Thursday, 6 October 2011

Post Oktoberfest wind-down

Well there won't be a whole lot to this post since it's only been a few days and I've been working, so no wild parties or vacations.

After getting back to Bristol, I finally heard back from my coworker who I was planning on working with on Monday and Tuesday. He told me that the work was up in Manchester, which is about 3 hours north of Bristol. Since I already had the hotel booked I figured I'd just suck it up and make the commute for the two days. We were doing some seat testing which basically involves mounting a couple seats in a the chassis of a transit van (think a 12-16 seat van) and then strapping some brackets onto the chairs and giving em a nice strong pull with some hydraulic rams. Essentially if they don't rip out of the floor they pass. This particular van was fitted to be wheelchair accessible so we had to test those mountings as well. I can't tell you what company it was, but they ran into some problems. Part of it was due to the fact that they misinterpreted the agreed testing procedure in the first place and part was due to the fact that some of the seats (in some cases quite catasrophically) didn't stay put. It was an interesting learning experience as far as figuring out how to deal with a really disorganized test and do some damage control.

Nick (who I was doing the test with) ended up leaving his car up there and riding back with me to save gas, so I picked him up the next morning to drive back up, then after lunch I drove back so I could do some laundry at the hotel (didn't end up working out since the entire country of England is determined to keep me in dirty clothes) and get to sleep early since I'd had a couple early mornings, and would be having another on Wednesday since I had to drive up to Nuneaton which is also about 3 hours away, but northeast. I did some non-type approval work on trailers there. I know, I'm a type approval engineer so what am I doing that's not type approval? Well VCA, unlike our German counterparts, also acts as a technical service, which basically means that we will do the testing and write up the test report on top of giving a certificate. Generally we do both for a given customer, but occasionally we'll just do the testing if there is no relevant approval to be granted, or we could just award an approval without doing any testing if the customer has all the appropriate test reports from an approved test center. I think that's one of VCA's competitve advantages, since not every certification agency will do the testing as well.

The actual testing we were doing was on the side curtains of a soft-sided semi-trailer. Basically it was loaded up (with about 30 palattes of year old, Carlsberg 6-packs) which were then strapped to the side curtains of the trailer, which have straps running vertically and horizontally through them. Then you drive the truck such that the trailer experiences a force of half a g in 2 dimensions (forward/backward and side to side) by driving an S shaped route at about 40 kph and slamming on the brakes while going forwards and backwards. As long as the beer doesn't break through the side of the trailer or smash through the front or back they're good, it was a piece of cake. Tomorrow I'm doing a similar test, except the load will be sandbags and they won't be strapped down, so when the trailer swerves around the load will topple over and it still has to hold it in. I have a feeling its going to be a bit of a mess inside when we're done.

Today I did some bus inspecting, basically just going through a checklist and making sure it has the right size emergency exits and stairs, the handicap stickers are the right size and shape, the walkways are big enough... that kind of thing. It was a bit tedious, but that's type approval. I'll probably be doing more of that next week.

Aside from work, I haven't been doing much, mostly planning this weekend in Portugal and finding a laundromat. Oh, and walking around my hotel a bit. Why? Check out the view outside my window...

Yup, I'm staying in a soccer arena. My window is actually a sliding door which opens out into the seating area. Unfortunately there's no games while I'm here, but it's still pretty cool. Theres also a casino and restaurant attached so there's plenty to do here (though I haven't actually gone down to the casino yet, I don't think I can expense that), I've just been too tired this week to feel like doing much. Between catching up from Oktoberfest, the early mornings and the 6 hours in a car 3 days in a row plus another 4 the day after I'm pretty beat.

It's nice to be so busy.

Happy Birthday to Grandma, Jason and Tammy!

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