A Day in the Life of a Panel Shop
By Garrod Massey
Our panel shop is a bustling place, full of dedicated craftsmen working hard. It’s definitely not a place that sits still. So, choosing one “day in the life” is pretty tough: no day is the same.
But if I had to craft a “typical day” in our custom electrical control panel shop, it might look like this:
The shop opens and like most workplaces, there is a premium placed on coffee drinking. After everyone drops off their lunch bags, jackets and other items, we head to our work stations. You won’t see fancy clothes: pants, jeans and tee shirts are the unspoken dress code here.
Picking up from the day before, our shop employees get to work. Paula Zangari, Zach Fothergill and I visit each shop worker to get a sense of where they are in their projects and answer any questions that might pop up. It’s a congenial and friendly shop, so these conversations are productive and really move our projects along. Music is important in the shop but you won’t hear it; most everyone listens to their own tunes as they work, courtesy of iPods and earbuds.
Paula, Zach and I handle emails, call customers and consult each other about inventory (Paula); the status of panel fabrication (Zach); and wiring progress (me).
Break time. Nearby Inta Juice is a favorite. So is King Soopers grocery store. Back at the shop, we’ll take a few minutes to rest and then it’s back to work.
One of the shop guys asks a question about a schematic that’s a tough call. We want to get it right. Instead of leaving the shop employee in the dark, I have him call the customer with me. Together, we hear what the customer is thinking. We discuss possible options and then make a decision.
Lunchtime! After grabbing lunches from the refrigerator or nearby fast food places, we gather in the lunchroom. Watching YouTube videos, talking or just relaxing makes for a nice break in the day.
An engineer stops by and asks our opinion about a panel build. We make some decisions and answer more questions from the engineer. Satisfied, he heads back to his office.
Unless it’s very hot or cold, we try to keep the shop doors rolled up so we can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Another reason we do this is so customers know they can walk in at any time and check on the progress of their panels. Just recently, a customer told me how they really liked visiting the shop; they said it was fun and that they felt very comfortable.
It’s time for me to safety test a panel that’s just been finished. Before I do, though, the employee who built it will go over the schematic on his own. He’ll check his work until he’s sure it’s correct. Then, it’s my turn to test.
On his side of the shop, Zach’s crew is checking measurements on panel material before cutting. If ever there’s a reason to “measure twice and cut once,” this is it! You don’t get a second chance to recut a panel.
The last of Paula’s inventory arrives for the day, via UPS. She’ll unpack new materials, log them and then place them in the warehouse.
Zach, Paula and I will make the rounds one more time, checking that everything is on track. We’ll make a game plan for tomorrow’s workload. And then everyone will clean up their work stations.
It’s time to shut down for the night, although some days we’ll stay until 4 p.m. to get the job done. It’s been a great day; we’ll do it again tomorrow.
Garrod is UCEC’s Operations Support Manager.