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Friday, July 8, 2011

How times have changed

As I mentioned the building I work in yesterday in my post, and all of its little hiding places.  Several things come to mind about how things have changed.  Originally this building was built in the shape of a Giant U.  This allowed the rail lines that run up to the building to bring train cars into the middle of the U shape in the center of the building to be unloaded from the inside of the building while one side of the building did shipping and the other side offered an enormous retail outlet for the public.
The people who built the original structure in the early 1900's built this place to last for a long time.  In the nineteen-sixties they filled in the train court up the middle with concrete and put a cheap crappy roof over it.  It is an insult to the rest of the structure!  I say it is a cheap crappy roof because the building maintenance people have a full time company that does nothing but cheaply patch leaks and bad spots in the roof covering the old train court.
The concrete that was poured into the train court area in the 1960's is sinking in one area.  A subcontractor was called in to cut a hole in the floor and see what the problem is.  They were expecting to cut through ten inches or more of steel reinforced concrete when they went to cut the hole in the floor.  It was discovered that they filled the train court with dirt, a layer of gravel, a layer of sand, one screen mesh of steel and three inches of concrete poured over the mesh.  My driveway at my house has more steel and thicker concrete than the floor in the center of this warehouse!
Again, this is an insult to the original structure, which more than likely will last another hundred years.  The part they added in the 1960's won't last another twenty years.  It all comes down to workmanship.  Caring about what you building and creating.  Doing a job right and to last.
The other major thing that I think about when walking through this wonderful old building is when this place was built, cutting edge electronics were components sealed in glass tubes.  This place has many control rooms where panels are still mounted with manual throw switches, massive turning switches with multiple brass contacts underneath the control arms.  There are banks of large industrial fuses.  Most of these control panels date back to the original DC power system which controlled the original power of the building.  Then there is the original AC components which were added much later and caged in because they didn't have rooms specially built to house them because they were added later to keep up with changing times.
During our relatively short stay here compared to the age of the building we have added state of the art security electronics throughout the warehouse.  There are electronic beams, motion sensors, and security cameras.  You can see the new computer lines that run multiple T1 lines into our computer room.  The cables that run out and support the Wi-Fi computer hot spots which allow us to use wireless communication with the various laptops the warehouse men use to enter the bin locations for the tires they are putting away.
One of the newest innovations coming out in tires is RF tags built into the tires.  These tags are flat and contain a tiny battery and computer chip which holds all the information about that tire.  Scanners can be used at the doors of the building to record every time a tire passes through a door.  This can be used as a double check against the manual checking of received inventory as tires are coming off a truck.  It can also be used to check the tires loaded onto a truck against the invoices for the customers and what the computer says we billed and shipped.  These tags can be pinged by a computer and they all will ping back, allowing for an almost instantaneous inventory of the tires in the building.  With three sensors situated throughout the warehouse, it will be possible to ping a single tire and using the three sensors our computer will be able to triangulate the position of the tire within the warehouse and tell a warehouse person where the tire is at.  We aren't up to speed with all of this technology yet, but our company is experimenting with aspects of electronic computer controlled inventory systems to help us maintain our high level of accuracy with our ever growing inventory of tires.
Basically I just love how we have melded with the old building.  Community Tire was founded in St. Louis in 1935, and fairly recently moved from their Broadway location in St. Louis to a new state of the art facility in Hazelwood, MO.  Our Kansas City branch has been in the area since the early eighties and I have been blessed enough to have been a part of the company for nineteen years, working on my twentieth.  Seeing the changes in our company, the changes in technology in just the last nineteen years has been amazing.  Walk through this place and look at the hundred year old electronic equipment and it is mind blowing how the times have changed.


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