In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Just Another Day In The Shop
May 31, 2014
Let's see, on Friday...
-I got six hours of work done on the machine I've been working on all week. Bosses wanted the job completed so they could "close" the ticket and include it in the financials for the month of May, but that didn't happen. (So, that's six hours I can bill out of a 10-hour day. No wonder my billable hours are in the pits.)
-I stopped what I was doing and gave advice three times to younger mechanics who were doing certain repairs for the first time, who asked for tips on how to do get things apart, how to put things together, or how to calibrate things after repairs. (Gee, the old goat isn't as dumb as he seems.)
-Answered questions about a job I completed two months ago, about how many parts I used and other details of the job. (I have to use a map to get home after work; how the heck am I supposed to remember how many parts I used on a job from two months ago?)
-Worked over the phone with a customer for an hour or more in a series of phone calls, discussing problems with his autosteer system to diagnose the problem, figure out what parts were needed, and set up a service call next week to fix the problem. (It's always a gamble diagnosing things over the phone, but if I guess right, it saves the customer the time and expense of a diagnostic service call.)
-Tore into a job I estimated would take one hour and $100 of parts, and found after I had things torn apart that it would take 8 eight hours and more than $1500 in parts. Called the customer and delicately explained the situation, apologized and got permission to complete the repairs. After completing the call, I drank a Pepsi and tried to figure out how I could have anticipated, diagnosed or otherwise predicted the unexpected repairs. (These are the times when I appreciate the way car dealerships handle customer relations--their mechanics work only on cars and never talk to customers. Their service writers deal with customers, billing and explanations.)
-A customer wandered into the shop to tell me his planter worked perfectly, his crops are off to a great start, that he's really happy with the money he spent in our shop last winter on planter maintenance, and to work out details for getting his combine ready for harvest. (These are the times when I appreciate the way our dealership allows mechanics and customers to interact face-to-face.)
-Had to ask a younger mechanic how to make a repair I'd never done before, that required some sophisticated calibrations via connection with a laptop computer. (I've come to realize that computers are my best friends and worst enemies, and that they can change from friend to foe in a single keystroke.)
The rest of the day was a blur of customer questions, management questions, stripped bolts, frozen bearings, questions from co-workers about how to make repairs, questions to co-workers about how to make repairs, and a half-dozen trips to the parts department.
When I got home and my wife asked what sort of day I'd had, I said, "Oh, normal."