Composite shop organisation and quality

Discussion in 'Fiberglass and Composite Boat Building' started by veggie, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. veggie
    Joined: Apr 2011
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    Location: Southampton

    veggie Junior Member


    I am currently working for a quite big yard.

    The yard hasn't always been that big, and with the growth, untrained people have been hired and state of the art techniques have been a bit lost.

    Our hand lay-up parts are made with glassfiber/polyester.

    I have a quite big hand lay-up resin waste problem, mainly due to the workers not measuring how much resin they're preparing. The reason is that they:
    -don't know how much resin they're supposed to use for a specified amount of fiber
    -don't know how much resin they are actually using, hence don't know at which rate they are adding catalyser to the resin and often find themselve with a much shorter pot-life than expected

    I am new in the yard, and having worked with racing boats builders and epoxy before, I was used to precisely weigh my resin with a scale. Therefore I am strongly pushing for the use of scales in the shop. I also managed to make tables for the workers with all the fiber cloths we're using (production builds, hence always working with the same pieces of glassfiber), theoretical resin needed and required amount of catalyser.

    Another advantage with this is that we often end up with too high resin/fiber ratios, which can be a bit far away from what our design office used for masses estimations.

    Do you guys have any tips on how:
    -protect my scales if my shop manager gets convinced and wants to invest
    -convince workers it will be a good thing to work with the scales and take into account the theoretical needed resin values
    -train workers a bit (quite a big proportion of our guys are absolutely not qualified as laminaters)
    -keep the momentum going once started

    If any people had a bit similar experiences, I'd be happy to get some tips/critics from them.

    1 person likes this.
  2. waikikin
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Australia

    waikikin Senior Member

    From what you've written, you know what to do, get some numbers on material savings to present & engineering info on the parts against the weights targets to present also, if there's too much in the bin & too much resin in the parts proposal for change should be well received. Jeff.
  3. rxcomposite
    Joined: Jan 2005
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    Location: Philippines

    rxcomposite Senior Member

    To protect your scales, cover it with soft, clear plastic and replace it whent it gets trashed with resin. Plastic is cheaper than scaes.

    Why don't you write a quality control manual for the shop. Everything from receiving inventory (First In, First Out control. I am sure they have the FISH variety. First In, Still Here). You will be the bad guy for awhile but if you teach them on the proper laminating procedure, they will love you for it.

    Your greatest problem will be teaching resin proportions. Resins are weighed, catalyst mix are by volume (for polyseter). You will have to figure out a way to teach it simply. Posting drawings maybe.

    Teach everything by demonstrating. Fiberglassers learn by seeing, not going to school or seminar. If they did, they would have your job.
  4. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: East Anglia,England

    wet feet Senior Member

    I sympathise with the situation and you may find it more than a little challenging to modify the behaviour of your laminating team.Wrapping scales in clear plastic works well,even a clear plastic bag will help.Make sure the scales are strong enough to cope with the heaviest load you can anticipate-I have seen more than one set broken by being overloaded.
    You don't mention whether there is a bonus scheme in the workshop.My observation is that such a scheme guarantees that the laminators focus on making money for themselves and have no concerns about waste or looking after equipment.To get them onside you may have to convince the management to incorporate an element of financial reward for greater efficiency and less waste.
    One way forward might be to assess each component and stipulate a quantity of resin that should be sufficient for the job and to specify the amount of catalyst to use.By the way,do you use more than one type of catalyst?
    Good luck with the project but don't expect things to happen in a hurry and don't expect to win any popularity contests in the workshop for a while.
  5. LewisHB
    Joined: Apr 2012
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    Location: San Diego

    LewisHB Junior Member

    reply :)

    I worked in a shipyard 25 years as an ironworker......... the management allways said they were interested in suggestions,,,,,,, however it somehow allways resulted in more work for me,,,,,and being blamed for other peoples failures.......

    increased productivity expected on each subsequent job especially when the quality of the material I recieved was as substandard as the last time.........

    your question really depends on the office politics of your shop..... most bosses are threatened by someone coming into "their" shop and wanting to change things.......

    early in my work experience I was actually fired for offering good suggestions...
  6. veggie
    Joined: Apr 2011
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    Location: Southampton

    veggie Junior Member

    Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Scale protection: I'm using pieces of vacuum bag that are left over, but yes bin bags are a good idea too, especially since ours are transparent :)

    Catalyst mix and quantity of resin: if my resin manufacturer says 2% catalyst, I guess that's 2% massic that I have to convert in volume (correct me if I'm wrong). Every glassfiber piece on a part is labelled and has a specific position, so I've made them tables with a theoretical mass of resin to be used for a piece (rounded to nearest 50g so it's easy to add/multiply) and the amount of catalyst required (taking into account catalyst density, etc) in mL. They also got a table for mixing additional resin if needed.

    Bonus scheme: There is one, but temporary workers that are an important number don't benefit from it. And we just binned one of our biggest infused part that required one week of draping after infusion failure, so I'm affraid the bonus is already gone... The problem with this is that I'm also scared they'll drop excess resin on the part to make sure they got nothing left, flush it down the toilets, whatever... I was thinking I could emphasize on the fact this would be some more skills they'd have which can be useful the day they'll want to move somewhere else. Plus it's nicer and more relaxed for them to have the correct amount of resin rather than rushing/trying to find solutions to avoid making a nice 2kg jelly bucket...

    The bosses: they asked me to work on this since our resin waste numbers were litterally scary, but they're reluctant for change. So far I got a scale to run tests on a few small parts, with a qualified laminater. As expected, results are very good (could hardly be worse than by mixing resin randomly). I think they're expecting me to change minds a bit in the shop since I'm not yet contaminated by the "we've always done like this" virus.

    Quality control: the size of the yard doesn't allow me to set up something that big on my own, we've already a quality service but they're a bit useless to be polite.

    Training the guys: Every part has its own technician/manager, most of them being experienced laminaters, having worked on one-off builds, etc. Unfortunately some might be amongs the hardest to convince, so I guess I'll spend some time working with the guys down there as suggested by rxcomposite.

    Thanks for your answers!

    Any other thoughts? :)
  7. tunnels

    tunnels Previous Member

    Yes getting fired for knowing to much is highly possible !!!
    If you know more that the supervisor or the person incharge you then become a treat to him holding the possition he has . BE CAREFUL!!!
    when push comes to shove you could find yourself on th street wondering what the hell did i do !!. Post a chart with resin content and catalyst ratios in a place where it can be clearly seen by all make sure it in a plastic enevelope then it will stay readable for a week or two !!. if anyone they has one speck of sense they will use it if they dont thats there problem !!.
    Scales need to be totally covered with plastic and taped carefully so no resin can get on anywhere on anything .
  8. Herman
    Joined: Oct 2004
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    Location: The Netherlands

    Herman Senior Member

    Introducing quality control is a major task, and not to be overlooked. I have no idea of where you are in the process at this time, from the looks of it at the very beginning.

    Show the management the need for a system of some sort, by writing down some examples. (time, weight of part, wasted resin) First of all you need support from the management, or everything else is to fail.

    Then identify where you can make the biggest steps, you already identified the catalyst problem. To solve this, you need to make some investments. (hence the need for management support). Consider units like these:

    [​IMG] which do the dosing for you. this takes the complete guesswork out of dosing peroxides, and without the need for the crew to make calculations, or even being able to read.

    Next thing probably is about resin usage. This can be solved in a number of ways. Probably the most profitable is to educate the crew. Do a small seminar on fiber to resin ratio, show them and let them make some samples. In some cases you need to be a bit more selective, and pull people off the job, train them, pass your quality demands, and only get them back on the job after that.

    Above are just small steps, and these steps are basicly what is done in a natural way in most small shops, which have a small, knowledgable crew. It is when shops grow, that you can run into problems, and you need to review everything.

    The core of a real quality system is quality control. Not only control the processes, but also the outcome, and if the outcome is out of spec (specs need to be written and communicated) you need to find out where the problem was created, and figure out a way to prevent that in the future. It is all about control and tracability. Only then you create an upwards spiral, where quality is improved, which is of real benefit for the company, in terms of material usage, waste, injuries, margin/profit (you can also charge more), scrapped parts, company reputation.

    It can be a burden, especially in the beginning, and after the short term results it can take a while before you see the long term results (it is a good idea to make visible the short term and long term results, so make sure you can measure them. For example the scrapped parts / good parts ratio, resin usage / weight of parts, etc).

    In the complete process you also need to overlook the company atmosphere. If it is good, try to keep it that way, if it is bad, turn it into something good. This might mean you lose some people, or have to get rid of someone, but that is all in the game. Again, management support in that matter is crucial.

    I am sure that you can slowly turn things into a clean, healthy and friendly environment, where it is a pleasure to work, and where output is high quality parts, for a healthy profit.
  9. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    Youve obviously got the know how but no managerial skills. Ask your staff what they think should be done to cure the problem . They will probably know but they wont tell you because you are supposed to know.

    Have a meeting and ask there idea's and try to add yours, what ever you cone up with will work because they will feel it is their idea.

    Your a manager and they do the work, just 2 different jobs, do'nt try to put yourself above them or your heading for trouble as the new boy.

    It may take a while to get what you want
  10. tunnels

    tunnels Previous Member

    All these problems go to one place the person in charge is incompotent and should know and understand every part of all the operations hes in charge of !
    How can you teach your workers to do a job if you dont know the job yourself ?? thats a typical management attatude !!
    Like i said be carefull and tread softly !! you are a threat to your supervisor and the next idiot up the ladder !!. you are not even at tha bottom of the ladder yet ! I completely understand your frustration and been there a few times !! I use to learn all i could in as shorter a time as possible and then leave and on to the next place and pick the eyes out of what they knew and had to offer and move again ! :D;);)

    I am at a stage in my life where i have my feet in 3 places!!, management , the drawing office and down on the floor !!!, that the place i enjoy most and want to be ,where its all happening !!
  11. veggie
    Joined: Apr 2011
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    Location: Southampton

    veggie Junior Member

    Herman, thanks I'm looking for something like this, or scales, need to find out what's most efficient/reliable/affordable. I think you perfectly understand the situation concerning shop growth. Concerning quality management I agree about measuring (we've already got wasted resin measures in place), but considering how low we are on this particular aspect, I think I can start working on it, it can hardly be worse :). Also I'm in a big yard (100+ppl only in the composite shop) so we obviously have a quality department, but they're just not working on this at the moment. We got some internal measures, I've asked to refine these a bit (eg type of part where we have the most waste), so I'm not totally blindfolded either.

    Frosty, your approach is interesting, but the fact is that I am working mostly with virtually untrained laminaters. I am not the one who put this mess, I'd never recruit people with absolutely no qualifications at laminating without giving them a proper training and the tools to do what they've been trained for. Unfortunately someone thought it would be good to cut costs on these two aspects. Now I have to deal with it, with my bosses being reluctant on changing anything and still wanting results.

    The ideas of the staff can be good, sure, but I don't think it's smart to ask Joe with three months experience as laminater who got fired from Mac Donalds because he was not putting the right amount of ketchup on the hamburgers to come up with something to solve resin mixing and waste issues.

    One of the guys offered to demold a part with a crowbar once, so forgive me if I'm making a selection amongst ideas submitted.

    Tunnels, I'm only here on short term, so no problem on this aspect. And when I get really desperate, I already apply your method ;)
  12. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    My method of management are simple day to day management techniques. I do not suggest you ask the guy from Mc donalds if thats all you have to call on then you have trouble and might want to think about trimming bad staff.

    I suggested you hold a meeting --with 100 people you should get some ideas, if not then your in even more trouble.

    Ille say it easier, get them to do what you want but let them think it is there idea. If you say its your idea and you know more than they do then they will do their damnest to make it not work.

    Its just simple management. Its not that you dont know what to do--just to get them to do it, thats called management.

    And with English workers in southampton I don't envy you. You might by a few beers down the pub until your thought of as a good chappy.

    But if your only there as a temp.
  13. tunnels

    tunnels Previous Member

    You are in a no win situation so just do your own thing and make a really good job of everything you do and keep looking for another job , no matter what you do you will never change the crew or management and they both deserve each other .
    Me i simple walk after getting paid and dont go back !!
    I worked in a place in Queensland ,Australia that was like where you are .The guys knew stuff all and the company got some really interesting work luckerly i got to do my own thing all the time so i didnt mind and stuck it out for a while till it was time to go back to New Zealand !!. :D:p

    You might by a few beers down the pub until your thought of as a good chappy !!!
    so you need to buy into being a nice guy ?? stuff off !!! no company is worth that !! at the drop of a hat they would fire you and never even blink doing it !!

  14. tinhorn
    Joined: Jan 2008
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    Location: Massachusetts South Shore.

    tinhorn Senior Member

    I'd rather work for Frosty.
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