[Post by Chuck Krugh, April 7, 2023]
This week, I want to talk about what I believe should be an important aspect of our individual career paths – pride in what you do.
As you all know, the trade I started my career in was not shipbuilding. Using my training from the Army, I built a career in aviation manufacturing, and now I’m learning shipbuilding. But the values that guide how I approach my work have been with me a long time – even before joining the Army.
Because my dad passed away when he was young and I was pretty young as well, I felt a need to take on more responsibilities around the house. My mom taught me and my siblings to work hard, to take pride in what we did and to understand that there is no free lunch anywhere – you get what you work for. Feeling that sense of responsibility and listening to my mom and wanting to support her more, I believe, helped me internalize her words of wisdom. As I look back, it is clear to me now that her guidance has become the values upon which I have built my career.
When I went into the Army and started learning my trade (aircraft repair), I gained new respect for how important my work was and how it could affect someone else. The Army’s training on the right way to maintain our aircraft was very strict with lots of repetition. We had to follow the directions step by step. I had been working with tools on bikes, cars and trucks since I was young. I saw myself (and still see myself) as a mechanic, so using tools wasn’t foreign to me. In fact, it wasn’t until later in my career that I fully understood how good the Army’s training was.
Probably the most valuable thing that the Army instructors taught us was how important our work was and how it could affect others. They drilled us to follow the maintenance manuals and told us not to memorize anything related to the maintenance. I was 20 years old and didn’t really understand why they were so tough about following the procedures. It seemed very inefficient to always have to open the maintenance manual (which back then was the size of the old telephone books) to conduct each and every task. We had to read the maintenance instructions not only before starting but also while conducting work. However, the Army knew we had to learn to conduct maintenance the same way every time and not miss a step.
When I started turning a wrench on civilian aircraft, the training was very similar to the Army – we had to use maintenance manuals and follow instructions completely without skipping any steps. As part of my job, when I finished my work, I had to sign off the work. If I was working away in another hangar, I had to sign off the work under my Airframe and Powerplant certificate, what we called the “A&P.” That meant that I was personally taking responsibility for the work I had just completed. In aircraft maintenance, ALL maintenance activities are required to be documented in a logbook. The book is filled with entries for different maintenance events – tire changes, oil changes, fuel filter changes, engine work and so forth. Why? Because the consequences for my work as an aircraft mechanic could hurt or even kill someone. I was accountable for my work.
This job was probably a good fit for me personally because, as I described earlier in this blog, I have always taken a lot of pride in my work and still do. I always made sure that my work was right the first time, because the consequences of my work mattered. Poorly done, sloppy or incomplete work could have catastrophic consequences for the pilot and passengers who would fly on the aircraft.
The aircraft industry is a 100% trust industry. The pilot trusts that the maintenance guys repaired the aircraft correctly; passengers trust the pilot and the mechanic to do their jobs accurately to make sure they and their families are safe when then fly. We place this trust in the pilot and mechanics every time we step on a commercial aircraft.
We also work in a 100% trust industry. Although the ship doesn’t fly and gravity doesn’t affect it in the same way as an aircraft, each and every job that we do on the ship is critical to the safety of the ship and crew. When that ship leaves the pier, its crew is relying on us to have built that ship correctly. Every weld, braze, nut and bolt install, hookup, cable run, panel fit up – every part of the ship and the design of every system – are critical to the safety of the ship and crew aboard it.
Design, Engineering and Planning lay out what we need to do, and then the work of each trade makes the ship a ship. It is your pride in your work – the fact that you own it and make it right – that makes Bath Built Best Built. Safely Execute High-Quality Work is more than just a slogan, it’s what we do – day in and day out – to create a safe and reliable ship for our Sailors. Thousands of miles from land, they need to know that their ship will not only protect them and our country when it counts, but will bring them back home to their families.
I believe the amount of pride you take in your work determines how well you do it. The more pride you take in your work, the more ownership you have in it. I never want others to find a problem with my work. It has been a point of pride for me to deliver a quality product made correctly. However, in those cases where I have made a mistake, I owned it, fixed it before it became a potential problem and actually appreciated learning from it. Owning mistakes and then learning from them show our commitment to not only our job or trade or craft but also to doing our work to the best of our ability. Taking ownership and admitting to having made a mistake isn’t always enjoyable, but it is an important part of the process.
When I look at the ships we build, I am immensely proud of what we do at BIW. When I look at the welds, pipe joinery, equipment installations and the incredible details that go into building a massive ship, I am truly amazed!
If you don’t feel this sense of pride in your work and amazement at what we produce, it is important to me that you think about our mission. We need everyone committed to building the safest, highest-quality ships. We need everyone to own their job responsibilities and carry them out to the best of their abilities each day. We need everyone to Safely Execute High-Quality Work!
See you on the deckplates!
Safely Execute High-Quality Work
President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works
Click here to view more From the Helm blog posts.