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Facilities Engineering

After working in Jet Pilot engineering (product engineering) for two years, I had enough of that and asked for a transfer to Facilities Engineering. My manager couldn't imagine why I wanted to transfer to Facilities Engineering. My co-workers in Jet Pilot referred to the facilities guys as "line cord coordinators." I didn't care what they called me, I was tired of working on the ink stream adjustment scope for the entire two years I'd been in Jet Pilot.

I got moved and liked the job much, much better. The work was varied and I got to work in several different buildings and work with a lot of different people, including contractors. It was a great job.
My department in Facilities Engineering circa 1979. Back L-R: Me, Joe Rice, Don Lyle, Rick Russ, Earl Freeman Front L-R: Kurt Reibling, Brian Cunningham, Paul "Wubba" Harmatuk, JT Logan (mgr)

Tearing the wall down that wasn't done being built.

When I was a facilities engineer, I was given a project to tear down a wall that bordered the main aisle in the plant. It was a 12 or 14 foot high wall, I think 6 or 8 inches deep, drywall on both sides - a serious wall. I issued a time and material contract and the contractor who was assigned the job, showed up at my desk. He said, "This contract says to tear this wall down." I said, "Yes." He said, "Are you sure you want to tear it down?" I sat there with a puzzled look on my face. He continued, "So and so (another contractor who's name I don't remember) hasn't finished building it."

It turns out that the wall went half the length of the plant, which was probably a couple of hundred yards. I had a job to tear down the portion of the wall on the northern part end of the plant, and the contractor was in fact still finishing the wall on the southern end of the plant. Brother!

Buying a crane and selling it for surplus (I hope.)

I had an assignment to get an overhead crane for a new area where they were going to have injection molding presses. I don't remember why, but for some reason it needed to be remote controlled - we couldn't have a pendant station hanging off the crane. Well, they do make such things, but they aren't cheap. I put out a Request for Quotation, evaluated the bids and bought, I think, one of the more expensive ones that was bid. When it was ready to be delivered, the area where it was to be installed wasn't ready. The project had been delayed. So I had it delivered ot the warehouse. Eventually the project was cancelled and the crane was sold as surplus equipment (at least I hope it was sold as surplus and not scrap - most of what was sold out of the warehouse went to scrap).

Building a platform for a machine and then having it torn out and scrapped (at least we didn't paint it).

This was a similar story to the one above. The manufacturing engineers had a new machine designed and built at the robotics lab in Boca Raton. I had drawings of the machine and was to design and build a series of platforms that would be used for getting access to load parts in the various parts hoppers around the machine. I did just that. The steel platform sat there on the floor for a couple of months until the machine was received to the warehouse, the project cancelled, and the machine sold as surplus (or scrap). I then got the assignment to have the platforms cut up and removed. Fortunately, we never spent the money to paint it.


Cotton was a guy who I first met when he worked for a rigging contractor, and then later he started his own rigging company. He was a tough fellow. He showed a colleague of mine all of his scars one time and it took thirty minutes. He had knife scars & gun shot scars, among others.

I heard a story about him going to the local Ford dealer to get his car after it was repaired. He hadn't paid his bill and told them he wasn't going to pay. They told him his car was out back in the fenced in lot. He said he would go get it. They said he couldn't because the dog was out there. He said that was OK, because he brought his dog that "barks over here and bites over there," and raised his shirt tail to show them the butt of his pistol. They said, "We'll get your car."

One time shortly after Cotton started his own company, he was working on a project for me. We were making changes to the overhead conveyor that carried the typewriters around the plant. We had to take the drip pans off the conveyor and Cotton and his gang weren't hanging the drip pans back on the conveyor straight. I started pointing out the ones that needed to be corrected. It was rather late on a Saturday and Cotton got mad and said, "Just what in the hell do you want?" I said, "I want them to look like they did before you took them off." I half expected him to punch me, but it shut him up. He did a little better but the drip pans still didn't get hung correctly. I gave him a bad rating on the job and the purchasing people told him and he came and fussed at me at my desk. Those were some tense times.

Cotton eventually was ushered off the IBM property because he made some threat to an employee. He was then barred from ever coming back on IBM property. He then started a commercial roofing company, and the rumor was that it went fine all summer until the fall when it started raining, and everyone's roof was leaking.

Big Scares:

- Went to Akron for the holidays when I was supposed to be watching a contractor.. After I got to Akron, I was really worried they would set the plant on fire and I'd get fired. I had to use Everything went fine.
- Hoppy (a contractor's foreman and son-in-law) took some scrap lights (which wasn't allowed) and then told me, which implicated me if I didn't report it, but I didn't want to get Hoppy in trouble. I was really mad him for that one and worried that the thing would come down on me, but it never did. Hoppy did get in trouble over taking lights.. I guess someone saw him.

Expense Account Trouble With Steve Davis

I went to Houston on some business trip and drove out to see my sister who lived maybe 40 or 50 miles north of Houston I went out and had dinner with her. At that time Hertz didn't have unlimited mileage and so the rental car bill was a little more than normal. I don't remember how much, maybe $20 or $30. Maybe not that much, I don't remember.

When I got back and filed my expense report, my manager, Steve Davis objected to the rental car fee. He said that IBM wouldn't reimburse me for that amount of mileage. I protested and said I wasn't aware of any policy that said how much I could or could not drive in a day. He said there was one but couldn't tell me what it was. He wanted me to change the TEA. He asked me to, he didn't tell me to. I said I wasn't changing the TEA because I didn't think there was any policy and I didn't think it was any big deal to drive out and see my sister. I knew that other guys had driven around for entertainment on business trips - I had done it before myself.

Steve was a relatively new manager and I thought he was being a little over diligent. We were actually good friends. We had worked in the same department for a while. We had been to races together and his wife and my wife were friends too. We'd been to their house and they'd been to our house. So this issue was more stressful than had it would have been with some other manager who I didn't know so well. I didn't say anything to Steve about our relationship or that I thought he was being over diligent, I just argued with him on the basis that I didn't think there was any policy that covered the expense.

So the next day he shows up with the policy. He had to go to personnel and get it so he hadn't known what it was either. It wasn't clear cut and I still argued that I wasn't out of line. I don't know if he asked me if I wanted to or he suggested that I talk to his manager but that's what I did. We went around the same points and didn't come to any agreement. I honestly don't remember whether I changed the TEA or not. I want to say that I didn't, but I may have just to quit messing around with it.

Hearing of the space shuttle explosion.
I had just walked into the Facilities area and there were a couple of people listening to the radio of the space shuttle launch. I stood there with them and listened as it was reported that they had seen an explosion and were not hearing anything back from the shuttle crew. This was shocking. It was the first time a space shuttle had crashed. It was one of those events that you remember vividly because of the trauma of the news.

Interviewing For A Corporate Job

It wasn't long after the failed interview with Corporate that I was offered the job of Site Energy Coordinator. This position had been held by some of the fairly senior and respected guys in Facilities. It wasn't something I really had much experience with or even necessarily interest in, but because of the prestige of the position it was sort of a promotion. No money and no raise but prestige.

So I took the job and went to work for Les Renn. Les was a nice guy. Very soft spoken but before long he was really irritating me by micro managing certain aspects of what I did. Most of what I did, I operated independently, but every now and then Les would tell me just what to do and how to do it. It was kind of weird that he only stuck his nose into certain things and they weren't particularly important or highly visible projects. I never figured out why just these certain things. And it really got to bugging me.

Finally there was something he told me to do and I just didn't do it. He was clearly upset and chewed me out in his mild mannered way and then I got called into

Going To Switzerland

I to the assignment to work on the new printed circuit card assembly line that was to be installed in building 002. The manufacturing engineers were shopping for a material handling system and one of the potential vendors was in Lucerne, Switzerland. So I was told to go with a Don Schmidt the manufacturing engineer and Ted ?? the purchasing agent to visit this vendor in Lucerne Switzerland.

We flew to JFK in New York and were standing around in the lobby talking and I mentioned that we had 5 hours to kill. They said, no, we only have 3 hours. I thought they must be confused about the time zone or something and then realized we never changed time zones. I think we all started wondering at the same time and said, what time is your flight. It turned out that I was on a different flight than they were. This wouldn't work because we were to fly to Geneva and take the train to Lucerne. They told me to change my ticket.

So I go to the agent to change my ticket and the only seat available is first class. Gee, I'll just have to sacrifice for the team. So I flew to Geneva and then Zuric, first class on Swiss Air. We had a six course meal, champagne, slippers for your feet, a sleeping mask. Wow, that was some deal. There was a guy in the row ahead of me across the aisle who had bought two tickets so that he could lay down on the seat. Dang!

So we get to Zurich and get on the train. When we arrive in Lucerne we leave the train station, go outside and hail a cab. As I'm getting into the cab, the seat of my pants blows out. The seam rips open from top to bottom. When we got to the hotel, I threw my clothes bag over my shoulder to cover my butt, check in an go to my room. Was I ever lucky that the pants held together until I got to Lucerne. Imagine what a fix I'd been in if the blew out in JFK!

The next day we went to meet the vendor. The guy who picked us up at the hotel and drove us around was a young guy. On the way to their office in the morning he asked us where we were from. I told him Lexington, Kentucky and he reacted like he was familiar with it. I asked him if knew about Lexington or Kentucky and he said, "Kentucky Fried Chicken." I said, "Oh have you had it?" He indicated that he had and I asked him what he thought of it. He said, "Dog food!"

We met for a little while in the morning and then went to lunch at this chalet way up on a mountain. We had a big meal like it was dinner. I had some kind of venison on noodles. At lunch we decided that the purchasing guy and I didn't really have to be involved in the discussions and that our time could be better spent doing some touring. So all that afternoon and the next day, Ted and I toured around Lucerne. It is a resort town, very old and so there are lots of things to see. I have pictures hanging on the wall in my house from the trip. Its hard not to take a good photo in Lucerne.