Get It In Writing
By Gregg Shotwell
Delphi has scaled the pinnacle of incompetence. I asked for the verification of nothing and management could not deliver. I was floored. I thought surely they could expeditiously confirm nothing. Who could ask for less? I felt like the bottom fell out of the bottom.
My query was not an existential dilemma. I simply asked management to confirm that I did not have a locker in the plant. I requested in writing the verification of no thing. How hard could that be? Security checked the roster and indeed my name had been removed from the infamous locker list long ago. But management refused to give me written confirmation that I did not in fact own a locker.
Perhaps they imagined it was a trick. Perhaps they shrewdly surmised that I used a fake ID to acquire an unauthorized locker, or better yet, I had surreptitiously acquired a locker hidden behind another locker full of dirty socks and jock straps. (The skunk defense. An old bootlegger’s trick that fooled many hardworking revenue men.)
The Security Head acted as if I was trying to trick him. He got all Nancy Drewish and sly about it. He wasn’t going to let a non knowledge worker con him into falsifying documentation. He was convinced it was a scam.
I’m the one who deserves to be suspicious. I know they want to fire me. I can see the bile dripping from their lips. When I punch the time clock I feel like Pavlov’s bell ringing for the dogs at the gates of hell.
Recently management brought cops with drug sniffing dogs into the plant. They didn’t find anything. No one was surprised. Once through the doors the poor dogs’ nostrils were choked with the acrid scent of Calibration Fluid. No one’s nostrils, not even a dog’s, can smell anything after a whiff of that shit.
I got rid of my crappy company locker long ago. I know the game. No matter whose name is attached, if it’s on company property, the company owns it and retains the right to invade it. I wasn’t going to let them set me up that easy. I relinquished ownership and became a man without a locker the first day I distributed Live Bait & Ammo #1.1
Now, since the drug sniffing dog incident, I wanted written confirmation from management that I did indeed not have a locker for them to stash dope in. I wanted written verification of nothing, but management couldn’t deliver.
I am used to fighting with management. I have accepted that it is part of my job to force management to do their job. Every day union members have to fight with management to provide us with the tools or the resources we need to manufacture quality products. It’s nonsense, but it’s the Delphi Management system. I am accustomed to calling out the union to enforce Quality Standards, Safe Work Practices, and strict adherence to Process Control Instructions.
We actually have a formal procedure for this chronic altercation. If union members have a quality concern they are instructed to follow the Quality Network process up and down the Himalayas of corporate hierarchy. A salmon could swim up stream, spawn, fool around, outwit death, haggle a fisherman out of his hat, and escape to the high seas, faster than a worker could navigate the Quality Network rapids. If you want results, stop production and demand an AVO, (Avoid Verbal Orders). In other words, my Standard Operating Procedure is “Get It In Writing.”
Here’s the drill: under normal conditions union members work to the rule and management works against the rule. That’s the rule at Delphi.
If Delphi abolished all the rules, it would be less chaotic, but then no one would want to purchase products from them, so they abide by all the standards and procedures of a world class manufacturer…on paper.
In the mind of Delphi, if such a thing may be said to exist, anything on paper is real and anything with material substance is questionable. Thus my demand for written confirmation of nothing turned a mirror on the poor foreman’s origami mentality. I was in essence asking him to make nothing real. I thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown or a Zen breakthrough.
“Get It In Writing” is my motto. I have a file chocked full of AVOs giving me orders to run scrap. It is Standard Operating Procedure at Delphi to violate the rule against making scrap. A worker can be fired for making scrap, but Delphi has to have those numbers and they can’t usually wait for the fix. Quotas take precedence over quality standards and error proofing. Which is not to say that we deliver poor quality parts to our customers. We don’t. We just have to sort a lot of crap. We don’t build quality, we inspect for quality. Or as Mike Wittek says, “We don’t have time to do it right the first time, but we have time to do it over and over and over.”
It doesn’t have to be that way but management insists on working against the rule. Anything Edward Deming, the master of quality control, ever said is taboo at Delphi. Continuous paperwork, not improvement, is the practice. In fact, Delphi is so adamant about working against the rule that they are offended by workers who wear “Work to Rule” buttons. Some supervisors act insulted by the insinuation that anyone would even want to work to rule.
The elephant in Delphi’s Board Room is scrap. Dee-Ann Durbin reported, “In one instance, Delphi sold $145 million worth of scrap inventory to Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Setech Inc., an inventory management firm, and booked the sale as income even though its agreement with Setech required Delphi to buy the inventory back. The suit claims Delphi executives arranged a total of $440 million worth of similar deals.” (“Pension Funds Sue Delphi over Accounting Practices” Detroit News, October 6, 2005.)
In other words Delphi sold scrap and recorded it as profit. Bought it back and recorded it as an asset.
Cover up the bullshit with crap
Delphi Management Action Strategy System #1:
The key to a balanced budget is eliminate scrap. The key to higher productivity is eliminate scrap. The key to first time quality is eliminate scrap. The key to on time delivery is eliminate scrap. The key to higher efficiency is eliminate scrap. The key to profitability is eliminate scrap. The key to success is eliminate scrap.
DM ASS #2: Ignore the obvious.
If Delphi really wanted to save money the Board of Derelicts could replace Miller with a smoke machine. They could replace half the supervisors with robots that doubled as floor dusters. They could initiate a “pay for knowledge rate” for executives. They could reward success instead of failure and fraudulence.
DM ASS #3: All feedback must affirm that the boss is right.
The guiding principle of the Delphi Management system is simple: tell workers we are family, then advise them in the most unctuous paternal voice that the only solution is human sacrifice. If this was Japan, Delphi executives would kill themselves, but in America it is conventional wisdom that workers must sacrifice their own interests for the incompetent cronies of the corporate class.
DM ASS #4: Regard workers as waste to be eliminated. Disregard scrap as the cost of doing business.
If success depended on juggling jargon, flipping flow charts, or a business plan based on acronyms such as LEAN [Layoff Every American Now], Delphi would be leading us into a new era of Industrial Revolution. Alas, there’s nothing virtual about car parts. They’re real as rust and harder than Chinese arithmetic.
DM ASS #5: Keep investors in the dark.
Delphi’s reorganization plan hinges on cutting wages below the poverty line, depriving people of health care, and draining the pension fund. Our children won’t be left behind in school because they aren’t tested. Our children will be left behind because they are hungry, because they need health care, because their parents can’t find work at decent wages, because we can’t afford teachers, because in Miller’s world no one counts but him.
DM ASS #6: People are the least important resource. Screw them all.
The other day I pointed out to my supervisor that 25 percent of the fixtures were turned off on my Bodine ( A short digression is in order here as I am sure that 99.9 percent of our readers are wondering, “What’s a Bodine?”
A Bodine is a complicated piece of machinery with multiple functions running simultaneously off several different cams. The Bodine synchronizes pneumatics, lasers, cameras, various mechanical apparatuses, and an automatic welder. It assembles a fuel injector and probably replaced a dozen workers. Instinctively, I despise it, but I have a coworker I will call “The Bodine Man” who loves his Bodine.
The Bodine Man believes he is the best Bodine operator in the world and takes great pride in his Bodine operating. He has Bodine Man tattooed on his chest. On vacation he visited the Bodine factory. He even dined with the Bodine family. Herr Bodine, Fraulein Bodine, their son, Swine Bodine, their daughter, Bovine Bodine, and of course little BoBo Bodine. His greasy pink face gleams like a bratwurst fresh off the grill when he speaks of the memory of that fat laden repast. When he dies I’m sure his tomb will read, “Here Lies a Bodine Man.” Not me. My Bodine runs like old people f...., I don’t even like to watch.
Back to my story line: I pointed out to my supervisor that 25 percent of the fixtures were turned off on my Bodine because they were broken or non functional. I showed him this material fact and revealed the computer graphics to support my assertion.
“What should we do?” I asked. “You’re the knowledge worker.”
He just looked at me. I thought, “I better get it in writing.”
But the look on his face was completely blank. He didn’t understand that I was asking him to produce the knowledge and direction for which he is paid. He was dumfounded. Finally, he muttered something unintelligible. I asked him to repeat it.
“We’ve been having some problems with those inserts,” he said.
“We don’t make excuses here, we make car parts,” I replied.
And then it dawned on me how absurd I was acting. I apologized.
“I’m sorry, sir. I forgot where I was. This is the Delphi Management system. 25 percent inefficiency is built in. But for the record, could you put that in writing, so no one thinks that by working to rule I am obstructing production.”
P.S. If you get caught covering up incompetence with double bookkeeping, create a distraction and blame the union.
—The Uncommon Sense, January 2006
1 Live Bait & Ammo: http://www.greggshotwell.net/LBA.php.