” They proceeded to pat me on the back with the words “Congrats Harry, you are now the proud manager of two CQA crews. And the liner installation will be performed simultaneously.”
They said I would be fine because both the construction sites were only ¼ mile apart. I was a young technician so unaware of all that would lie ahead. When they told me I could manage two crews, I wondered how it would work but I am plucky and determined to be a team player. So I marched forward, determined to succeed.
After a short stint on site, I realized they failed to tell me it would take much more than ¼ mile to run between the projects, as there was an active cell in between—with the northern cell running over ¼ mile east to west and the southern cell about a ¼ mile running north to south. This configuration was not so bad at the start of the project when work in both cells was as close together as it could be; however, as work progressed, the distance between the two steadily increased! I swear they must have thought I was the re-incarnation of Houdini rather than Glen the new lead technician. I had no clue on how to split myself in half so I could be in both places at once. Or maybe I really needed to be quartered or multiplied because both projects needed me plus my ghost.
I was so young and inexperienced, it didn’t take long for that ghoulish liner crew to realize they had me in their grasp and they were free to run rampant—and did they ever! I would find fusion welding being performed after condensation started (no drying) along with extrusion welding being performed in total darkness! Equally scary was the inexperience of my CQA crews that I was assigned to manage. Most were as green as Frankenstein’s skin and roamed the liner like blood thirsty zombies failing both at catching installation problems while creating documentation nightmares!
How is it I can provide a punch list of missing items to the crew and have it returned to me several times in the same day with only bits and pieces of the data fixed?! Or walk from one cell to another and see either the CQA technician holding the funnel while the installer pours gas in a generator on top of the liner (no rub sheet, and fueling on liner strictly forbidden) or the CQA technician watching the vacuum test person cover 50 feet or more of extrusion seam per minute (specs called for dwell time of 5 seconds) and swear to me it is done correctly, even when I point out the outline of the vacuum box on the liner has three foot gaps between it?! I really tried to keep up on managing the paperwork, daily field report, and endless conversation documentation (both with the installer and my crew).
My supervisors said I had to write every conversation down, so I tried. I ran from spot to spot reciting “correct data first, DFR second, correct data first.” Day after day the torment continued and I was getting further and further behind. Eventually, it became clear that I would need to stay current on the current installation documentation if I ever hoped to catch up.
After the shift, I would review paperwork for gaps and head out with a flashlight to draw my own as-built and find the missing data. Nights were often spent in the site trailer working until 2 or 3 a.m., sleeping on the filing cabinets (the conference room table was loaded with binders of paperwork strewn all over) until 5 a.m. and then repeating the process. After all, it was made clear to me that there would be no help available.
Oh, sure, a shower would have been great but I was worried about doing a good job and making sure the client was going to be okay when everything was done. The landfill stinks, so who would notice me? Man did I wish I had some kind of super power, a time machine or better yet a magic wand that would magically collect all of the right data for me. Not a chance, it was just little ole’ me against two crazed and deranged liner crews who knew they had the upper hand.
As I lay on those filing cabinets, I determined that I would never again be in this position. I mean who wants to sleep on filing cabinets feeling like a failure? In those long nights and horrifying days, I learned a lot. I came out of those projects a new technician with a determination made of steel that I would never be behind like that again! There is a better way to run CQA and I will find it!!!! Throughout these projects, I created many of the systems that I still use to this day.
That type of intense pressure will either crumble you into the ground and out of the industry, or it forges you into a battle harden field warrior. Sure, managing CQA crews is still an intense battle but I am so much better equipped to handle it. Through many years of projects I have learned that to be truly successful in this field you have to be systematic and proactive.
CQA that delivers a solid ROI is not going to happen by a guy sleeping in the trailer at night. We need to equip our technicians before they get to site with an understanding of the role of CQA as well as documentation processes and systems that are known to create reliable success. Our site owners and our environment deserve it!