totally bright – exhausting, but that’s why it’s his speciality
How does a machine operator become a machine cleaner?
Maximum precision is what counts in fine grinding. Above all, cleanliness is what’s important there. My speciality is cleaning the systems. Because only with absolutely clean machines can we reproducibly and reliably deliver the quality that our customers expect from us. After all, that’s how the company has gained its good reputation. Every time the product is changed I make sure that residues, what we call impurities, are completely removed. And that’s a complex task. We often work as a team and always in four phases: We disassemble the systems and clean the individual parts with steam jets. Before assembly, the parts are completely wiped dry with special microfibre cloths before the foreman casts a critical eye prior to giving his final approval. A procedure like that takes at least ten hours per machine. But that only applies to the simple systems. In those, the machines only have about 45 parts. For the most complex machines on the other hand, we require about two days for each system, just for disassembly and reassembly. And no wonder, because in those cases some 100 parts have to be cleaned “totally bright”, as we say. We have to get right under the ceiling where the pipes run, and into the sluices. For that, I’m standing at a height of 3.50 metres attached to a safety rope on top of the screw in the mixer, and must wash both above and below. I don’t mind that at all – the most difficult thing is the assembly and disassembly. We work in three shifts. There are never any downtimes. After all, production has to continue unabated. I clean every part until it is completely free of res-idues. After that, the parts look like they’ve come straight from the factory. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years at Godding + Dressler. That’s why I could now do it with my eyes closed. But although I have to take great care, I must also work quickly. After all, we can only produce with the machines running.
I clean every piece until there's no trace of residue. The parts look like they're fresh off the production line.
Is there an indicator of cleanliness for you?
I don’t want to humanise machines. But when you’ve been working on it as long as I have and with so much love of detail, you just automatically know what matters. Every good mechanic is sure to know from their own experience: You can hear and feel, for example, whether all is in order. Or more accurately, whether everything is quite literally running smoothly. This feeling is incredibly important in my line of work. And for me, that’s precisely where the attraction lies in this work: To feel as a human what a machine needs. And then I very quickly notice whether I’m right.
Also, everyone has developed his own special tool for edges and grooves – one that’s not available to buy. Our foreman has even attached a cosmetic mirror to a rod so that he can see whether everything is clean even in the remotest corners. Nothing escapes his critical eye.
Is there a special day that you remember?
Oh yes. Once, about 18 years ago, we had a machine that didn’t drop down the product correctly. Oh what am I saying: All the pipes were blocked and the system started to screech like a crashing plane or something. I’ll never forget that noise. Despite wearing ear protectors, you could hear it all the way over at Logistics. But we didn’t panic. When that happened we really benefitted from the fact that over the course of a year we have 16 hours of practice that cover safety, what to do in an emergency and start-up processes. The customer had supplied us with the wrong raw product and that meant that the material simply no longer flowed at the planned test temperature. From that we learned that when a batch is delivered, we mustn’t just rely on the product designation. Instead we prefer to perform a second check during processing.