Saturday, 7 April 2012

I become a progress chaser

Volume 2 – a new life begins - chapter 7 – a job does not guarantee a good future – part 3 – I change to production control – post 65– taken from chapter 32 – I become a progress chaser - consisting of 10 pages from 64 to 73(420 to 429 ) edited on Saturday, 08 October 2011

A new department was to be created to control production and this appeared to have good prospects for advancement. I had done this sort of work before so saw it as a golden opportunity to get ahead and so I applied for a place in this new office. I was successful and joined the new Production Control office which was to have about five ladies in it initially. They were recruited from local people and were all experienced in clerical work. Their job was to record all orders received and the details of their movement through the factory recorded until they were finally dispatched to the customer. In charge of the office was an office manager, who liked to call himself Assistant Production Control Manager. Then there was me the Progress Chaser with a job they said was of utmost importance; when I commenced this new work I was told that I was the only one who could assess the time it would take for an order to be completed. It would take dedication and hard work they told me, I had to know how long each process took, how much work was waiting to be done in each department, and any other factor that affected the delivery promise I would provide. I was the only one that was allowed to control the production, so that my estimations and promises were be accurate.

In the beginning I really enjoyed this job, I was suited to it and good at it, and by working hard I soon had the whole thing at my finger tips. My delivery promises were always good, in fact I usually had the goods out the door a day before they were due, and that earned much approval from most of our customers. There were problems at times, such as machine breakdown, and operators off sick, but I had the measure of that by having easy jobs ahead of schedule, and halting them when necessary, while keeping the urgent or essential orders moving on time. I could do, and was doing, a good job which I thought would earn approval from management; I could see myself up with the bosses yet, having proved my worth and earned that pay rise I needed so much. My ideas were good in theory but there were other factors which soon began to intrude on my smooth running operation. The problems that came to plague me originated from a number of sources, some of them I was able to deal with, but others remained a headache. In fact some of these problems grew to unmanageable proportions and would cause me trouble till the day I left the job.

One of my problems was the office manager Ron Uren, who more often than not tried to live up to his position. I never discovered where he came from, but he wasn’t a Welshman, though he may have been recruited locally. He was a short stocky man who, like many small men had an air of belligerence about him; in his case I suspect his manner covered a feeling of inadequacy which made him constantly bully the staff and try and assert himself. When he tried to establish his authority over me the battle between us began, a combat that I won because he eventually left me to my own devices, and concentrated on the ladies in the office. My victory did not come overnight it took some weeks to establish, with the early skirmishes taking place nearly every day. Ron was going to show me how to do my job and intended interfering constantly, I maintained that he had no say in what I did and that I would only take orders from the manager Tom Hodgeson, who we both knew showed little interest in what went on around the place.

My view was that Ron was the office manager in charge of the clerks, but I worked outside the office and had to be independent, he disagreed insisting that he was the Assistant Production Control Manager. Being the pompous little man he was he even tried to make me call him Mr Uren whereas I addressed him as Ron, this particular battle became very heated at times. The more hot under the collar he became the more I rubbed it in, calling him Ron in a loud voice much to the amusement of the ladies in the office who hated the sight of him. We never went upstairs with our dispute but it would be my guess that he would have tried to get backing to bring me into line. When he finally gave up his efforts I assumed that he had been told that I was right and he was wrong.

The other problem I had with Ron Uren was his inclination to make promises regarding deliveries. It was impossible for him to change delivery dates without throwing the whole system into chaos, and it was not his job to do that anyway. It took him a while to accept that he could have no say in what I did, but in the end he recognised that his authority ended as the office door.

There were others who had the same attitude as Ron Uren thinking that they could decide what work would be done first; I suppose it was to be expected with a new system that everyone thought they could have a say in what should happen. The worst of these interfering people was Mr Anderson the manager of the manual production shop. He was elderly with many years of experience and he certainly knew all about the technical aspect of moulding, grinding, polishing and packing the various products that we made. He was the manager and I had to bow to his authority over the men and machines that were doing the work, where we had a difference of opinion was again in regard to the order in which items would be processed. He was a manager of the old school who thought that his word was law, and could not conceive that a young chap like me could have a say in anything important. It took Mr Anderson a long time to adjust to the reality of my involvement and accept it, though he did eventually, that is he had no option but to live with the changing rules, but mentally he never agreed with them or approved.. Sadly it soured his liking for me as a person in the process, he was never other that rude and offensive to me afterwards. Believing that he was ruler of all he surveyed, he expected obedience, respect, and no argument, so is it any wonder that he was hostile to me when I made it clear that I was going to do my job come hell or high water.

Individuals I could do something about but attitudes and rigid opinions I could not; there was nothing I could do to change the way many saw me, nor could I change their resulting determination to keep me in the place assigned to me in the pecking order. I had been around for nearly two and half years and everyone knew me as a security man, a job that was not very high in the structure of the organisation. Until the day I left for good there were many that had never changed their position on where I belonged in the organisation. The opinion of many I am sure was that you could not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It never made any difference how well I did my job; that counted for nothing in the eyes of those who had made up their mind, determined that they would never recognise me as being anything but a serf from the lower regions.

The problems and difficulties I have mentioned above were manageable, but the one difficulty I could do nothing about was the interference I was subjected to from the sales office. These people were seen as the most important in the whole organisation, the part they played was so important that they were treated accordingly. The rules did not apply to them and they could break them with impunity; it was disgusting the way senior sales people did what they liked and rode rough shod over everyone including me. It was madness really because they changed a well organised and well run factory into made it a total mess. You can well imagine the sort of thing that happened, sales would get pressure from an important customer, who would threaten and bluster until the sales rep gave in and promised them a totally ridiculous delivery dates. Then they in their turn would try and get someone to meet the promise they had given, they would coax and bully anyone and everyone, usually ending up with me. To comply with their wishes would throw the whole schedule of production out which in turn would destroy every other promise we had given, so naturally I refused. Later I would go about my work only to find that the sales chap had gone into the factory and physically changed things to get what they wanted. This was a ridiculous state of affairs and I objected to their boss, to my boss, to anyone who would listen, but it made no difference. Everyone gave me the same answer, it was vital that the sales office were allowed to keep the customers happy, so they went on doing it, and our delivery promises kept going down the drain. When the orders failed to go out on time I was the one that got it in the neck, and it was not good me telling them why; they knew the reason anyway. Management wanted their cake and eat it and when it didn’t happen I was the one that got dumped on, while the people in sales escaped unscathed, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth.

When I got this job I had thought I was on a good thing, now it was beginning to look as though I had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. With the way the job was being run I was in the worst possible situation; they were not out to get me though it seemed that way, anyone who had my job would find themselves in the same boat. All I could do was work on and do the best I could; I even continued to believe that my efforts would earn me some recognition, looking at it now it is laughable that I really thought I would get pay rises and even promotion. I might have gone on thinking this for years, but I did have one little piece of luck that changed my life, and my whole view of my situation as Chance-Pilkington Co Ltd. The useless Personnel Manager Mr Brian Love was finally recognised for his valuable services and promoted to some higher and better place. In reality I did not know what happened to him, but it was safe to say that it was more likely that is what happened. If fair play and honesty had prevailed he should have been kicked down the road all the way to St Asaph for his pathetic performance, but I am sure that was not the outcome. The replacement of the Personnel Manager would not have had much bearing on my situation under normal circumstances, but as fate would decree it, this change was to affect me extremely.

The replacement for the inept Brian Love was one Horace Foster who was a different kettle of fish all together. He was hard working and diligent chap who I liked very much when I met him; he had the one attribute that all men in his position should have, an interest in people, especially the people who worked for the company. Horace was easy to talk to and in my opinion he was an honest man who told you how things were, in other words he was straight with you and this was apparent. I think it was one lunch hour that I bumped into Horace and we talked casually until I said to him that in spite of the difficulties I was having with the Sales Office, I still had high hopes that I would earn promotion. Turning to me he gave me an odd sort of look then said: “It is my job to keep you and everyone else happy, but it seems only fair that I tell you that you will never get promotion.” This came as quite a shock to me so I asked him why he was so sure about it, and he told me that the company policy was to recruit all management staff at Head Office and they would only consider people with university qualifications.

This news stunned me and I said: “So I am wasting my time am I?” His answer was as you would expect in the affirmative, but he did not want to see me leave so he added that a new office was to be opened and there could be some prospects there. They were going to introduce a Time and Motion Study Office which would be well paid and with opportunities to study and gain advancement. Put my name down for an interview he said, it was the only opening that was going to get me anywhere.

A couple of weeks later the T & M experts arrived and carried out the interviews, which included mine. The first thing they told me was that they would be in charge of this new office and they were looking for a couple of additional staff; their demeanour told me immediately that they knew who they wanted and it was not going to include me. Their attitude was cold almost hostile, it seemed apparent from the outset that they had rejected me before we had even begun the interview. They asked me what experience I had and why I thought I could do this sort of work, to which I replied that I had been given work of this nature in previous work I had done; I had read some books on the subject so knew what the goals and objectives were. What were these books and who were the authors they asked, and I replied that it had been some time ago, so I could not recall the titles or the authors. The look on their faces made it quite clear that they did not believe me and so had concluded that I was not being truthful. The interviewers did not try very hard to hide the fact that the interview was a waste of their time, and it was ended rather abruptly and with little ceremony. Needless to say I did not get the job, and soon observed the people who began this new work were known to each other and friendly in a way that was well established.

There was no future for me in the job I had, I could continue to earn a mediocre salary, but I was not going to achieve the good life, there was no use pretending otherwise. There are many others that have found themselves in the position I was in, but with no way out they just had to accept it. It appeared to be no different for me but I had learned that there is always a way of solving problems, and I would solve this one somehow. The solution I came to was a drastic one, I would take an enormous gamble and emigrate; look for pastures new where a man would be given a chance, and was judged by his ability to work and do a job rather than by who he knew.

In retrospect I can now see that my decision was a rash one, with nothing having changed why would any other country or employer give me a chance? But I thought I had it worked out; for years I had been looking over the fence and seeing greener grass, finally circumstances had pushed me to this momentous decision. There were some factors that I knew were essential if this very difficult task was to be achieved, the most important of them being that Jackie had to be willing to do this, without her approval it would never be a successful venture. In our relationship we shared everything so she was well aware of my feelings about my job and lack of prospects. One thing I really liked about our relationship was the way she took an interest in all the things I thought important, what is more she had something intelligent to say on the subjects; she was not just a pretty face. She understood my desire to get ahead, she wanted that also, she knew any success I might have would be to her advantage. We had talked about moving to New Zealand many times before, everything we had heard about the place and the people had been good. My Aunt and Uncle had departed for that destination, following in the wake of their friends who had sent glowing reports of their new life in Auckland.

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