a Tisket a Tasket a Air Heater Basket

In 1990, way before deregulation, I was part of an “elite” force in a major utility. It was elite because each job title got paid one grade higher than anyone else in the company with the same title. For example a Forman in our group was pay level #9 while any other Forman were pay level #8. In addition to the higher wages our group had the most amount of overtime, one year a mechanic made more money than the senior vice president. For some strange reason, they hired me, a degreed engineer with operating experience, to be a Forman in this select group. Since I was half the age of the next youngest Foreman, I was met with a great deal of resistance

The first major job I was given included changing out the baskets of 4 pre heaters and redoing the seals. I had never done anything like this before so I decided to start from scratch. I set up my space; scaffolds and trolley beams galore. I was told just to follow the marks of where things go from previous years, however, it seemed awkward to me.

Instead of pulling the baskets, from one central beam, which had always been the procedure, I moved the one trolley beam closer to the walk way and I put a beam over each preheater in line with the baskets. By matching the angles, the picks would be straight this way required one beam to pull the baskets, and another to move the baskets in the drop hole.

We were moving an average of 45 baskets a shift. When the project manager and general Forman saw these production numbers in the log book, they were met with suspicion. We then took a tour thru the preheater when they saw how I had set up the preheater they insisted I was “padding” the numbers and they demanded that I change my set up. I asked them how many baskets a shift should I be getting they responded that I should average 27 baskets a shift. I walked them down to where all the old baskets were and we counted them and it matched with my log book entries     

Because I had proven that my log book was not padded I was able to stay with my set up. It was, however, made quite clear that I would be fired for insubordination if I went over budget.

I ended up finishing that job with an average of 42 baskets a shift with 11 people, the next pre heater I did we averaged 63 baskets a shift with 9 people, and the last was our best, 76 baskets a shift with 5 people.

Moral of the Story

How you set things up matters. Job set up is the place where the biggest “bang for the buck” can happen. While there can only be one boss, every job set up should be reviewed by different people with varying viewpoints.

Rule of Thumb

No matter the size of the project, walk it down with the responsible party. This will open up a discussion on the best options and procedures to move forward. Once the job is completed hold a lessons learned discussion and note all the things you would do differently and why so that you may improve on your last performance

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) Thirty-fourth President of the USA.

4 thoughts on “a Tisket a Tasket a Air Heater Basket

  1. Rich Boudreau

    Nicely done Jay. You mentioned a phrase that i haven’t heard lately.
    ” LESSONS LEARNED ” This just never seems to happened after the job is finished. Like the old saying ” The job ain’t finished until the paperwork is done ” should include ” And a lessons learned discussion is completed ” Rich Boudreau

  2. Bob Eklund

    Great article – I’m an air heater guy (Ljungstrom & Rothemuhle), and I’ve seen it all when it comes to pulling baskets from air heaters. APH work always looks like a mining operation that requires superhuman planning and herculean strength. Your approach used all the “angles” to conquer the beast. I’m still doing APH work – we should get together some time.


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