In my career across various fab shops in the southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas between 1986 – 1999 and 2003 – 2004, I worked at all different types of companies. Some companies treated employees well, some places treated the employees like crap.
There are a lot of things that set companies apart from each other. Two of the most important have to be management and benefits. Working conditions are also important, as well as safety. But if you dread going to work because your supervisor is an asshole, it makes for a bad work situation.
I have worked for my share of assholes, and I have worked for my share of great people.
Its going on 8 years since I left the welding field. In all, I spent close to 15 years building ASME certified pressure vessels and heat exchangers. I worked on everything from cyanide to water service heat exchangers and vessels.
There is something about working with your hands. At the end of the day you can look at the pressure vessel or heat exchanger and say “I built that.”
The two companies I miss working at, Allied Fabrication in Rose City Texas and Industrial Equipment & Engineering in Sulphur Louisiana.
[Related Article – Welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana]
Allied Fabrication in Rose City Texas
I went to work for Allied Fabrication around 1995. I stayed with them until I was laid off in July 1999. The economy was in a turn down in the summer of 1999, the company needed to let some people go, and I was one of the people cut from the payroll. Leaving Allied was one of the most depressing times of my life. I enjoyed working there so much, I was emotionally devastated when they let me go.
What made working at Allied so great? It had to be the management and the people I worked with – Dale, Carlton, Guy, Thomas,,, they were all great to work around. Dale and I had many discussions at lunch time about working. I am pretty sure I aggravated Dale a great deal. And if I did, I apologize. I never meant any harm, I just wanted to have an intelligent discussion. Dale was a great guy to work for.
While I was working at Allied I was also fighting alcohol addiction. I would drink until around midnight, get up at 6am and go to work. Its difficult to be honest about my faults. It was my own fault that I was laid off at Allied. The cut backs, mixed in with my tardiness from drinking late into the night made me a prime target to be cut loose.
Here we are, over a decade later, I look back and wish I would have done things a lot differently. If you enjoy your job, treat it as such.
One of the things I really liked about Allied, there was no night shift. You could leave your tools on the table and nobody would steal your stuff. Some of the places I worked had over 200 employees. If you did not lock your tools up at the end of the shift, everything you left out would come up missing. You did not have to worry about missing tools at Allied.
Industrial Equipment & Engineering in Sulphur Louisiana
The other fab shop I enjoyed working at was Industrial Equipment & Engineering (IIE) in Sulphur Louisiana. Out of all of the companies I have ever worked at, Bal Sareen is one of the best people I had the honor of working for.
When I was working for IEE in 2003 – 2004, if we went a month (or was it two months?) without a lost time injury Bal would cater the employees lunch. When Bal asked what we wanted to eat, a bunch of us would say we wanted steak. Its an inside joke. Bal does not eat beef. So we got pork steaks. When the employees said they wanted steaks, Bal would laugh and say something like, “ok, pork steaks.”
Bal ensured we had a clean and safe work environment. I do not know of a single time that a workers safety was ever put at risk.
Not only did I work for Bal in 2003 – 2004, but I also worked for him in 1987 – 1991 while we were at Ohmstede in Sulphur Louisiana. While Bal ran the Ohmstede Sulphur shop, holy crap we worked a lot of overtime. There was one time we worked so much overtime, I fell asleep on a flange (we had been working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for probably close to 2 months). Someone taped me on the shoulder woke me up. That someone just happened to be Bal. I was so glad he did not chew me out or fire me.
After Bal opened his own shop, I was glad he slacked up on the overtime. Overtime makes for a good paycheck, but we need family time as well.
Around 1990 I dropped a flange on one of my fingers. The weight of the flange slamming on the table split my finger open; not bad enough to require stitches, but bad enough for the supervisor to send me to the hospital.
The next day Bal called me to his office. We talked about the injury, what went wrong and how to prevent future injuries. Bal told me, “when the kids on my sons little league baseball team do something wrong, I make them run laps around the field, do I need to make you run laps around the shop?”. My reply was something like “no sir, I will be more careful.” Bal said something like “ok, go back to work.”
Here we are around 22 years later, and I can honestly say Bal Sareen cares about the health and safety of his employees. Bal, Calvin and Cecil are great people to work for. Bill was a great person to work for as well, but Bill died from cancer several years ago.
Industrial Equipment & Engineering sets an example that other fab shops should follow. Low stress environment, good benefits, job security, clean and safe work areas.
Besides the way Bal treats his employees, I admire how much time he spends in the shop. Every morning Bal and his supervisors will make their daily walk-through. Bal will walk through the shop, ask about certain jobs, want to know the progress of the jobs, talk to the workers, see how things are going. No other plant manager I have ever worked for paid as much attention to the shop as Bal. The last time I worked for Bal was in 2004. I do not know if he still does his morning walk-through, but I imagine he does.
Bal, it was an honor to work for you. Kevin, you have a great dad.