Work Smarter, Not Harder

[Post by Chuck Krugh, January 22, 2024]

When I was younger, I only knew one way to work and that was hard. As I have matured in my career, I don’t mind working hard, but I prefer to find ways to work smarter. As with everything, a Google search of Work smarter, not harder reveals an untold number of ways, tips and techniques to accomplish this.  While most of it is probably academic, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about what it means, along with some examples.

I’m sure, like me, you know what it means to work hard. You probably think of hard work as physical work that might make you sweat, but that would be only one type of hard work. Maybe you think of it as a long day working on a complex project. Maybe it’s a job that you’ve never done, one that causes you to do work you’re unfamiliar with or didn’t plan on doing for that job. Or maybe, it’s not knowing the shortcuts that the old timers knew. Hard work comes in all kinds of varieties depending on our jobs or activities.

Sometimes our hard work comes in the form of doing repetitive work, day in and day out. In the context of our daily work, we generally get caught up in repeating our work in the same way we have always completed it. After all, it may be the way we learned how to do it when we started with the company or had been trained by someone with more experience. Once it is a routine, it becomes hard to break or try a new way. I believe part of human nature likes stability and consistency. It provides comfort and even a sense of safety when we know what we need to do. There is also the fear of the unknown: What if I try something and it doesn’t work? No one wants to fail. For these reasons, we generally stick with our work habits.

During the last several weeks, I have seen examples of some of our team members working smarter, not harder, by developing tools, fixtures and jigs to make their jobs easier. Using these tools or jigs on the job creates a standardization of the part’s production, a higher level of quality and a faster process.

Let me describe what I’m talking about. In the industry that I came from, we used specialized tools extensively for the reasons I noted above. When you are building an aircraft, precise tolerances, standardization and repeatable quality are not just nice to have – they’re required!  Can you imagine getting on an aircraft and the parts don’t quite fit, are out of tolerance or made with poor quality?  Remember, if something breaks at 35,000 feet, gravity will take over…So, the use of tooling to work smarter is baked into my DNA.

Any tooling, fixtures or jigs that you use to increase repeatability, increase quality, conform to engineering and decrease build time at the point of execution is by definition working smarter.

Over the last several months, I have seen examples where our trades teams are using more tooling to make their jobs easier. Here are a few examples of working smarter:

  • Mechanics on the Panel Line and at Structural Fabrication are working together to develop a “cassette” tool that will lift three T-bars at one time and on the needed pitch so they are ready to set in place.
  • The people working in the aluminum area of Structural Fabrication have developed several fixtures that allow them to fabricate rungs. These are a complicated part as the steps are built on the “diamond” and not the flat part of the aluminum bar, with multiple angles and compound cuts on a single surface.
  • Crews at 5 skids are going over the top with tooling and making adjustments in the work environment to make their jobs easier. I went down to see them last week and they showed me seven improvements that they have made to work smarter, not harder. They implemented tooling to hold parts in place for welding that are aligned with the welding sequence; created a jig to eliminate rework associated with flanges and sight glass alignment; and worked with stagebuilders to make adjustments in scaffolding to give more clearance for welding – just to name a few. They are very actively looking for opportunities to improve and have seen the value of working towards making their jobs easier.

These are just a few of the examples of our team coming up with ways to work smarter, not harder. I know there are more improvements happening in our yard, and I’m on the lookout to celebrate with our team as they make improvements in our build process.

These examples are primarily focused on our production team improvements, however I know we are improving in other areas as well. Other disciplines are finding better ways to conduct their business. I will highlight some of those improvements in future blogs.

Work smarter, not harder! See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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