Of the many things I have learned while working as a technician at Kennedy Space Center, the most important and most challenging one is managing your time. A typical shift at KSC is about 8 hours long, but if you take into account the time off for meetings, breaks, answering emails, etc. your actual workday to perform your primary tasks is about 6 hours. That’s not much time to start, work, and complete a job. I thought I would share with the technicians and soon to be technicians what I’ve learned to be successful in getting through my day.
Before doing the job:
- What jobs will you doing that day? Usually your shop lead will give you your assignment for the day and it’s up to you to get off to a good start.
- Read the Work Authorization Document or WAD. What does the job want you to do? What certifications does the job require? Are you certified to do the work? Do you have your cert card with you to prove you are certified?
- What process covers the job? Find the proper process that applies to the job and either set aside the book with your tools or print out the paperwork. Read the process; don’t assume you already know it or have it memorized.
- What paperwork will you need to print out and add to the WAD? Get the paperwork printed out and verify the process version matches the version in your process documents.
- What tools will you need to do the job? After reading the process you should have a pretty good idea what tools you need. Are all the tools in your tool bag already? Do you need to visit Logistics to pick up materials and tools? There is nothing more wasteful of your time than having to stop your job in mid-work to go find a tool, material, or another page of paperwork. Set aside the tools and materials you need for the job beside your process and paperwork.
- Where is your job going to be? Since I worked on the thermal protection system of the shuttle, I needed to know where my tile/blanket/cavity was located on the ship. After all, there are only 24,000 tiles alone on a typical shuttle! Print out a map of the location on the ship for your job and go find it before moving everything there.
- Check out the work area. Is there room for all your tools and other items? Will you have to stage some of the things nearby? If so, you will want to lay out your items in the order you need them to make the flow of the work go smoother.
- Safety. Do you need a harness, goggles, smock, etc.? Are you required to tether your tools and if so, then place tethers on all the tools you’re going to use for this job ahead of time.
- Have a bag handy to place waste material in and set it aside with your tools.
- Will you need a Quality Control Inspector for your job? If so, this would be a good time to put in a call for one. Let the QC see where you’re going to be working and have them go over the WAD and other paperwork with you. A QC is there to help you follow the process, not “ding” you. I at first had a problem with someone looking over my shoulder while I worked, but have learned to value that “second set of eyes.”
- Take all your paperwork, processes, tools, etc. to the worksite or the staging area. Set up your bag to place waste material in. Tape off and cover anything you need to avoid any accidental damage to the ship or hardware you’re working on. If you are working above the floor, then have some sort of catch/drop barrier placed below your work area and the floor to ensure nothing falls on the ship or people below.
Doing the job:
- Be aware of your surroundings while doing the job. Always be mindful of your safety and the safety of others.
- Make sure you have adequate lighting to work in. As my friend Larry Tanner used to always say, “Light is your friend.”
- Clean as you go. Nothing worse than to be standing in a pile of trash and potential FOD while working. Once you produce waste, pick it up and put it in a trash bag. You will find there is less to clean up after the job ends.
- Always refer to your process and WAD.
- Stamp as you go. Stamp the WAD as you complete each task. DO NOT STAMP AHEAD OF YOUR WORK STEPS. That can get you into some big trouble.
After the job is over:
- Go over your paperwork and ensure that everything that was to be stamped has been stamped and dated.
- Clean up your work area.
- Return all tools and unused materials to their proper places.
- Go back to your work site and do a final walk down ensuring that nothing has been left behind.
- Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
If any other aerospace technicians would like to add to these suggestions, please feel free to do so in the comments section.