Demmi is an intern spending her summer at Hillsdale Fabricators, Alberici’s steel division.
Last week, I followed our Plant Manager, John, around the fabrication shop to better understand what each of the machines do and how they work. I soon observed they varied greatly in age and purpose. Bending, drilling, punching, sawing – you name it – they did it and many even had multiple functions. While I was there, I also had the great pleasure of meeting many of the impressive steel workers at the shop.
The maintenance supervisors – Steve and Jeff– effectively hold the shop together. Should any issue or dilemma arise with the machines or facility, they are ready to meet it. For instance, the K5000 (one of the machines) had a malfunction, and immediately Jeff solved the problem. The two of them know these machines like the back of their hand and neither is the sort that backs down from a tough problem easily. What’s more, they know how to use their resources and go above and beyond to find a creative solution. For instance, when they see a safety feature that is added onto a new machine – like guarding the electric wires in the k5000 with sheets of plastic – they carry it over to the older machines so that they can evolve and have a more extensive safety aspect to them.
One day, I was able to climb a ladder and sit where people used to operate the cranes. I even had the opportunity to drive one back and forth. As I am terrified of heights, this proved to be an amazing, nerve racking experience. The operators of the past must have had great talent as it is a completely different view from here. I saw Jeff, in a man lift, near where the brakes lay, changing the location of the brake pads by welding them to the track further up. Steve was at the bottom looking out for sparks and fire hazards. A new machine was being placed at the bottom. Working together, they manipulated where the crane would stop. I am thankful to Steve and Jeff for allowing me to see the facility from this unique vantage point.
I was later introduced to Art and John, who have been working together for over 40 years. It was instantly obvious to me that they made a great team. They showed me the ropes and let me get my hands a little dirty. This was one of my favorite days so far. I had never operated a gantry crane, and they were extremely patient with me. They showed me how to properly connect the hooks and which way to move. This crane operated in six directions — North, South, East, West, up and down. The seasoned crane operators can move smoothly in two directions at once, while it took me second to adjust. Although I moved slowly, I was still impressed with the size of metal I was moving. I felt a little bit like Hulk to be honest! Not only did they show me how to move the beam but how to flip it around, so they could work on the opposite side.
After we flipped the beam, they instructed me on how to read the drawings and mark up the pieces before welding them together. The beam was previously marked by the machines, but Art and John still double checked everything. Once the piece was ready to be tack welded they clamped them together to keep everything precise. Again, they double checked their work and made any slight changes. Before a proper weld was performed, a tack weld was applied to keep it in place for the welder. This is shown by the three little dots on the photo below.
My first tack weld was a little sloppy. I wasn’t expecting that amount of force when starting. Art told me that the trick is to do small circles and just relax. By the end, I noticed marked improvement in my skill.
I am very thankful for the time I spent with Art and John. They not only showed me their trade but how to do any job with a smile on your face. Additional takeaways include being as precise as possible and putting your best foot forward. I want to give them a huge shout out for being so patient and teaching me their trade.
Demmi is one of our Alberici interns sharing her experiences this summer. You can read her first post here. Interested in learning more about Alberici internships? You can read about Jake and Crystal’s experiences, or click here to learn about opportunities for students and recent graduates.