direct question and add value
Good Morning Everyone,
When working at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan as a contractor, I was responsible for manning, operating, and maintaining Fuel Hydrant Pump systems and storage to hold over millions of gallons of aviation fuel. Part of this responsibility was doing closeout accountability before the end of the day. When I was new to the company, I made some mistakes, such as sticking the tank and measure them by feet, inches, and fractions to 1/6. So, that means that the accountant in the control center would be affected. I would get blamed for it because once the number converts into gallons, they would input these numbers and turn them to the Defend Logistics Agency (DLA). And if this agency sees a discrepancy, they would have a field day and may report out Fuels Management Team for Fraud, Waste, and Abuse, and other misconduct since they have to report these numbers the same day. So, this is a very demanding task that less than 100% accuracy is intolerable.
Well, mistakes are corrected, and the more I proceeded with this procedure to stick the tank. I mean, this is not difficult, but for some reason, our Fuel Hydrant Fuel department would get the bashing from the Fuels Management Team (FMT). The Area Manager would be the frontline on getting the bashing, and in return, we would get the long, detailed meeting, especially about me, that I was not doing my job, and they threatened to let me go if the mistake happened again.
With the benefit of the doubt, the immediate supervisor had an assignment to be there with me and watch me stick to the tank for two weeks. So, it turns out perfectly fine that I stuck the tank correctly. However, sometimes there is a human error for this procedure when personnel is rush to fill the aircraft on demand. In this case, it would cause an accountability error because when a Fuel Distributor driver goes into hooking up the pantograph pipe and filling the aircraft, the fuel in the tank storage will cause such movements. Hence, when the fuel is being sucked down to the pipeline onto the aircraft, you have to wait for 30 minutes until the fuel settles down, getting accurate measurements.
Yet, the Fuel Control Center (FSC) personnel is still getting fuss about it every night. And would always be knocking hard on the door and walking in with their night shift management like they are some kind of mob, thinking they would do something to me in hoping for me to be fearful of them and forcing me to accept the mistakes which I didn’t. I always have my knife with me just in case workplace violence erupts to coerce me. After all, this is Bagram, and many things do happen, and I am not about to be a victim. One of the bad days of my life, and never forget it! The next morning, I told them what had happened the night before with my immediate manager and supervisor and gave them the ultimatum to quit this arduous job. They were furious about this that they demanded further investigation.
Months passed and what we discovered was that many of the Fuel Distribution drivers were the ones inputting the wrong numbers, including miscalculating fuel variances (gain and loss). The worst part is that one of the Fuel Control Center personnel was letting this happened and inputting their numbers anyway. So, I could get angry and retaliate, but I just left this alone because they assumed with my past mistakes in the operations, they made me a scapegoat for their mistakes. So, the next time they pointed at me, I refer them to my supervisor and hang up. Most likely is their department was very relaxed on their people, which causes them to make an uneducated guess without reading the guidelines and procedures on recording and calculating the fuel gallons distributed.
Thank you for reading and have a great week!
STUDENT 2 (Patrick):
In your business experience have you observed major errors as a result of false assumptions? What happened? Can you identify the point, or decision, of “no return” and suggest a possible alternative decision that may have brought a satisfactory result?
I love story time. Many years ago I was stationed in Germany as a mechanic. This was really the typical mechanic job and I was still relatively young in the military. We would intake a vehicle, inspect it, troubleshoot, and then perform any required repairs. Part of the job was also determining whether or not a vehicle was at or nearing the end of its life. To do that we would have to go through every single nut and bolt of the vehicle and assign costs to determine if the cost of keeping it rolling would exceed just buying a new one that won’t need much maintenance at all. Enter SrA O’Brien. He doesn’t like waste. He like efficiency and getting the most “bang for your buck” on every purchase in order to be a good steward of resources. I perform the inspections on a vehicle and write everything up. Without doing anything other than reviewing the paperwork, our E-9 (most of you know what I mean) sent the vehicle to get refurbished and put back into service. About a month later I get called into the office. I am not given a chance to speak or rebut anything and am told that I am being decertified on multiple tasks related to my inspection because the vehicle was “refurbished” but it cost three times what I put down. I was in shock. There was no way this was happening because I thought I had been so thorough and done all the right research. It turns out that one of the companies that we were using to do our depot maintenance was grossly overcharging for parts and work; doing completely unnecessary complete paint jobs on vehicles that had minor scratches and blemishes. This wasn’t discovered until about two years later though so it never really helped me to hear that it had happened. For perspective, a complete paint job on a truck is going to cost around $5,000 overseas. The “point of no return” was the E-9 assuming that every outside organization was working to our benefit and not their own. He didn’t trust his own people who he was responsible for training. The better course of action would have been to investigate what the company did and why they were doing things that we never asked them to do. It is completely possible to have faith and trust your people but also spot check work to ensure it remains at the requisite level.
STUDENT 3 (Chuck):
Mistakes happen all the time, from the superintendent with 30 years of experience down to the fresh trainee just learning a new job. This is what we call human error. It can range from simply using the wrong part for a critical fix, or from hearing the wrong information and doing the required work completely wrong or out of compliance.
I work in a very technical field, non-destructive testing (NDT). As technicians we are required to pass certification tests, and then ensure we follow up with paperwork accurately. NDT techs perform industrial inspection on anything from piping of all different pressures, to structural steel of skyscrapers. I thought it was necessary to include this information as it highlights simply how critical it is to ensure errors are minor if any do occur.
The most common mistake I see is that of miscommunication. I have personally been handed work to complete for a day’s worth of inspection, only to realize the work given to me was for the wrong piping system. While it was directly my fault, had I listened to the concerns of the coordinator handing me the work I could have realized there was an issue when I got to the job site. The coordinator could have also been more careful and not have rushed the situation to ensure that I get the work and get out the door to accomplish what he needed done.
My best solution for this type of situation would have to be confirmation questions from both superior and subordinate. This would allow for precise planning of the needed work to be performed, and it would not have led to a 24 hour delay in the inspection results.