P&W's - Florida Research & Development Center
THE BOOK ON FRDC - MY LAST 16 OF 36 YEARS AT P&WA
1961 - 1977
ORCHARD HILL / GLASTONBURY - A MECCA FOR ENGINEERING's "TOP BRASS"
In 1950, when we moved from Haddam Neck to Glastonbury, and had our house built in Jock Littel's Orchard Hill tract of land, we unknowingly were landing in an area heavily populated by high ranking, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft "top brass".
I'd had occasional contact with quite a few of these Big Wheels over the years in the course of job projects that required working anywhere thruout the plant. There were a lot of "Rug Men", a term used in the "Senior Engineering Caste System", to designate a person high enough in management to rate not just a private office, but an office with a rug -thats Top Level Prestige- Executive Payroll personnel.
Apparently my department, Industrial Engineering, had a pretty good reputation among the top brass. Tho, as a mid-level Group Leader in our department, I at first felt out of my element among so many "Wheels". However, we were accepted, and welcomed, in the neighborhood and in a short time on first name basis with many of our new neighbors. Graces interaction with the wives, primarily thru her close friendship with Elenore Littel, her League of Women Voter activity, and the fact that there were many children the same ages as our boys, brought us into the local activities, and we were invited to join the Orchard Hill Club.
The P&WA families living on Orchard Hill had pooled resources to buy a wooded tract on the "Hill" , with a nice brook running thru the tract, to create a neighborhood recreation area. The brook was dammed to make a natural swimming pool -- deep enough for a diving board, a building for clothes changing built adjacent to the pool. Ultimately the dammed-up / "run of brook" swimming hole was replaced with a "cement pond", a couple of tennis courts built, fireplaces for picnics and club parties added, and a parking area at the entrance to the site. A prime, private, gathering place and recreational location --- with most of the work done by club members, lots of Engineering talent.
FLA RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CENTER
In 1957, word spread that P&WA had bought a 9000 acre site in Florida, way out in the boondocks of Palm Beach County, to build a Research and Development Center -FRDC- for some kind of "hush-hush" project. Shortly, the Company tapped several of the Orchard Hill Club members - to manage this project, purchase materials, oversee construction, interview and hire workers, local or countrywide, and get this project rolling.
One of our closer neighbors, Chuck Roelke, was named to be General Manager of the new FRDC plant. Chuck's son Robert and Rick were classmates and best friends. Chuck had asked me on several occasions to go bowling with he an Robert at the local alleys. I knew he was high up in the Executive line, but it was still a surprize to hear that our friendly good neighbor was now General Manager at the prestigious new FRDC "hush-hush" plant.
Then in November 1960, my boss called me into his office with word that P&WA wanted me to transfer to Florida. In the short span of 3 years, FRDC built this hi-tech facility, and had over 6000 people working. The "hush-hush" project's contract costs were out of hand, and Home Office Hartford management came to my boss, Mr Joe Motycka, for help in controlling costs. Mr. M did not say how I came to be chosen for this transfer / assignment, to form an Industrial Engineering Department, reporting to the General Mgr. First to get Shop Mfg costs under control, and then to troubleshoot anywhere and everywhere thruout the plant, wherever Dept Mgrs indicated problems.
A good half of the total population at FRDC were "Engineering" personnel - and rumors were rife about a strict Caste System that dictated where you sat, how close to the windows, according to your job level in Engineering. Even to where you could, or should live, according to Rank. I was reluctant to enter this hotbed of intrigue, but Mr. M said I'd not have any problems and urged me to take the transfer -- a chance to move up. One thing in favor of the move was that Grace would be rejoining several wives that she already knew, and not going cold turkey into a strange environment. We sold our home and moved to Florida, the first week in 1961.
WORKING AT FRDC
On the first day at lunch in FRDC I gained substantial "standing" in the plant hierarcy. A few heads turned when Chuck Roelke, General Mgr, came over to greet and eat lunch with me in the Cafeteria.
When the first payday rolled around I had a problem. Plant Security held up my paycheck. In checking out my background they noticed that my Birth Certificate listed my first name as Edward, not Elwood . Big deal, after 20 years with total clearance thruout the tight security plant in E. Hartford, but FRDC was a VERY tight security plant.
We saw a lawyer who prepared papers to officially change me to Elwood -- and then Security let me get paid - as Elwood. I knew there had been a hassle with the priest who christened me but not the details. Apparently he'd not approved, or by mistake, filled out the birth certificate as Edward rather than the Elwood the folks had chosen for me.
My desk/dept was located in the main mfg office area. Engrg Operations made up about 5000 of the total 6000 people at the plant, it was where the major cost problems were located and a logical spot to place my group. Tho I reported directly to the Gen'l Mgr, I was a staff member to the Chief of Engrg Operations, along with Managers of the major operating areas - Mfg Shop, Assembly, Test, Quality Control, Plant Engrg, Mat'ls Engrg, Computing Lab, Purchasing. Executive Payroll Staff Mgrs - all "Managers" except me, Supv of IE - a little fish in a big pond. The staff members aired their problems at weekly staff meetings. Their problems became my job assignments.
Shop costs were the primary concern and I selected 6 top rated machinists out of the shop, trained them to develop Labor Stds for shop work, tailored to the very low volume of parts mfg in the R&D shop, and to Estimate Time for shop work orders based on these Stds. The shop foremen welcomed the uniform yardstick we provided to help them manage their depts. Along with our Estimated Labor Stds.. giving the shop foremen a better handle to control shop work, I was able to persuade the Production Control group to release somewhat larger lot sizes in many cases, and this too enabled better shop performance to reduce costs.
Personnel / Employment brought in several I.E.s for interview and I selected four to work on problem "projects" identified in other plant areas. They quickly were inundated with work as Dept Mgrs came looking for help to solve their problems.
Our small group did make a difference, and while in the initial transfer I recieved a disappointing very small boost in pay - going from the top of my labor grade in Conn. to a low spot in the better rating at FRDC -- raises came along rapidly. Mr. M's prediction proved to be right, both Grace and I were happy. Supv of IE was an enjoyable, busy and rewarding assignment.
REORGANIZATION & A BUDGET SYSTEM FOR FRDC
Then, in about a year, there came a reorganization in top management. Chuck Roelke had done an excellent job in managing the startup of this facility, dealing with the local govermnent agencies, establishing a good rapport in the area, hiring local talent wherever it was available, and the plant was operating in good fashion. Now the home office wanted more "Top Level Engineering Personel", from the home office, in charge.
Chuck went back to E.Hartford as an Exec. V.P. and we had a new Genl Mgr - Bill Gorton, a no nonsense, top level Engineer, and a new Chief of Engrg Operations, Alden Smith - Both neighbors and Orchard Hill Club members in Glastonbury. Son Jim had often baby-sat for Bill Gorton, and Alden's son was a close friend of Rick's in Ct. With this change, my dept became officially part of Engrg Op - reporting to the Chief of Engrg Op.
One of Alden's early assignments to me was to establish a Budget System to enable him to keep track of costs thruout Engrg Operations. I quickly learned we were talking about a Budget well in excess of a Hundred Million Dollars Annually. Scary, for while Grace & I had always lived to a "budget" of sorts, developing a formal, detailed system to control this staggering amount was a formidable challenge.
I roughed out some thoughts for a Computer Budget application and conferred with the Computer Lab Mgr.. We had used his programmers to develop some Simulation "Monte Carlo Games" on earlier Test Area projects with good results, a new facet for his programmers, invaluable in solving complex operating problems, which also enhanced his Lab standing. We had a good rapport, and he agreed to lend me a Programmer for this project -- another big new application for his Lab.
We needed Accounting (timekeeping) involvement to collect the cost data, and the Comptroller, liking the preliminary outline, gave us the go-ahead, on condition that we make it a Plant-wide application, not just for Engrg Op. Even with a very good system programmer, it took quite a while before the kinks were ironed out, and we had the first acceptable trial Monthly Budget Report.
Now, since it was to be a Plant-wide Budget System, the Comptroller wanted it under his control. Acctg set up a four man Budget Control Group, and each of the Major Dept heads also created a full time position to monitor their portion of the total budget. All these new positions were at least as high, and several, higher on the pay scale than I.
My boss said I could / should monitor the Budget for all of Engrg Operations, an added "spare time" chore, and keep him advised on where we had any budget problems. C'est La Vie.
ANOTHER ADDED "PART TIME" ASSIGNMENT
When I first came to FRDC, the Chief, Engrg Op. had an Aide, Ed Baldwin - also an ex-Orchard Hill neighbor, who took notes at Staff meetings, drafted internal memos for the Chief, had two or three girls who filled in as stenos wherever needed. Ed was promoted to serve as Aide to the new Gen'l Mgr and Alden asked me to also take on Ed's work "temporarily". A temporary part time chore that lasted for 14 years.
Each year, the Contract Administration (legal) dept gave the General Mgr. a report detailing all R&D Contracts in hand for the coming year, and the Gross Dollars represented, including an Overhead Expense rate, to complete this work. The G.M. then notified major section Mgrs (Design Engrg -Engrg Oper - Personnel - etc.) regarding their share of these Contract Dollars for the coming year. BUDGET LIMITS for the next years operation. Contract Adm. was conservative, and would not include any promising Contracts under negotiation. Very often their Contract Dollars would be insufficient to cover, or maintain, the numbers of people working at the plant.
A potential "layoff" situation - mild, or severe - nearly every year.
Now, since I was familiar with all dept. operations thruout Engrg Op, and his "main man" (his words) on budgets, Alden asked me to take his new Gross Budget numbers, and come up with recommendations on how to live within budget for the coming year. How many people, and what kind of people would be affected by a necessary layoff, also where best (in what depts) to make these changes - if and when it became necessary.
My ensuing "bad news report" was never popular in Staff meetings, as any talk of layoff was anathema to the Dept Mgrs. While Alden made sure they understood that he'd requested my advice, some "big wheels"openly resented that this "little fish" should recommend layoff in THEIR bailiwick. After discussion, with agreement reached on numbers, each Mgr was charged with preparing his list of (layoff) names to meet the tentative upcoming budget.
Hopefully added contracts would be, and often were, secured - before any actual layoff became necessary. Planning for the next years operation remained an annual nightmare!! With the plant dependent on a multitude of tentative small or large R&D contracts - some short term, others long term I found this to be a rough tough challenging task. An interesting, if unpopular, "part time" job exersize each year.
WE TAKE ON A SUGGESTION PLAN FOR FRDC
With contract costs improving nicely, Alden thought a Suggestion Plan could bring further cost benefits, and as Ind. Engrg was an independent dept, already working thruout the plant, I could add this to our dept agenda - another new project.
I thought I was already pretty busy, but asked to have the Dept Mgrs provide a list of good people, from which I'd interview and select a Group Leader, five or six suggestion Investigators, and needed a Secretary to assist with the mound of clerical detail a Suggestiion Plan involved. From this list I first picked a Shop Foreman, one I'd had earlier dealings with, and arranged a weeks visit for him with the E. Htfd Suggestion Dept. To see first hand how they operated. Went over with him my tentative choices for investigators, and let him again interview this group and choose five, to later be his investigators.
Once more I enlisted the Computer Lab services, and was able to borrow the same Programmer for this task. Together, we worked out an operating plan, to classify and code suggestions by type, as related to Design, Shop, Assembly, Test, Quality Control, etc. With every suggestion sequentially numbered on receipt, and given a short title related to its content, the Lab could give us a weekly listing by type for easy reference to identify duplicate suggestions, a backlog listing of open items, and a list of all accepted and implemented suggestions to date - including pertinent data for each item. Our dept was a good customer for the Computing Lab, and the Lab was in turn a great help to us.
I gave my Group Leader free reign to handle his group, told him to discuss any problems with me, meet once a week to keep me on board with progress, and to then review reports on implemented suggestions ready for presenting to a "Blue Ribbon Committee", who would then decide on monetary awards. This Panel met monthly, my group Leader did all the work. I had him meet with the Committe and present his reports for their action.
The Plan got very good reception. We recieved a large, steady influx of suggestions, the group worked well together and did a creditable job on investigation. There were several major awards out of the first years operation, an expected number of "rejects", and there were some "complaint type" entries that we forwarded to Personnel -their bailiwick- not ours.
I had elected not to attend monthly meetings of the Award Panel. However the Group Leader, at our weekly update on progress said he was getting flack from suggestors. Their ideas had been implemented, but no award made after 2 or more months -- on potentially high award items. I thought it was time to see what caused this unseemly delay on making a well deserved award.
It developed that the Committee could not agree on the amount to be awarded. Due to the nature of FRDC work it was not possible to put a definitive dollar amount on savings. Decision was, of necessity, a subjective decision. Without unanimous agreement these items lagged in Commitee.
After listening to the heated discussion on two of these laggards, without agreement again, I proposed a routine to classify the value of suggestions, as small, medium, or large as they saw fit. Each class to have upper dollar limits, with several graduated steps within that class. Without unanimous agreement established, each to vote on the step they considered in order, and an average amount then be approved to close out the item expediently.
I emphasized that expedient closure - after implementation - was essential to the continued success we had experienced. Without timely decisions out of the Committee, we should probably consider closing out the suggestion plan's operation, as untimely delay was bringing dissention thru the plant.
Ed Baldwin, who chaired the meetings as a non voting participant, agreed with me. Ed relayed my opinions to his boss, Bill Gorton, a no-nonsense Genl Mgr. Bill asked for a copy of the reports in question, made an arbitrary, generous decision on the awards. He acknowleged that the operation had brought substantial benefits, but he had other things to be bothered with and told Alden we should close out the program, directly.
Ed and I were delegated to decide on awards for any remaining items, in line with my proposed schedule, and Ed issued a general notice to effect closure. We picked up the Suggestion boxes, completed checkout work on all the open suggestions on hand, reviewed the reports with the Group Leader when they were ready, agreed on award dollars, and closed out the operation.
The entire group was quickly picked up thruout the plant, with 18 months of valuable experience added in all areas of the plant, and many valuable contacts made in the course of their work on suggestions.
GLASS CEILING -- BAD NEWS
One day, the boss asked me to stay after a regular weekly staff meeting. Not unusual, as we often discussed things coming up, or progress on projects.
I was taken aback when he announced that a George Ditmar was being appointed as his Aide, and my dept would now be listed on the depth chart as being under his supervision. It developed that my dept was to be listed this way in order to justify the Aides job rating! I should continue to monitor the budget, and report directly to him on budget matters. The new aide would not be involved in the budget.
I said he'd just confirmed something I realized for a long time - that lacking a college degree, I worked "under a glass ceiling" - however I'd handled that assignment, over a period of some 14yrs. It distressed me that my "part time" work, over such an extended period, now warranted a full time executive job rating, a private office, and most important that I be a vehicle to justify this high rating. Not exactly good politics, but then I never was an office politician.
After lunch I just told my right hand man I'd see him in the morning, and took the afternoon off. Talking this new development over with Grace, she said I'd been there a long time (35yrs), we had no debts, if I was unhappy on the job lets take early retirement now, and we'd manage OK.
In the morning I went in to see the boss, told him I was dismayed by the latest change, and I'd take early retirement as soon as convenient to him. He asked that I not make a hasty decision, to come back in a few days and talk it over. Then, a day later, Ed Baldwin - aide to the Genl Mgr -- stopped by to visit and talk. He'd got word that I intended to take early retirement, said as long as I was in good health, without being able to go into specifics, it would be worthwhile to stay on for another year. Trusting Ed, I took him at his word and settled on staying for "one more year".
All thru the next year I never heard word one from my new "supervisor", and had no occasion to confer with him. I ran my dept as tho no change had occurred, except that I no longer attended weekly Staff meetings.
THE "GOLDEN HANDSHAKE" - FINISH FOR A 36 YEAR CAREER
In mid-year, rumors spread about a new retirement policy being in the works, and then a General Notice did announce a new policy, to take effect in January 1977. A "Golden Handshake" option for long term employees. Friend Ed, aware of plans for this new development, and with the GM's approval, had given me good advice. To wait for the better benefits due in a short time.
At last, some good news!
With almost 36 yrs of service, the new plan would let me retire at 62 yrs of age, on full pay, with continued health coverage for both Grace and I, until age 65. I liked that, and in early Sept. notified the boss I'd retire in January (incidently the end of my "one more year"). My salary, at the top of my pay scale equaled the salary of the lower Executive rating, next step higher than mine, but the perks for the Exec rating were much greater - higher life Ins coverage, higher retirement schedule, health coverage after retirement - so much for the glass ceiling.
I gave notice about 10AM, and at 4PM had a phone call from one of my ex-suggestion investigators, now a Supv in Plant Engrg. Ernie had a work order to move me from my dept to a location outside his bosses office.... Did I intend to keep my same desk, or should he get me another desk? Surprised at this bombshell, I said I knew nothing about it, but would get together my personal things and leave the desk behind.
Went to see the Chief, who told me I would be on "special assignment" for the ensuing three months till retirement. So, rapidly was I removed from all responsibility, taken out of my dept, and reassigned to a dead end spot - after 36yrs of dedicated effort.
A "company man" - so much for loyalty and dedication!!
I knew that "special assignment" really meant I had nothing to do for the next three months.
Returning to the dept, I informed Gene Rice, who I'd been training to take over, about this unexpected bombshell. Now it was after quitting time and most of the group had left for home. I could not even call the group together to tell them I was being transferred out of the dept. Gene gave them the news in the morning.
I checked in at my new "special assignment" location.
Adding insult to injury, my "supervisor", who had never contacted me for any reason earlier, now phoned, and asked if I'd introduce the new IE Manager (note the new title) to the people in my dept as he did not know them by name. In anticipation of my notice to retire, a new replacement had been hired, and stashed away, awaiting the day to take over. So I met my replacement and introduced him to "my family".
Over the next three months, with nothing to do, I'd check in mornings, and leave -- whenever. I joined a local golf club, and with time to burn, learned to play some "serious" golf -- played often enough that I was invited to join an established, regular foursome, made some new friends.
The dept, "my family", arranged a very nice party to celebrate retirement properly, and on that scheduled day, after a host of people stopped by to say goodbye, I turned in my badge and walked out of FRDC.
Not the most pleasant end to a dedicated 36yr career at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft - or, as renamed, United Technology.
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