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Greetings fellow Scaffs and other scaffold support type people. I realize I've been away for a bit, but hey I've been working. Today's rant is on one of my ultimate pet peeves. Color coding. Since no one seems to get the flippin point and just rolls their eyes or comes up with some shitty excuse why they can't go out in the yard with a tape measure and a technical manual and go huff some spray paint for a bit, I will try and explain this in terms everybody can understand,Money. Using some rough numbers a full blown boiler crew equates to roughly a dollar and some change per second. (Yes I said second, you know those things that come in increments of 60 to make a minute) so for the sake of our argument we are going to say $1.25 per second. it's a nice round number, right? So we'll just leave that right there for a minute and move on to the actual pieces that either everybody wants to paint rainbow flags on (and while i'm extremely homophobic I don't really care if you're gay, just don't paint my damn material that way) or "we'll just leave it the way the last crew had it" even though it was rental (and I think they must read this blog because they color coded the material. (Too bad there is no universal color code, right?) So what we end up with at the site is a bunch of gear that looks like it was either painted by tweakers on a binge, or something that fell out of a fruit loops box (hopefully I don't have to pay Kellogg's for the use of the word "fruit loops") While this picture doesn't do it justice there are 11 different colors on the ends of the planks. The ledgers are about the same and , yes, even the legs have been painted. Now before everybody gets all butt hurt that I'm picking on certain people, it's not just us. Its everywhere, that's why this is in a trade specific blog and not an email. The only reason I used this picture is because it's what's outside my door and I'm way too lazy to travel somewhere else to take a picture to save somebody's feelers:)
All right now, that being said let's move on to the lame ass excuses i've either used, or been given, as to why the material can't be painted. These are fun, and remember I lumped myself in there too before you start writing your congressman or VP that I'm picking on you.
#1 - "Spray Paint is Expensive!" (my personal favorite). Yes, that whole $5.00 per can( if you buy the really good shtuff, which incidentally I don't recommend because its just a color code), when you have 180 racks of material is quite expensive when you buy it all at once. But if we had been doing this all along, you could calculate this a budgetary expense into your operating cost to MAINTAIN it rather than do the whole thing at once. You could also just keep the paint on hand and paint it as its pulled for shipment, because someone in the yard, making $12.00 and hour could paint both ends of a rack, or a bundle of plank, in about 15 minutes(which includes the time it takes to go get the paint, discuss the latest sporting scores, get a drink of water, change the song on your iphone youre not supposed to have anyway, update your Facebook status to "Ugh! Painting material, again! FML" and meander over to the rack. So given that estimate, with a healthy mark up for arguments sake, lets say our cost to get 'er done is $9.50(remember that includes labor and really good paint.) Now if you go back to the top of the page and read that a boiler shift costs in the neighborhood of $1.25 per second, that gives us just 7.6 seconds to identify the material and get it sent in the hole before we start losing money on the material. Granted this is an overly simplistic approach to the problem but let's pursue this just a bit further into reality. Let me set the scene for you, you have 22 people on your project per shift, because youre building a boiler, (sorry kids gotta go with what I know) and you haven't color coded your material because well "it's just too damn expensive". The caller calls for 12 - 8' diagonals. (Note; If your eyes just rolled back in your head because you're like WTF is an "8' diagonal"? this is probably not the post for you, may i recommend something in the non-scaffold related realm for your perusing pleasure?) Simple enough you hole guy points to the pile of diagonals and says "12 of those". The guys on the ground pick 'em up and send them, up the chain line, through the door into the boiler, up the betamax, up the chain line to the top. Where your leading edge erectors grab them and go over to put them where they go because "we got schtuff to do today!" but low and behold these are 7' diagonal and they don't fit! Uh oh. These pieces just made a 12 minute journey (very generous estimate on my part, its probably closer to 20-25 minutes) So using our round figure of $1.25 per second, multiply that times 12 minutes (720 seconds) and we have just spent $900 to send the wrong material in the hole. Now before everybody gets all " well the hole guy should have checked!" check this picture out.
There are 6 different sizes of diagonals in these 2 racks, Would you be able to tell a 7' diagonal from an 8' diagonal if I sent you out to get them "quick, fast and in a hurry'? Granted this rack is in our yard and we haven't painted them yet, and I assure you they will get painted. Inside a dirty dusty power plant, with terrible lighting (typically metal halide, which makes it even harder to discern even color coded material), with 5 people staring at you it is much more difficult to decipher which is which.
Now on to my favorite ledger size, 3'-6" ledgers. This pallet is what I assume to be all 3'-6" ledgers. Which should be Blue. (Because 3'-6" is half of 7' which should also be Blue. See what I did there?:) By looking at the pallet can you be 100% sure there are no 3'-7"'s in there,(which are supposed to be Orange BTW)? Or would you just assume that there are probably at least 7or 8 3'-7" bars in there?
#2 - "Can't paint them because it inhibits the inspection process. You could hide defects under the paint"
This one is quickly becoming my new favorite and you'll see why in a minute. Ok so let me get this straight, (keeping in mind I'm picking on the industry not any person in particular but I have to go with what's right outside my door.) by painting the ends for identification, it inhibits the "inspection process".
Ok lets examine the "inspection process" for a minute. Wouldn't the inspection process be used to weed out damaged material, i.e bent pins and ledgers?
The ledger top right is clearly bent, and while some of it may be the banding, even when I properly pop those bands that ledger is clearly bent.
The ledger immediately to its left has the pin bent to 90 degrees, which I'm assuming was to plank over it at some point. I blame us for this. If youre going to bend the pins over to plank over it, at least have the common courtesy to bend the damn thing back. It like leaving nails in wood plank, Lazy, stupid and rude. I know, I know "when you bend the pins back sometimes they snap and now the whole ledger is useless." Except a new pin with rivet retainer is $1.00 and then the ledger would be good as new with the friction lock engaging appropriately as the material was designed to do. Instead of the pin just being pushed in and not actually engaging, as it's designed to do.
The "inspection process" would include making sure the equipment is stacked properly and correctly? Would that include making sure the ledgers are stacked up right with the pins properly inserted to protect them from damage like moving them with a pallet jack? I can almost guarantee at least 2 of these pins will become victims of my pallet jack. These ledgers are upside down with the pins dangling by the retainer rivet and as the material is used and abused, (because we don't have all of this glorious material laying about so we can just keep moving it around the country right?). That retainer becomes worn and can partially engage when inverted to retain the wedge, as designed, but if you apply slight pressure to the left or right, like wind blowing across a semi trailer bed in Wyoming, the pins can become dislodged and become a nice little metal projectile at 80 mile per hour. (i'll skip the physics lesson on impact force of something that small and stout travelling that fast at a windshield, you get it right?)
So let me ask this then, "Is there a better way to see a crack in the fitting or a bent pin than standing on the end of the rack and spraying it with some paint?" Especially if it is a light color like white or yellow? If we examine how most people would paint a rack or a bundle, (this is the way I do it because I'm too old and lazy to bend over.) I pick the rack/bundle up with the forklift, grab my handy dandy can o paint and paint it when the rack/bundle is at eye level. Giving me a good view of what is what and providing for an amazing perspective on "Inspecting" my material. I can now see the ends of the heads, or the hooks, and I can see how many are bent or broken. and I can take my other friend the red tag and zip tie, or yet another can o paint, and figure out that the 3 ledgers in the middle of the rack or not going to pass my "inspection" and I can red tag them so when they get to their new home, whomever receives the material can weed those pieces out,(and I can also ship 3 ledgers that do pass my inspection so the crew building this isn't short)or I can pretend I'm not me and actually replace those pieces before shipping the rack. (What i should probably do, but like I said, I'm lazy). In my other life, the entertainment industry, Stage Rigging Company previous owner, Rocky said, and I quote, "We paint our shackles every quarter. We use cheap paint, but then we know quickly what size they are when they're all piled in a basket and we're trying to get a rig up and its a great opportunity to inspect them and make sure they're all up to our standards." This is a guy, and a company that supports loads over people heads for a living. If you've ever been to a live concert you've probably stood under some of their work.
Moving on to my final point to this wonderful excuse. "If painting the material inhibits the inspection process and can hide defects under it, how come all of the material has paint on it and how are we going to get it off?"
To put simplify this into terms everyone can understand. Color coding equipment saves time effort and money for us, and out clients. Makes us more competitive because we don't stand around all day while the new guy goes off to find his tape measure, (why is it nobody ever has a tape measure on them?" That a whole other Rant topic that I'll save for another day) so we can figure out what material we have to work with. Makes us look more professional because when we're shipping material into a new site, the clients usually see the trucks and if everything is stacked uniformly and looks like it was painted recently, and carefully ( don't let people get carried away with the paint, its a color code not an artistic statement.) It looks like we care about our material and in turn about our clients. Honestly if you showed up to me site with a truck load of mismatched shite I would be wondering just "who the hell did I hire?"