“Road warrior”

Is the actual definition still used today when a company defines the requirements for a posted job, a fitting title in today’s world.

Let me take you back almost two decades ago.

I was a younger version of the person I am today. Spent several years in the AEROSPACE and DEFENSE board level repair and assembly; as well as numerous other civilian electronic companies.

-Wire crimping, by hand and also by machine, sub-d connector assembly, GOV pin connectors, single and dual headers.

-Soldering of through-hole, surface mount, wire to wire, re-flow ovens, De-soldering hot air stations, soldering under stereo microscopes, Wire bridging, solder paste silk screening, MIL SPEC soldering expectations.

-Hi-pot testing, environmental ( heat,cold and vibration), circuit board populating machines ( loading of parts and programming of part locations).

-Use of oscilloscopes, multi-meters, pulse generators, calibration and test equipment.

The list goes on and on and on………

At that time, the electronic industry was changing, Evolving; if you will. More and more products were being anticipated, the world of *micro management* was in it’s infancy and the rules were changing with each passing revolution of the minute hand. Repair tech’s were now under the microscope. Repair times were cut ( if a board could not be repaired in a new set amount of time, it was cheaper for the company to recycle the board and just populate a new board ). Less and less repair tech’s were being sought out, now general *documented* pre-test procedures were able to be done by the people on the line. Saving time, saving money.

But also,

The rules of the lines changed to. Finding ways to maximize employee productivity became the next targeted interest. ( And let’s be fair, it only made logical sense. Less people-more product equaled MORE money ! ) Soon work stations were designed to keep the employees *seated* starting with job bins that contained all the supplies they needed to build their units, then came the roller lines that actually moved the product directly to the employee so they didn’t even need to get up for anything. Even saving money with what became ( in my opinion a bad idea ) was no longer giving each employee their own tool kit and instead, having one set of tools mounted on the workstations for all shifts to use. Now there is saved money there !? one set of tools per work station instead of a set per employee, per shift.

This in all honesty , bothered me.

Here was my mental taking on the *shared tools*

Three shifts using the same tools, so at least 3 people per day handling those tools at each bench. All my OCD germ mind could think is, *How much lost production time are we going to have when everyone is getting everyone sick and now people are taking off more days as we pass these germs from shift to shift?* I mean think about it, sure if a sick person exposes their germs at work X amount may get the cold. But now, add those germs to shared tools, making even more people sick and exposing even more people. so on and so forth. It just seemed a stale mate in my mind *But, who am I ?*Not to mention the fact….Some people just cant seem to understand how to preserve a tool without breaking it, dulling it, or trying to (for some reason) use board level cutters to cut through steel (or so it seemed) by the pits and bends in those said cutters.

Eventually,

The passion for the industry took a turn for me. The pace was getting faster, the *expected* output was getting higher and higher. Some of the companies, started to hire at a less pay scale *KNOWING* they were going to keep the staff at a minimum and require overtime; but still be cheaper than paying many at a higher rate and only 40 hours across the board. Then, the real secret kicker….. Claiming *goals* by saying if we meet our production of X amounts of units by Friday, we won’t be forced to work a mandated weekend overtime. Here’s where it got good. They knew they needed the overtime so they knew exactly what the productivity was and just added a factor of 10-20-38% to come up with that *goal*.. Knowing the employees would never achieve that goal and the weekend work would happen without fail. But in the off chance, in the long shot the *team* did manage to meet that *goal* well it was a win win for the company, they saved some overtime and got ahead of the game.

This is in no way *Bashing* companies or industries, it was just how it began to evolve.

We were at a turning point in the electronics and production industry. Companies were moving across the pond, employees were wanting more and more pay and the competition was making the product cost less and less as they formulated even higher levels of lean production. Foreign industries were importing their products to us at a cost we could not even make them for. To stay afloat, the staffing got cut, the work demand got greater on the remaining employees and the 40 hour work week became a thing of the past as 50+ hours became the norm.

A lot of companies went under, some struggled and others survived. But one thing that will never change is that constant competition to compete, be productive and still somehow make a profit from all the madness. It was just another day in the world of economics and industry.

That was about when, as I mentioned before- the *passion* in me for that type of work began to fade. And lets face it, I was also young, dumb and felt like I had to see the world, experience everything and be everywhere all at the same time. Looking back on it now, youth is a very narrow minded creature-

So,

I did want any like minded, frustrated-adventurous *free spirited* person would have done. I picked up the want ads ( you know, what was in newspapers before the internet even existed..) and sought out my options ( or escape plan ) as i saw it then.

Long and behold,

A listing attracted my eyes!

“Now hiring ! Do you know electronics? Do you have a thirst for travel? Do you want to see the world and do what you enjoy doing? Then call 123-1234”

( yup back even before we needed to add area codes to our number)

Something along those lines anyhow. Don’t hold me to actually remembering the *exact* listing. But I do remember it had rained that morning so the newspaper had that dew smell to it.

I hit that interview full speed ahead!

They were offering me things that at that time seemed like a DREAM!

  1. Company truck
  2. Company credit card
  3. Company pager ( cellphones were a year or so off)

All I had to do, Grab my stack of repair folders/inspections/parts and hit the open road and become an electronic road warrior and travel the endless highways with god speed and get the work done!

A free spirited person’s DREAM ! Right?

Besides,

What could possibly go wrong?……

 

 

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