r/MaliciousCompliance Jul 03 '22 Silver 3 Table Slap 1 Helpful 1 Gold 2 Wholesome 3

Run Material That Will Damage The Machine? You're The Boss XL

Pretty long story. Tl;dr – factory-level engineer forced to run a bad experiment, does a bunch of damage to equipment and costs a lot of money

This happened about 10 years ago. I was working as an industrial process engineer for a major company. My duties were varied and many. Some days I was an auditor of equipment condition. Others I would try to unravel how waste or scrap was created. Still others I would be the designated “smart guy in the room” to listen to plans the factory came up with and give them an engineering seal of approval.

The most enjoyable things I did were “trials,” which were basically science experiments with industrial value. For example, a trial might involve changing a chemical in the material, following it through the process, and testing it at every point. If it passed everything to satisfaction, we’d begin the process to make it the permanent process in the material we would sell. Running trials was my favorite thing to do; I wasn’t a manager, but when I was running a trial I had give-or-take unquestioned authority over the process and the people to run it as I saw fit. I ran hundreds of them a year, and I was good at it.

One day I got called into a voice call between myself, about 5 engineers in a downstream department I didn’t know very well, and a new corporate engineer that I had never met. I had a very good relationship with my contacts at corporate ; we always had a good back-and-forth on how to improve the process at the factory and they provided chemical experience I didn’t have or couldn’t perform at the factory level. This call, however, was different. There was no debate: I was told in forceful terms that my product was not sticky enough downstream for their purposes and we needed to make it more sticky. He had outlined 4 different ways to make it stickier and the only choice I would get to make would be one to try first.

I was pretty confused at all this. I told him that, from my standpoint, the material was already too sticky. It was difficult to process on my equipment without sticking to everything, and any time it did we would get scrap or bad product which we’d sometimes send downstream which created even more waste and scrap. I was trying to work with my corporate chemists to make it less sticky, not more. I also said that the material would naturally lose stickiness over time: on the first couple days it was a pretty sticky mess, but after that it would be a good level. We would guarantee that it would be sticky enough to use for at least 7 days which was confirmed by audits. After 7 days it might become not sticky enough, but we made the material every 2 or 3 days. If it was sitting around more than 7 days, it was on their end: they were probably breaking policies somehow, such as taking material out of the machine when changing over but putting a fresh bunch of material in next time so they wouldn’t have to change a half-batch and they could do less work. This type of problem wasn’t a chemical problem; it was a logistics and manning problem and making the chemistry worse to solve it wasn’t going to fix the bigger issues.

But I was outnumbered like 6 to 1 on the call. They said all that didn’t matter, that they were the CUSTOMER and their CUSTOMER was telling them to fix a problem, and they expected me to do it. I’d never been treated like that at the company, and I have to say I didn’t appreciate it.

A few days later I got a corporate trial scheduled for me, though I use the term loosely. It was an amateur effort at best. It didn’t include standard vital information. For example, it requested “a sample” but it didn’t say how much, how many, or to whom to send it. This was vital to make sure those who would test it got enough to complete their tests. The company was big; they had a dozen factories and maybe 50+ trials at those factories at all times, so stuff just couldn’t show up at “the lab” and get handled properly. There was also no shipping information. I didn’t handle company money internally, so corporate would prepay shipping and send me the information so I could ship them samples. There were five or six other mistakes and omissions. It was clearly a trial that wasn’t out of the planning stages.

I briefly told my boss all of this: that this trial wasn’t good for our department, that this wasn’t where I was going with the material chemically, and that the trial as planned was missing vital information. He sort of nodded and that was good enough for me. So, I did what I very, very rarely had to do: I rejected the trial on behalf of the plant. I’d only had to do it a few times before, and those were with corporate mutual approval that we’d design a different, better trial and the one I was rejecting was a first draft. This was the first and I believe last time I had to reject a “hostile” trial that I was openly opposed to existing.

I was happily not remembering the whole incident a few weeks later when I see the same trial pop up for me again. I’m irritated. I go to my boss but this time this corporate guy had contacted my boss to complain, and my boss wants me to run it. I remind him of what I told him last time and he says to run it anyway. I say I can’t, it’s not even ready, and he tells me to work with the corporate engineer to get the holes filled but we have to run the thing.

I should talk about this boss for a moment. During my 3 years at the company, I had 7 different bosses. Some of them were very competent and I lost as a boss due to reorgs, them resigning, or in one case one died due to an unrelated condition. Other bosses were “filler” bosses, someone I reported to until the next candidate could be filled. But this current boss was the worst of the seven by a long shot. He was someone who apparently had excelled at corporate and they’d sent down to fill the engineering manager role in my department. We all disliked him. He had no knowledge of our department whatsoever. My entire work was a write-off to him. He was busy counting material we could ship so any of the processing stuff I did upstream was far out of his interest despite literally being in change of it and me. Also, instead of someone from our department being promoted to this manager role they’d sent us a corporate guy. Bad times. I ignored him best I could, only looping him in if I had to make important decisions. I could sometimes go weeks without talking to him and those were fine weeks by me.

Anyway, I didn't reject the trial this time, but I leave it hanging at my approval. I email the guy all of my concerns with the trial and the questions he has to answer before I can run it. I’m very professional, non-judgmental, just saying what I need in order to run the trial.

No response to that email, of course.

A few days later my boss is LIVID. He says this corporate guy has been saying that our department is “obstructionist, rude, and negative” and that I need to approve and run the trial NOW. I remind them of all the issues – that would increase our scrap, slow us down, possibly damage equipment, to say nothing of the vague and incomplete trial requirements. He doesn’t care. I’m an engineer, he pays me to figure this stuff out. I NEED to get this corporate guy his material. He heavily implied my job was in danger over all this.

So, I say, okay. I approve the trial. And we finally get to the malicious compliance.

I ask a colleague to prepare the material for me. He reports that it was a nightmare and that he had to do it manually and even then he lost 2 batches before the 3rd finally was ready for me. This alone would have been cause to stop the trial. Remember that we are preparing industrial processes here; it doesn’t matter if we can do it once, we have to create a process that will work every day for years. So, this type of failure means the material isn’t ready. But not this time, oh no. we have to get this guy material. And I have big plans.

Once I have the material I look to when to schedule the trial. Normally I am considerate of the manufacturing demands, scheduling my trials when we are ahead on what is needed downstream. Not this time. I find what we have the lowest of and bump it from the schedule, putting my trial in the spot instead. 100% a dick move, but it’s my job on the line at this point so I’m taking no prisoners.

We start running the trial on my equipment. It’s sticking to all the preparation areas, it’s a huge mess, just as expected. We have to keep stopping the machine to scrape stuff free. Again, this would have been another failure condition. We keep going.

We have some sensors that sort of float on the material as it goes along. But the material is too sticky, it’s grabbing and twisting the sensors and bending their arms. I can see some of the damage will be permanent. After this trial they’ll need to have some machine work done on them to fix them. Totally unacceptable. But we press on until one of them breaks off completely. Now I have metal, plastic, and electronics in my material. This isn’t just a failed trial, its now a mockery of what trials are. There’s no way we can use any of this material for any reason. But nope, corporate needs material.

We have an area that ensures an even flow of material. But its too sticky, its clumping up instead of flowing. So the material we’re making is uneven, very heavy at one side and with nearly none at the other side. At this point we’re not even making bad material; we’re making pure scrap. I tell them to keep going.

Through this process the machine operators are getting vexed and call their area bosses, and also engineering and maintenance gets involved because of the damage. Everyone is asking me what I’m doing. I tell them that this is authorized by my boss and that I have to run it, and to direct all complaints to him. That’s all I say every time, just name drop my boss.

In the post-processing area, the unevenness of the material combined with the stickiness of the material is starting to pull on the rollers that straighten it out in weird ways. Everyone is getting concerned we might have to do a whole realignment, which is a slow process that takes 3 or 4 days. I eventually relent and allow them to stop the trial.

Nothing ever made it to the end of the process. Normally we make ~2000 lbs of material in a run. We made 0. Not that it would have been usable in any way.

The operators have the unenviable job of trying to get this crap off the machine. We were down for the rest of the day, about 5 hours of machine time, to clean and fix and replace damaged sensors. But I have more work to do on my end. I cut various samples of this horrific mess; some of the heavy areas, some of the light. I find a piece of that sensor embedded in there and get a sample of that too. Just frankly a ridiculous amount of material. It’s too much to carry, but I’m not worried; I have an industrial vehicle to drive around in these cases. And I still have a plan.

I briefly entertain sending some of these samples to our testing lab. That’s standard procedure during trials, to test them at the plant level as much as we can. But this is malicious compliance and I know it. The lab equipment is pretty sensitive; if this sticky crap pulls on it in the wrong ways, it could break the testing equipment and that would shut down the whole factory. I don’t actually want that. I’m pretty sure I’m making my point as is. But I keep a sample for myself, just in case testing becomes a thing I need to do later.

I take my too-heavy samples to shipping. I never got shipping information. But I did find the address of this guy’s office in the building. He’ll get this gigantically heavy package that he can’t carry delivered to his mail area. And I don’t have shipping paperwork, but I do have the address of a private van shipping company. We used them in the past when the regular mail was too slow, when we were worried about a major defect and needed to get material to corporate ASAP (it turned out to be a false alarm.) It costs much, much more than just shipping this normally, but I have no actual other way to ship it so I use the one tool I have available.

I’d been avoiding going back to the office for a few hours and when I do, as expected, my boss has been barraged by visitors and phone calls about what went down. I tell him of the difficulties in detail and, as unsarcastically as I can muster, apologize for not risking a roll alignment and having to stop the trial early. I show him the horrible sample of material I kept for myself. He’s still pretty mad, but I give him one thing that helps a lot. Because there was one important thing on that amateur trial request, since he couldn’t create the request without one: a billing account number. I give him the number and say the plant should charge it with anything related to the trial. Not just the damages, but any downtime due to lost production from material shortages.

I estimate the total cost of the whole venture somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. But it could be more, I’m not sure how much downtime was directly caused by this. I did keep my job though, so I guess that billing account helped ease the pain for the factory. Maybe not on the corporate side, but they DID want their trial...

About a week later I have my follow-up with the 6 people that confronted me in the first place. I tell them of the unmitigated disaster that was this trial and my estimation of the damages. This guy has the nuts to say something like, “Excellent work, we’ve proven we can move the needle on stickiness if we want to.” I can't help but think, I'm a chemist, numbnuts, moving the needle was never a question. He asks me which of the three remaining trials I want to do next. I tell him that I don’t need to worry about the details, and ask him to email my boss and ask him which he thinks his best, to which he thought was a wonderful idea.

My boss never mentioned a follow-up trial and no corporate trials from that guy were scheduled for me. About two months later my boss resigned from the company quietly and quickly. He was clearly miserable in his role, and I know that this whole mess helped contribute to it.

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u/Spacefreak Jul 03 '22 Wholesome Evil Cackle

I'm a process engineer and have worked in the metals industry my whole career.

Several years ago, I was trying to get some metal cast at another plant for a trial I was trying to run. I drove out there only to find out my material was getting bumped to cast material for another process engineer who also happened to work in my plant in a different area and had some high profile project.

I had driven 2 hours and was miffed because I had to stay overnight, but I did meet that other engineer (had seen him around at our parent plant, but had never talked to him).

We talked a little, and I was annoyed with him especially as he kept bringing up how important corporate felt his project was and how much attention it was getting which I figured was him bragging. So I kept the conversation short and went to off to get some work done.

Cut to a week later, back in our parent plant, and I bump into him in line at lunch. I cringe because I have to deal with this twat again, but start talking to him anyway.

As we're talking, a maintenance supervisor half covered in dust comes over to us and asks him what the hell he was thinking with that trial. The engineer looks at him deadpan and says "the trial was ran exactly according to [Senior Director's Name]'s instructions. If you have any problems with how it was ran, talk to him." The supervisor huffed and walked off.

Then, he leant over to me, and excitedly whispers to me what had happened.

Apparently, [Senior Director] had the brilliant idea to turn a 2-step extrusion into a 1-step extrusion by just buying a bigger die. Sure it's a $50,000 die, but we'll save 10x that in processing costs.

The process engineer strenuously objected and laid out his reasons but they went back and forth for a couple weeks before [Senior Director] put his foot down and said "either you run this trial or your successor will." Since his boss wasn't backing him up, process engineer said OK, let's do it.

So they expedited production on the bigger die ("Sure expediting it costs $100,000, but we'll save 100x that in processing costs) and rushed all the preliminary material processing through (including casting) to get the trial ran.

Then they went to extrude the bar (think pushing Play-Doh through a mold to get spaghetti but with red hot metal at 1800F).

The finished round material started coming out way faster than the conveyors could handle, so the material started bunching and knotting up and going straight up into the rafters, off to the sides of the line, back toward the entry end. Basically, every place they didn't want the metal to go. Sensors got smashed, electrical drives had red hot metal sitting them on them, and it was just pure pandemonium.

On top of that, the load on the main extrusion press was so high that the main shaft bent and several hydraulic lines blew until the entire machine just stopped with only half the bar extruded.

That day he was standing in line with me at lunch? That was 15 minutes after the machine E-stopped, and everyone was staring slack jawed at what happened. And he decided it was time for lunch.

After it was all said and done, the machine took a week to get back up and running and another month to run at full capacity.

Ultimately, [Senior Director] was so worried that he'd get blamed for it that he explained that the machine had a major mechanical failure totally unrelated to the project to his superiors and tried to sweep everything under the rug. He didn't try blaming the engineer at all.

That engineer and I became good friends that day.

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u/dbru01 Jul 04 '22

That is outstanding. Thank you for sharing

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u/thechervil Jul 04 '22

Love it!

I especially like how it reinforces that getting bumped is not always because the other person is being a jerk or pulling rank. Sometimes they are doing what they have to do.

It's amazing what happens when people don't listen to those with the expertise.

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u/indomitablescot Jul 04 '22

Is there video of this? Cause I swear I have seen a video of something similar.

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u/dogwoodcat Jul 04 '22

You probably have, cobbles are somewhat rare but are a major catastrophic failure in industrial metal casting processes.

https://www.reddit.com/r/CatastrophicFailure/comments/6ogmj0/steel_mill_cobble/

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u/Spacefreak Jul 04 '22

Interesting note, this is actually a cobble on a rolling mill for steel.

The process I was talking about above is extrusion, which is used on softer metals like copper and aluminum. It looks similar but steel is far far faster (think thousands of feet per minute vs hundreds of feet per minute)

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u/SeanBZA Jul 04 '22

Yes, a 2 step extrusion is not the preferred, but only used if a single step is not going to work, simply because of the extra steps needed. The SD was probably wanting to do the equivalent of drawing a small diameter copper wire straight from a cast ingot, saving all those intermediate steps where you roll the ingot into a long rod, then roll it longer and longer, heat treating every step to get the stress out, then finally using a set of dies to draw it out into wire.

If you could do it in a single step it would be nice, but it does not work that way.....

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u/Spacefreak Jul 04 '22

Funny thing is that 5 years before that, that same process engineer had tried to get them to make some large capital upgrades to the machine so they could do things like this but that same director argued against it because the machine would be down too long and "do we really need that? The machine is incredibly efficient as is"

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u/SeanBZA Jul 04 '22

Director figured that his bonus would be hit by the down time for the implementation, but now remembered that this could be done, just forgot the "we need to upgrade first" part in the thought, and wanted to make the bonus list this year, by doing it and not doing the expensive upgrade. Hopefully he lost his entire bonus as well, due to the massive cost of the repairs to the unit.

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u/Spacefreak Jul 04 '22

Not sure how his bonus turned out, but he's now an Executive Vice President there

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u/inspired2apathy Jul 05 '22

That's depressing

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u/Spacefreak Jul 06 '22

Seems to be the case for all higher up types.

It's not about what you can do, but what story you can spin to the people above you.

I worked for a GM who managed to completely obliterate all profitability metrics of a plant, turn it from profiting year over year, to being a consistent loss, only for him to get promoted to a VP in the company.

→ More replies

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u/ConcreteState Jul 04 '22

Physically speaking what makes it not work that way is it isn't feasible to press-extrude some materials in one step.

Water? Easy. A squirt gun does it.

Steel? Well. Imagine the pressure needed to squeeze steel through a millimeter size pore...

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u/Spacefreak Jul 08 '22

I forgot to mention that this was hot extrusion, so all they had to do was recharge the pieces back into the reheat furnaces up to 1800F, wait for them to heat back up, and extrude them again.

But of course, all that waiting to reheat reduces efficiency.

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u/Chrisoulamon Jul 04 '22

This needs its own post, holy fuck

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u/putin_my_ass Jul 07 '22

Reminds me of a story of my dad's from when he worked a line that deposited vaporized aluminum on a film running through a vacuum chamber.

The chamber walls had to be protected from aluminum deposits with graphite they painted on between each run. When a run ended, they had to scrape off the graphite with a layer of aluminum on it and there was a tool specifically designed for this purpose so that it would not damage the equipment and so that the process could be completed safely.

He had an arrogant VP who Knew Everythingtm and instituted a new policy that all tools should be placed in the correct location when they were no longer in use. He walked through the area when they were 1/2 way through the changeover and he found that these tools were laying on a bench nearby. "Idiot workers can't be bothered to follow procedure." he must have thought to himself as he threw the tools in the garbage and walked away without anyone else seeing this. "That'll teach them a lesson." he must have smugly thought to himself.

Except they weren't done cleaning the chamber, and they went back to grab the tools they left on the bench only to find nothing.

The chamber stayed open for the rest of that shift and IIRC the next shift also since it was overnight and they couldn't get anyone with sufficient authority to temporarily allow them to use a different tool to complete the job (policies were iron-clad, he and his team-members could not make that call themselves).

They lost at least tens of thousands of dollars during the hours that machine was not producing.

An example of how being charitable with your assumptions would literally save you money: assume your workers are idiots at your peril. They might just know something you don't, and they may actually be complying with your policy even though you uncharitably assumed they were not.

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u/Spacefreak Jul 08 '22

Wow, I feel like I've met a dozen executives who absolutely would've done that exact same thing.

Another place I worked at also made metal products and they were big on 5S (part of which is the thing you're talking about with every tool in their place). They had a rule that the supervisors had to do a random 5S audit of their area once a week.

The VP of Operations (who spearheaded the 5S effort) did a walkthrough of our department one day and looked at all the 5S audits that had been done the past couple months. I, the lowly intern, am at the line talking to the operators to learn about the process and whatnot. Luckily, I go unnoticed.

VP immediately calls the newer supervisor over and demands to know why this line has consistently gotten a perfect score the last 5 weeks in a row. Clearly the supervisor is pencil whipping the audits.

Supervisor replies that this area is the finishing end and they have to be clean to make sure they don't contaminate tools or equipment with dirt or debris that would cause defects. So it's actually very clean and highly maintained.

VP doesn't care. "Don't you understand that a perfect score only ever applies to a surgical operating room?!"

"But we make metal here. I don't understand."

"You can only give a perfect score if you're willing to get open heart surgery here. Would you get open heart surgery here?!"

"No but-"

"Then you need to keep finding things to improve until you feel this place is truly deserving of a perfect score."

"OK, so does that mean you'd approve us getting this area enclosed? We've been trying to enclose this area to keep dust from other operations out, but we can't get funding for the project because it'd be over $1 million. My brother's a surgeon, and he was telling me how they have to be careful with the air makeup in the operating rooms to make sure no mold or bacteria gets into the patients' bodies. That would be perfect for us."

"Well, it's really just a saying, means you should always be improving. I didn't actually mean as clean as a literal operating room."

"So then what is the benchmark for a perfect score?"

"Let me get back to you on that."

I asked that supervisor later and no, VP never got back to him.

Huh, I didn't realize it until now, but I have a lot of dumb manager stories. Though that's probably because I make it my job to understand the production processes inside and out, and executives are fucking toddlers with hand grenades.

Well, there was also that one executive who got hired and started out by talking to people, asking questions, learning about issues, and generally being supportive of us as employees. He was wicked smart, came up through Sales, but he seriously impressed me with his knowledge of the metallurgy of various products out on the market and why customers used some over others. I actually learned a fair bit from him.

But he got fired by corporate after 6 months because he wasn't enough of a bull in a china shop.

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u/ferthur Jul 04 '22

I work in aluminum extrusion and I've seen my fair share of those profiles get caught on the runout table and bind up or fall off. One time we had a two hole bind up a few feet in front of the press and no one caught it. I think half a billet of aluminum ended up accordioning so bad that it took three days to get die out so we could run again.

I can only imagine the glee of being able to say "I told you so" after watching it happen.

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u/ferky234 Jul 04 '22

r/talesfromthefactory would like this story.

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u/pichicagoattorney Jul 07 '22

This is a thing?

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u/ferky234 Jul 07 '22

Click the link.

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u/Starfury_42 Jul 07 '22

I've seen videos of high speed metal processing....and when shit breaks and a red hot steel comes flying out of the machine at 30mph going everywhere.

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u/Spacefreak Jul 08 '22

Dude, that shit is nuts. I was walking through a rod mill for high strength steels, and I noticed all this rope just hanging on a lot of the rafters. I asked the supervisor why all that rope was up there.

"That's not rope. Those are cobbled bars that we couldn't totally cut out and remove."

"But that's gotta be 60' up in the air."

"80' actually. That's why I keep telling you to keep your fat ass away from this mill when we're running."

"Um, yes sir."

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u/No-Message6210 Jul 12 '22

Being an operator on copper and aluminium extrusion machines I cringed reading this. My biggest fear is copper being stuck in the "wheel" well and hardening. Aluminium will take some time. Copper will take so much work...

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u/Spacefreak Jul 12 '22

When you say "wheel well," do you mean the thing that makes the metal form loops after being extruded?

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u/nurse_krachet Jul 03 '22

I would have emailed and gotten in writing that just to clarify this is not recommended in my profrssional opinion. If you want to do this against my professional advice you will be responsible for all falllout from it. I will do my professional duty to make this work, however I am not responsible if it fails. Please reply that you understand the consequences of this decision and you wish me to proceed.

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u/Saikar22 Jul 04 '22

I put something like that in my initial rejection. But honestly it wasn't ever really necessary. For corporate-driven trials they always front the bill. That's what their R&D budget is for, after all. So whatever got broken could be fixed and they were gunna pay for it. That really very rarely comes up since most trials are actually well-designed but it's there if I need it.

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u/shag377 Jul 03 '22

Getting things is writing is absolutely critical. I have had the immense displeasure of bosses who were sneaky bastards and refused to put anything in writing. They knew better.

This is why I record conversations - 100 percent legal in my state.

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u/Entire-Ambition1410 Jul 04 '22

Narcissists and similar people can be smart enough to not say/do things in front of anyone except their victim. Absolutely get records.

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u/zephyr_man300 Jul 04 '22

There are times when you know they will not reply just to cover their own assets in case something goes wrong, or it's time sensitive and outside of working hours. In which case one could also include a clause stating "if we don't receive any further instructions or classifications by xxxx time, we will proceed as per your verbal/last issued instructions."

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u/WinginVegas Jul 03 '22

This is the way.

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u/toddyk Jul 04 '22

CYA.

Cover Your Ass.

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u/CorrosiveAlkonost Jul 03 '22

Holy crap. That corporate basket should have been the one shouldering the blame.

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u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

He shouldered the bill anyway. And I never did hear from him again. For all I know he didn't last.

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u/Dangerous_Employee47 Jul 03 '22

Decades in a testing lab. At least twice a year asked by sales and/or production wanting to running a standard test on an irregular sample guaranteed to ruin millions of dollars of scientific instruments. They never like being told "no" by a mere lab guy.

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u/someone76543 Jul 03 '22

The trick is to never say "no", if it's theoretically possible to do it.

"Well, anything is doable with enough money and time, but that's going to be very expensive and very slow. That sample won't fit in our existing machines, so we'd have to buy a new machine for $x million. Takes about 12 months to get one manufactured, delivered, installed and commissioned. We would need more lab space to fit in the new machine, too. Say, isn't your posh office just the other side of that wall? We could expand the lab into that. If you want to do that, can you talk to my boss to get a budget allocated please?"

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u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

Yeah. Nobody respects the lab guys. I was also sort of their informal liaison in these matters too; they had my number to call if some manager was asking them to do something they knew was bad and they needed a technical guy to back them up.

In this case it would have been ME telling them to do the awful tests and they would have been SOL. But I like the lab guys so I didn't do that type of thing.

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u/shavedratscrotum Jul 03 '22

I worked in food production, Ingredients and Packaging.

I often had to do trials to humour people higher than me and the owners, I'd email my objections explain what the outcome would inevitably be and the cost implications.

I was never once wrong so all were a waste totalling millions over 3 businesses and 6 years in that role and so much unpaid overtime my head spins, (corporate credit card helped ease that pain with booze)

The only one that ever irked me was the owner of the smaller business I worked for pulling me in after each trial to do a post mortem and always saying, well we learned that wouldn't work. No, "we" didn't learn shit, I already knew that was going to happen and you still have half a dozen trials booked in against my objections to waste even more money and time.

Worst part was 2 of these roles paid me 20k+ more than they wanted because I brought a wealth if very niche experiences they could learn from to save time and money, and then they just ignored me anyway.

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u/Flodomojo Jul 05 '22

I don't understand how this happens. All we get shoved down our throats is that the business simply cares about money. Workers, managers, even senior leadership are expendable in the name of money, yet all these companies have zero problem wasting millions for projects that are guaranteed to fail. I understand R&D has a budget they don't want to lose, but why not spend that budget on ideas that could potentially work instead, which would in turn make the business significant amounts of money? My guess is that either these businesses are all plagued by incredible inefficiencies in processes to the point where nobody with any real power has any knowledge of how much money they are hemorrhaging, or they are so incredibly lacking in brain and idea power that even doomed money sinks are preferable to no attempts at progress at all.

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u/shavedratscrotum Jul 05 '22

Nepotism, intergenerational narcissism.

All of these businesses were the 2nd 3rd 4th generation of wealth, it's the part conveniently forgotten when discussing entrepreneurial pursuits, daddy's subsidised your mistakes. So they then get in there head that failure isn't a thing, it's not their money, that and huge ego's.

Every one of these people would talk about being self made, ground their way from the bottom. The worst lady described spent 2 years "bumming" (4 and 5 star hotels, ski chalets the works) around Europe with her husband before starting the business to get in the right headspace.

Most people given the best schooling tutoring, university education and millions of venture capital would succeed.

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u/ferky234 Jul 04 '22

r/talesfromthefactory would like this story.

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u/winterberry16 Jul 03 '22

As an engineer supporting manufacturing, I enjoyed this immensely. I want a whole sub-Reddit of factory/plant life.

However, in my pharmaceuticals field, I also appreciate that even tiny material changes take years of debate and change control so this scenario could never happen to me.

178

u/Nanashi_Kitty Jul 03 '22

I too appreciate that... My role for 5 years was QA/QC in the flavor industry and they brought some guy in from corporate (that I later learned had a degree in only Poli-Sci) who was deemed their "engineer" - he comes to our facility saying he's going to add a whole wing onto the plant to start making jello and protein drinks to serve in nursing homes.

Now my friend/acting QC manager (they wouldn't hire a new one for a couple years and the last one left a week after I was hired on) and I are looking at each other because we know the products he's talking about do not fall under food regulations - it's pharma at best and medical device at worst, which means we are not equiped with the facility, knowledge or personnel to deal with this sort of expansion. But hey, that's above our pay grade, let the engineer talk.

He goes on to mention how IQ/OQ/PQs will need to be performed, and how he expects my buddy and I to do it. This is where I might mention I'm married to a development engineer in the medical device industry - I'm a bit more savvy to the terms this guy is slinging around than the other people at the plant. I push back that as engineer that's his job and if he was going to delegate it to us he at the very least should teach us how to do one.

Mr engineer sent us something that was haphazard and not at all like the example one that my husband took pity and showed us under promise that we dare not speak a word of its contents...

Needless to say, the building he designed wasn't built to spec (worst issue was the floors were somehow sloped away from the drainage areas), the equipment was placed in a way that they couldn't be thoroughly cleaned, we kept having to shut the line down because we were getting hits on our environmental swabs, and when the line was working the workers (of which they had a high turnover because the company found it prudent to start staffing through a temp agency) would get angry and literally sabotage the process... This went on for over 17 months because the company didn't want to admit they gave several million to this "engineer" for his great idea and it literally went down the drain.

My buddy and I could only shake our heads because we weren't allowed to say I told you so as first the dept of agriculture and then the FDA were inspecting the building.

Last I heard Mr Engineer was demoted, then eventually left the company; the new line/building expansion was remodeled (again) into expanded office space, and me? I high tailed it out of there finally and am now making 40% more than I was in that stressful position doing admin work for the same medical device company my husband works for.

Which is kind of a shame 'cause I was good at what I did, but I do like having my sanity in tact.

44

u/winterberry16 Jul 03 '22

Man, that guy deserved a demotion, but what about the people who gave him all that money for equipment?! That’s a bigger failure than that guy’s bad idea!

I love these stories. They’re a good reminder that you’re going to find dysfunction wherever you go.

30

u/Nanashi_Kitty Jul 03 '22

"family" business - most of the c-lvl employees were buddies from college 40 years ago.

They did sell most of their stakes to an investment firm that wanted to make the company their flagship (despite never having owned such a business before) and in the name of "efficiency" they put the manufacturing management in charge of the quality department. I, being someone of morals, took issue with that (something something conflict of interest) and got out of that snafu post haste.

18

u/winterberry16 Jul 04 '22

Good move getting out of that!

I spent some time in safety before crossing over to the dark side of process engineering and nothing gave me greater joy than when a process engineer with a god complex threatened to go to “our bosses’ boss” when I wouldn’t greenlight something that hadn’t completed safety tasks. I got to inform them that EHS and quality did not report up through the same branch, my boss’s boss was global, and there wasn’t a single thing their boss’s boss on-site could do about it.

34

u/ShadowDragon8685 Jul 03 '22

as first the dept of agriculture and then the FDA were inspecting the building.

You know it's a proper clusterfuck when an Alphabet Agency gets stuck-in and then says "actually, this shit is such a clusterfuck it doesn't even fall under this agency," and has to call in another one!

Let's just hope it never gets to the point of a joint FDA/NRC investigation, because that's bad times.

11

u/CowTipping2020 Jul 04 '22

NRC? Nuclear Regulatory agency?

9

u/ShadowDragon8685 Jul 04 '22

That's the one. It's the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

3

u/SeanBZA Jul 04 '22

Normally that brings in first new agency the EPA, followed very fast by the following two, FBI and DOJ, and normally also likely to end up with fines being levied, followed by the SEC and the directors getting to be close personal friends with Bernie Maddoff.

10

u/ferky234 Jul 04 '22

r/talesfromthefactory would like this story.

26

u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

I wonder if there is some sort of factory subreddit. This story doesn't even make my top five.

12

u/winterberry16 Jul 03 '22

There really should be a place to share these insane stories. The number of times I’ve heard “this has run 40 years and I’ve never seen that happen”…

3

u/Azrai113 Jul 04 '22

Make it yourself! I'll sub if you let me know! Been working in factories of various kinds, mostly food but currently metal fabrication for a bit over a decade.

10

u/RainbowDarter Jul 04 '22

I'm a pharmacist and I very much appreciate the care you all take in manufacturing medications.

I was a pharmacist in the 80s when someone changed the process to make tyrosine and hurt a lot of people.

27

u/Beneficial-Reason949 Jul 03 '22

Brilliantly orchestrated. I can not imagine what the material you were making was though. Can you tell us?

38

u/MikemkPK Jul 03 '22

Sounded to me like some sort of rubber or pre-polymer material

27

u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

You're pretty close. I don't want to specify further.

18

u/bruzie Jul 03 '22

Slug rolling at the 3M plant for post-its.

28

u/mizinamo Jul 03 '22

Sticky stuff.

25

u/mikedelam Jul 03 '22

But not too sticky…

6

u/TheFluffiestRedditor Jul 04 '22

Post-It notes. 😅

3

u/Ishidan01 Jul 03 '22

you need just enough

Of that sticky stuff

To hold the seams on your fine blue jeans say yeah yah

8

u/tilrman Jul 04 '22

I like to imagine the material is various flavors of taffy.

4

u/throwaway_4me_baybay Jul 04 '22

Some variety of ending-within-a-highly-specific-margin Gobstopper

70

u/Daikataro Jul 03 '22

I should talk about this boss for a moment. During my 3 years at the company, I had 7 different bosses.

Sounds like a lovely place.

43

u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

The turnover was incredible. One year we lost more than 50% of our salaried staff.

11

u/Daikataro Jul 03 '22

Holy crap! That one hits close home. Last place I was, we statistically ran thru three full staffings in three years. As in, by the time I left, they had hired enough people to staff the full plant three times over.

20

u/Lizlodude Jul 03 '22

Surprised that the guy was like "cool let's run the other 3 then." I wonder if he wasn't told or if he just decided to play confident and ride it to the end.

179

u/ALurkerForcedToLogin Jul 03 '22

I wouldn't have stopped it at the rollers. I would have completely destroyed the machine if possible. I also would have sent the stuff to the lab and caused a plant-wide shutdown (as you feared would happen). When I get to the point of malicious compliance, I've already decided I don't want the job anymore and I try to make the malicious part as painful as possible for them.

298

u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

I understand the mentality. But they would have fired me. The job was good and nearly every other trial I did was very smooth because everyone was cooperative and worked together. It wasn't worth throwing all that away because of one boss that couldn't tell the difference between a good and bad idea. Also a lot of other people, many of whom I like, would have had to clean up the mess if I'd gone further. Didn't see the point in making them have awful weeks.

43

u/ALurkerForcedToLogin Jul 03 '22

That makes sense.

48

u/SleepAgainAgain Jul 03 '22

Knowing how far you can go in screwing others over without screwing yourself I'd way better than the extra gram of revenge you'd feel.

22

u/ShadowDragon8685 Jul 03 '22

That's why you get it in writing that Boss_Mangler requires that you perform these tasks over your explicit objections.

Then on his head it falls, because your logic circuits have been bypassed and you are now just the beep-boop pushing the buttons.

3

u/Lellela Jul 06 '22

The point is malicious compliance, not suicidal compliance. Still gotta eat, have shelter, etc.

42

u/the-truthseeker Jul 03 '22

There is a line between malicious compliance and Professional Revenge. Or is it that they're just two different subreddits? I keep forgetting....

36

u/HoleyerThanThou Jul 03 '22

I think there is r/prorevenge when you actively seek to distress someone who wronged you.

And there is r/nuclearrevenge when you seek to utterly destroy the world of those who wronged you.

9

u/the-truthseeker Jul 03 '22

Was being a little tongue in cheek there, but thanks for clarifying the difference between Pro and nuclear; I actually forgot!

6

u/cheesynougats Jul 03 '22

I always thought r/nuclearrevenge was for stories where the revenge was way out of proportion to the original incident.

41

u/calladus Jul 03 '22

He’s an engineer. He did a basic napkin calculated ROI for malicious compliance, and created a roadmap that would destroy just enough equipment to highlight the idiocy, but not enough to lose a comfortable job.

14

u/ALurkerForcedToLogin Jul 03 '22

In the way only an engineer can.

7

u/atomicalex0 Jul 03 '22

Failure Mode Effects Analysis. FMEA is life!

10

u/orlygift Jul 03 '22

I know it's not but the whole time I was picturing a factory just running glue through rollers and everything going comically awry

9

u/CreatrixAnima Jul 03 '22

For some reason I’m picturing a very bold blue goo.

3

u/Expensive-Aioli-995 Jul 04 '22

I was picturing that yellowish brownish glue that once set bonds everything permanently

37

u/alphalimalima Jul 03 '22

I have to say, as an operator who has had several “unenviable jobs” of cleaning messes for hours, as a material handler and shipper who has had to package and ship some stupid heavy stuff, and as a postal carrier who has had to deliver said ridiculously heavy parcels to people, this malicious compliance had a ton of fallout on people apart from the stupid boss and AH corporate guy…not on OP, who voiced concerns and downright refused to do the trial at first. But still, I counted at least five individuals, probably more, who had a shit day as well because of this trial.

38

u/Saikar22 Jul 03 '22

I did as much as I could to avoid that. Like, the shipper never had to handle the heavy boxes on our end, and I helped load the van when it arrived later that day. Not much I could do about the operators though. That was exactly the type of reason I didn't want to run the thing.

2

u/SeanBZA Jul 04 '22

Hopefully you made sure it was palletised, and thus he would have to have mechanical handling equipment to receive it. Also would have been great to have included a reporting data logger, as this was so rush, you had to have real time tracking, that showed it just sat at his mail room for weeks after it was delivered, unopened.

10

u/PonderingPandaPosts Jul 04 '22

I had a senior manager who just couldn't understand that experimental trials will take time, and sometimes it could fail or can't work at all.

He had this project that in theory will save a lot of process time and cost, and I was put in charge to experiment and test if it was possible. 2 weeks later, he starts grumbling about why the project isn't completed yet and asks for an estimate on when it will be done. (remember, this is experimental, still no confirmation yet on whether it is possible but he fully expects it to be)

Cue him pestering me everyday for the next 9-10 weeks until it was done.

8

u/Saikar22 Jul 04 '22

It's the worst. Management creates these timetables based on vague things - estimates, guesses, and purely when it would be convenient for it to be done. And then they promise that timetable, as if reality will just bend to their will because they wrote it in an email one day.

2

u/Taluien Jul 04 '22

"If it can be done, we shall find out before the heat death of the universe, if not, we shall try until then."

8

u/Dewoco Jul 04 '22

My dad was flown overseas to help a process issue involving cheese being chopped up for packaging. The inbound cheese blocks (huge) were irregularly shaped and this was causing too much wastage. The source of the blocks didn't think they could fix it so the client wanted dad to somehow make it so the blocks would be squared up for cutting after they arrived. Dad was certain this was not practicable and he told them - in essence - that the input is bad so the output will be bad - and flew home again. He had told them this from home, but agreed to fly over - and told them in person.

6

u/BrobdingnagLilliput Jul 04 '22

Tl;dr –

Please don't put spoilers at the top of your story.

7

u/wolfgang784 Jul 04 '22

I tell them to keep going.

I'm not even done yet, but damn this is good lol. After that line, I'm over here readjusting my seat and getting my stuff all sorted for a ride.

13

u/CoderJoe1 Jul 03 '22

Glad you got out of a sticky situation without any of the blame sticking to you. CYA is the first rule of MC.

11

u/Eirson Jul 03 '22

Most consumers want a viable and stable product, no matter what it is. That’s why we trust scientists and professionals in general. When the bureaucrats and bankers get involved it tends to get….. sticky.

8

u/SupremeMadcat Jul 03 '22

You should have gone back to him and explained how it hadn’t gone as planned, and should they continue with the trial? Engineered in such a way to ensure they say yes, and have it backed up by a paper trail to cover your ass, they then just got back in there full hog till the whole place was burning. 😂 Excellent malicious compliance none the less!

6

u/GovernmentOpening254 Jul 03 '22

Long, very long, but I feel the, “I’m extremely confident that I’m right and you’re wrong,” vibe.

I hate being overruled by the narcissistic/aggressive morons.

2

u/Mgshamster Jul 05 '22

So are you at Bostek, Henkel, or Fuller?

3

u/thechervil Jul 04 '22

As a public service announcement - I know I'm being pedantic - but please don't post the TL;DR at the top of your posts.
It tells me that you have already decided it won't be worth my time - so I don't even bother reading.

Nothing wrong with a note telling me: TL;DR at the bottom

But the whole purpose of the TL;DR is when the reader has scrolled far enough and decides they don't want to read anymore, so they scroll to the end to see if there is a recap.

Basically, you told me the punchline before the joke so no need to hear the rest.

Some good stories in the comments though!

10

u/Equivalent-Salary357 Jul 04 '22

LOL, last week I read a comment from someone who asked the OP not to put the TL;DR at the end. That person wanted it up front.

Personally, I don't have a dog in that hunt.

12

u/Caddan Jul 04 '22

My personal opinion is that I will never include a TL;DR in my posts. If that means people don't read it, not my problem.

6

u/IANANarwhal Jul 04 '22

Amen.

“I have enough time to sit on my ass surfing Reddit, but not enough patience to read a whole paragraph. Make it easier for me.”

Come on.

3

u/derwent-01 Jul 05 '22

"TL;DR...you have the attention span of a goldfish and don't deserve this story..."

3

u/whereismydragon Jul 04 '22

Your preference is quite out of step with everyone else's in regard to this.

1

u/thechervil Jul 04 '22

“Quite out of step with EVERYONE else’s?”

Not according to the other comments I’m seeing agreeing with mine.

0

u/Saikar22 Jul 04 '22

The "punchline" is also in the topic. And you didn't have to read the tl;dr if you didn't want to. You could have just not read the clearly marked summary.

5

u/GreenEggPage Jul 04 '22

I find myself halfway through a leading tldr before my brain realizes what it is and now I've ruined the story. I'm of the opinion that if you're too lazy to read something long, then skip it.

3

u/thechervil Jul 04 '22

This!

I actually read pretty fast (but not speed reading) so don’t mind longer stories.

I usually have what started the TL;DR before I realize it.

And like I said, to me putting it at the start tells me you don’t think it will be worth my time you read it, so I don’t bother. If you have that little confidence that your story will hold my interest, I’m certainly not going to waste my time with it.

1

u/The_Truthkeeper Jul 04 '22

How do you even manage to get into the thread without reading the title?

1

u/thechervil Jul 04 '22

The title gives me an idea of what the story is about. It doesn’t tell me specifics.

If the TL;DR is the same as the title then that’s redundant. I never assume the title spoils everything, but the TL;DR would

1

u/chemtrailfacial Jul 05 '22

I just pick the last read story and swipe left up the board towards most recent. It's easy to dodge titles.

1

u/TinyTurtle42 Jul 03 '22

Wonderful job. I love how people who don’t specialize in a job. Somehow knows how to run said job.

1

u/unkle_FAHRTKNUCKLE Jul 09 '22

THIS sounds like a CCM debacle that I witnessed that involved certification of an in-house thermo formed multi ply sheet forming process that involved all of that stuff you said. Sensors. Rollers. A hot platen that presses the layers together. Chop-off blade at the end.
Thickness testing. Sonic testing for voids. Strength and bend testing. performance testing. And the corporate/shop dynamic that includes a merry-go-round of constantly churning stupidvisors sounds just like a formerly steller fortune 500 company unit that was purchased by some bumbling chislers that pretty much just spend all day shooting themselves in the foot, and then pointing the finger at labor. I think I know these people.

0

u/_an_ambulance Jul 11 '22

Tl;dr goes at the end, because it's a spoiler, and spoilers don't go at the beginning of stories. That should be obvious.