Gromet's PlazaMachine Stories

The Curtain Factory

by Mélodie

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© Copyright 2015 - Mélodie - Used by permission

Storycodes: Solo-F; factory; inspect; fall; machine; sewed; fabric; processed; folded; bagged; boxed; packaged; shipped; stuck; cons/nc; X

Three weeks ago, a new machine was put in operation. It is a machine that can make curtains and drapery to order. Tissue is selected from 1 of 24 rolls and 6 different types of lace can be sewed on them. Since the installation, we had problems with it, once in a while, the lace is not sewed in the proper location and customer complains. Twice the line had been stopped for a full evening as maintenance searched for the problem. Every sensor, every motor, every actuator, every wire connections were checked but nothing was found.

It is critical that this machine works properly, 2 of our competitors already operate them. Worst, the CEO is coming for a visit later this morning. It is imperative that a sample created as specified by the CEO is produced without flaw, if not, heads will roll. As the process engineer, I am sure to lose my job if it happened. A third general inspection was ordered for last night, but as I doubt maintenance would find the problem, especially since the union and workers where not happy with the machine as it replaced 15 jobs, mostly seamstresses.

This morning, I came early to work, at 7:15 I opened the report from last nights inspection and went directly for the conclusion: "All sensors, actuators and motors are working according to specifications, all connectors are properly screwed. No flaw was found. The software and computer running the machine is suspected to cause the problem. Recommendation is to reboot the computer every morning at start of the first shift". As expected, worst, maintenance has no idea how computers work, software doesn't fail randomly for no reason. The computer running this machine is not even running some software made by a company reputed for the blue screen of death.

At 7:19, I removed my jacked to leave it in my office while I go check the machine. For the CEO visit, I put on my best form fitting dress suit. I just hope I won't ruin it with grease. I started at the head of the machine. There, the machine that fabric from 1 of the 24 preloaded rolls. As the problem happened randomly with all of the rollers, I patiently look at the machine until all of the 24 rolls where used at least once. I also witnessed the operator loading a new roll of fabric on the 25th roll while the machine worked non stop. RFID tag ensure that it was the right fabric on each roll. The noise level is astounding with the motor starting and stopping continuously, arms moving with air pressure and all. I should not have left my ear protectors in the office but I didn't want my hair to look messy just before the CEO's visit. I want to give a good impression as this might help me go up the promotion ladder.

I followed the pieces of fabric as they went on the conveyor, the edges sandwiched between narrow conveyors on each side maintaining fabric stretch. The width between these conveyors is adjustable to order. I saw no problem while the width adjusted for various orders. The next step is where lace is cut from one of the 6 rolls and put on the fabric. Again, I had to wait to ensure that lace from all the rolls was used. This is going so slow, looking at all the little pieces of the machinery to be sure every thing is perfect. I slowly continued down the line toward the next station.

There between the station where the lace is deposited and the one where it is sewed, I looked at some cables going over the conveyor. Those cables are fixed on an arm extending from the sewing station. They dangle in an half circle and vibrate a bit. I continued to inspect every inch of the machinery. Then suddenly, I saw the arm moving. Yes, I am sure the cable touched the fabric as the arm moved due to vibration and the cables had more slack on the opposite loop. I ran to the other side of the sewing station and waited just over a minute for the curtain to exit. YES, the lace is sewed on crooked. The laced must have been displaced by the cables and sewed in the wrong position. 9:15, 45 minutes before the CEO's arrival, perfect, I will have time to do the repair and fix myself afterward.

I went back and took and good look at the arm. It is fixed to the sewing station by a nut and bolt. There is an empty hole beside it. Either the installers forgot to put the second bolt or they hadn't tightened it properly and it had already fallen, the other one is loose. If I call maintenance now, they will likely fix the problem only in the afternoon if not tomorrow morning. As my father used to say, "if you want something done properly, do it yourself". That is exactly what I intend to do. So I took a bobby pin from my hair, bent it a little bit, so it could fit in the hole. I then climbed on the side of the support of the conveyor, not easy with high heels, stretched over, I grabbed the arm with my left hand and put the bobby pin in the hole, a little bit (well, some) pressure and I was able to bend it so it won't fall. Next, I tightened the remaining nut, one more turn and it is done for now.

As I tried to raise myself up, my left foot slipped and I felt on a piece of fabric on the conveyor as it went inside the sewing station, my head hit hard right on a roller. That left me groggy for a short while, just long enough for the sewing head to sew the sides and shoulders of my dress to the would be curtain as the camera picked up a picture of the piece of cloth and what ever lace, me in this occurrence, was laid on it. By the time I regained enough sense, there was only a few inches left to sew near my right leg. I tried to move aside but it was too late, I could not roll on my side as my dress had already been sewn to the curtain which was held tight on each side by the conveyor. Getting out of this form fitting dress was also impossible as I could not reach the zipper in my back, in fact, I could not reach my back at all. My dress is surely ruined with all those needle holes. That would leave permanent damage. I was literally sewn to the curtain as a piece of lace. I tried to shout loud but the noise of the machine surely covered my call for help.

That is how I went with the curtain to the next station where the side of the curtain where rolled over and sewed. I could not even get the curtain out of the grip of the conveyor as there was only a 12 inch gap allowing the fabric to be rolled where the fixed sewing head were set at each side. Then we stopped inside the next station where the top and bottom edge where rolled and sewed by mobile head. "What is next?", "Oh no, the folding station." It could be my best chance to get out of trouble as it is where the curtain is not held as tight as other station, except that the machine was so fast, I could not do anything before the curtain was folded on each of my sides and all of it ended folded on top of me pinning my arms to my sides. I didn't even have time to realize what as happening that my legs where folded back on top of me then my head was pushed upward and forward toward my breasts and my leg bent at the knees.

I was propulsed forward to the automated bagging station where the curtain with me trapped inside was pushed in a plastic bag, sealed and then shrunk with heat. Luckily, the fabric enveloping me protected me from the heat. As the top of bag I was now trapped inside was going toward the next station, probably due to the unusual height, was caught in the equipment and a hole was made in the plastic, ripping the top layer of the folded curtain letting me some air to breathe. Next, the packing station, this is where all the individually sealed curtains composing an order are stack before being placed in a box from one of the 5 different sizes. I fell in the biggest size box on top of another folded curtain softening my landing. I barely fitted in that box. When the box was closed, pressure was put over my head, pressing my jaw to my chest. Perfect, just what I needed now, I could not open my mouth anymore.

I felt the box moving on the conveyor as a shipping label was printed and affixed to its top. The box I was in was redirected and felt in one of the waiting big mail bags. I stayed there for a while until the bag was full and automatically closed before being moved to a metallic cage ready to be put on a truck and sent to the post office. I tried to shout multiple times but the little grunt I could do was muffled first by the curtain, then the little bit of noise escaping the box was further reduce by the bag. As it was rare that anybody came to this area during normal operation, and the ambient noise level, the chance that someone would hear me are, well, nil. I could not even move being tightly held by the folded curtain and the box.

After a few hours, I felt the cage being lifted and moved inside a truck. I was now enroute for the buyer of the curtains. Unknown to me, the tag on the bag said, "Japan".

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17.04.15

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