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0852 Working in a Factory

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 852: Working in a Factory

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 852. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there and take a look at our ESL Podcast Store with a lot of wonderful courses for you. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast blog.

This episode is a dialog between Tony and Amber about working in a factory – a place where things are made or manufactured. Let’s get started!

[start of dialog]

Tony: The plant manager says that you’re the new kid.

Amber: Yes, it’s my first day.

Tony: All right, you’ll be a line worker like the rest of us. Here’s your workstation. What you have to remember is that output and productivity are the most important things around here.

Amber: I understand, but...

Tony: Watch out for that forklift! You have to watch where you’re going or you’ll ruin our safety record.

Amber: Sorry. When will I get trained to use this machinery? I’ve never worked on an assembly line before to mass-produce anything.

Tony: I’m going to teach you, so pay attention. The other thing you have to worry about around here is quality control. If you don’t do things right, you’ll hear about it.

Amber: Okay, but...

Tony: Hey, sit down! As I said before, if you’re not careful, you’ll get your head taken off in this factory. Now, try to pay attention.

Amber: I’m trying, but it’s hard to do when my life is in danger every other minute.

Tony: [sighs] Rookies!

[end of dialog]

Tony begins our dialog by saying to Amber, “The plant manager says that you’re the new kid.” A “plant (plant) manager (manager)” is the most important supervisor in a factory, the most important boss. “Plant” here refers to a place where things are made. A factory, which is in the title of our episode, is also a place where things are made. The two words mean the same, “factory” or “plant.” When I say, “things are made,” I mean, typically, physical things – chairs or cars or doors. We’re not talking about computer software, for example, but the actual computers, the physical machines would be made in a plant or in a factory. Tony refers to the “plant manager,” calling Amber the “new kid,” meaning the new employee, in this case. It doesn’t mean that she’s actually a child.

Amber says, “Yes, it’s my first day.” Tony says, “All right, you’ll be a line worker like the rest of us.” A “line (line) worker” is a person who has a “low level job,” we would call it, not a very important or complicated job – usually, working on what’s called an “assembly line.” An “assembly line” is when you are making some product, some thing, and everyone does something in order. Often, you’re all standing next to each other. So, I may put in the first screw and I give it to you, and you put in a bolt, and then you give it to another person and they put a cover on, and then they give it to someone else, and you’re doing the same thing over and over again all day. That’s being a line worker.

Tony says to Amber, “Here’s your workstation.” Your “workstation” is the place, of course, where you work. It’s usually a small area, maybe a desk, but not a complete office, not an entire office of your own. In a factory, your workstation might just be a very small table, for example.

“What you have to remember,” Tony says, “is that output and productivity are the most important things around here.” “Output” (output) is what a person or a machine produces – what they make. A big factory may make thousands of telephones, cellular telephones, mobile phones, everyday or even every hour. That would be their output. “Productivity” refers to how much work you get done in a certain amount of time. When productivity increases, workers are able to produce more with the same amount of time. So, instead of producing a thousand cell phones a day, the same amount of workers with the same amount of time, produce ten thousand new cell phones. This is an increase in productivity, either because the workers are working harder or because the technology allows to be more productive, to have a higher output. Notice I use “high” or “low” for output. For productivity, we talk about it “rising” or “falling.”

Amber says, “I understand but…” Tony interrupts her and says, “Watch out for that forklift!” “Watch out” means “be careful.” A “forklift” (forklift) is a machine with a large, strong piece of metal in the front of it. Typically there’re like two bars, and they go underneath heavy objects and are able to lift them up and take them from one place to another. So, if you have a heavy box, you might have a forklift come, and it puts these two bars – flat bars – underneath it, and it looks kind of like a fork. So, that’s why it’s called a “forklift.” Then it is able to lift it up and move it to another location.

Tony says, “You have to watch where you’re going or you’ll ruin our safety record.” “Safety” is the opposite of having accidents. “Safety” refers to people not getting hurt, not getting injured, not getting killed. The “safety record of the factory,” or the plant, refers to how many people are injured in the factory every year, and many times, there are injuries. There are people who get hurt in factories or in plants.

Amber says, “Sorry. When will I get trained to use this machinery?” “Machinery” (machinery) are large pieces of equipment typically operated by electricity or some other power source. “Machinery” usually refers to a piece of equipment that makes something else, although not always.

Amber says, “I’ve never worked on an assembly line before to mass-produce anything.” An “assembly (assembly) line” is, as we referred to earlier, the process where you have many people working to build or create something, and each person does the same thing over and over again. I do one thing, then you do something, then the next person does something else. An “assembly line” can also have machines instead of people, and many of them do nowadays. “Assembly” comes from the verb “to assemble” (assemble) which means to put something together.

Amber says that she’s never worked on an assembly line before, “to mass-produce anything.” “To produce” means to make. “To mass- (mass) produce” means to make a large amount of things, especially things that are identical. They’re not made for an individual person. You make the same thing over and over again. Tony says, “I’m going to teach you, so pay attention,” meaning focus on what I’m saying.

“The other thing you have to worry about around here is quality control.” “Quality” is how good or bad something is. “Control” is making sure something is the way it’s supposed to be. So, “quality control” is testing the products, testing the things that are made to make sure that they were made correctly.

“If you don’t do things right,” Tony says, “you’ll hear about it.” This expression “you’ll hear about it,” means, usually, that you’ve done something wrong and that you are being told about it and probably will be punished for it. So, a child might be told by his parent, “If you cause any problems on the playground today, you’ll hear about it,” meaning I’m going to talk to you about it and it’s not going to be good news.

Amber says, “Okay but…” Tony again interrupts her and says, “Hey, sit down! As I said before, if you’re not careful, you’ll get your head taken off in this factory.” “To be taken off” means to be removed or separated. Tony is telling Amber to be careful. She apparently started to stand up and perhaps another machine was moving past her. The factory, of course, is the plant, the building where things are made. Tony says, “Now, try to pay attention.” Amber says, “I’m trying, but it’s hard to do when my life is in danger every other minute.” “Every other minute” means often, very often, very frequently.

Tony is not very happy with Amber. He sighs. He goes “(sighs) Rookies!” A “rookie” (rookie) is someone who is new to a job or new to an organization, someone who doesn’t have very much experience. We usually use this term in talking about sports, somebody who is new to the professional teams or the professional leagues. A baseball player from college, who then starts playing for one of the professional baseball teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, that person would be called a “rookie” during their first year. They’re new. The term more generally means anyone who’s new to doing something; usually, someone with less experience.

Now let’s listen to the dialog this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Tony: The plant manager says that you’re the new kid.

Amber: Yes, it’s my first day.

Tony: All right, you’ll be a line worker like the rest of us. Here’s your workstation. What you have to remember is that output and productivity are the most important things around here.

Amber: I understand, but...

Tony: Watch out for that forklift! You have to watch where you’re going or you’ll ruin our safety record.

Amber: Sorry. When will I get trained to use this machinery? I’ve never worked on an assembly line before to mass-produce anything.

Tony: I’m going to teach you, so pay attention. The other thing you have to worry about around here is quality control. If you don’t do things right, you’ll hear about it.

Amber: Okay, but...

Tony: Hey, sit down! As I said before, if you’re not careful, you’ll get your head taken off in this factory. Now, try to pay attention.

Amber: I’m trying, but it’s hard to do when my life is in danger every other minute.

Tony: [sighs] Rookies!

[end of dialog]

Our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse is no rookie when it comes to writing wonderful scripts. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
plant manager – the most important supervisor of a factory; the person who is responsible for the operation of a factory and the work of the other employees

* The current plant manager is very difficult to work for, but fortunately, she’s leaving the company next month.

line worker – a person who has a low-level job on an assembly line, performing the same tasks again and again

* Kazuo is taking night classes so that someday he can quit his job as a line worker and find something more interesting.

workstation – the place where a person works when it is only a small area and/or a desk, but not a full office

* A lot of the employees here decorate their workstation with photographs and small plants.

output – what a person, machine, or process produces; what is made

* Our maximum output is 3,000 units per day, but we usually operate at about half of that.

productivity – a measure of how much work someone can do or how much of something a machine or person can produce with a certain amount of time or other resources

* Our company is concerned that employees are spending time on personal emails and phone calls, reducing their productivity.

forklift – a machine with a large, strong piece of metal in front with two long parts that lifts very heavy objects up and down, taking them from one place to another

* These boxes are too heavy for us to lift, so we’ll need to use the forklift.

safety record – the history of how many accidents, injuries and/or deaths have occurred within a particular department or company over a period of time

* The safety record shows that there were dramatic improvements once we started requiring that everyone wear hardhats and protective gloves.

machinery – large pieces of equipment operated by electricity and/or gas

* Many little boys are fascinated by the machinery used in construction, like excavators and dump trucks.

assembly line – a process where many people or robots work together to build or create something, but each person or robot repeats a single task many times on each unit as it moves from one person or robot to the next

* Troy likes working on the assembly line, because he doesn’t have to think about what he’s doing, so he can listen to music at the same time.

to mass-produce – to produce a very large number of items when those things are identical, not customized for the buyers

* Once scientists create and test the medication, how long will it be before the drug companies can mass-produce it?

to pay attention – to focus on what is being said or shown, without being distracted by anything else

* It’s hard to pay attention to Cherise when she talks non-stop about her hobbies.

quality control – a system for testing products and making sure that they meet certain standards; a system for making sure that items are good enough to be sold

* Our quality control specialists test each piece of equipment before it is packaged and shipped to the customer.

to hear about (something) – to be made aware of something in an obvious way, especially when it is bad news or has bad consequences

* In this school, when parents are unhappy with their kids’ teachers, they make sure the principal hears about it.

taken off – removed; separated from the rest of the body or object

* The top part of the tree was taken off to make room for the new power lines.

factory – a large building where things are made for sale, especially when many machines are involved

* This factory produces paper and cardboard.

every other minute – very often; very frequently and repeatedly

* It’s hard to concentrate on anything when the phone is ringing every other minute!

rookie – a person who is new in a job or organization; someone who does not have much experience doing something; the newest member of a group, especially when talking about sports

* The company tries to pair rookies with more experienced employees who can help them learn to do their job well.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Tony warn Amber about getting her head taken off in the factory?
a) Because it’s a dangerous place and she might get hurt.
b) Because it’s a demanding workplace and she might get fired.
c) Because it’s a challenging job and she needs to think a lot.

2. Why does Tony refer to Amber as a rookie?
a) Because she’s frightened that she’ll get hurt.
b) Because she doesn’t have any experience in the factory.
c) Because she is much younger than he is.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
plant manager

The phrase “plant manager,” in this podcast, means the main supervisor of a factory, or the person who is responsible for the operation of a factory and the work of the other employees: “The plant manager needs us to increase our output to prepare for the holiday sales.” A “middle manager” is someone who manages a small part of a company and is not the main manager: “I don’t want to be a middle manager for the rest of my life.” A “stage manager” is someone who is responsible of the technical aspects of a theatrical production: “The stage manager is trying to improve the lighting on the stage.” Finally, a “road manager” is someone who coordinates the technical arrangements for a musician or entertainer who is traveling: “The road manager has finished making all of the hotel reservations.”

every other minute

In this podcast, the phrase “every other minute” means very often or very frequently and repeatedly: “Please make a decision and stick with it instead of changing your mind every other minute!” The phrase “last-minute” describes something that is done immediately before it is due or required: “They made a last-minute decision to increase the ticket price right before ticket sales began.” The phrase “up-to-the-minute” means with the most current, updated information possible: “The news station does a good job of providing up-to-the-minute coverage of local news stories.” Finally, the phrase “by the minute” describes something that is continuing to grow or change in some way: “The situation is becoming more complicated and more dangerous by the minute.”

Culture Note
Rosie the Riveter

During World War II, many women “left the home” (got a job outside of the home) and began working in factories while the men were “at war” (fighting in the war). These women were “referred to” (called; spoken about as) “Rosie the Riveter.” The verb “to rivet” means to “fasten” (connect) two pieces of metal together with a small, straight piece of metal. Many women working in factories were riveting together large pieces of equipment, so from that, we get this “nickname” (an informal name used when talking to or about someone).

The phrase “Rosie the Riveter” first appeared in a song “of the same name” (with that title) in 1942, but the nickname really “took hold” (became popular and well known) with the production and distribution of a “poster” (a large piece of paper with an image and text, hung on a wall) by Howard Miller. The poster shows a woman, known as Rosie the Riveter, looking directly at the reader. She wears a red “handkerchief” (a square piece of fabric) over her hair and her “sleeves” (the part of a shirt covering one’s arms) are rolled up as she “flexes her bicep” (folds her arm to make the muscle between one’s elbow and shoulder appear larger). The top of the poster says, “We Can Do It!”

The original poster was intended to “boost” (increase) “morale” (positive thoughts and feelings) among female workers. Later, it became “associated with” (thought about in connection with) female “empowerment” (helping someone have the power to do something) and “feminism” (the belief that women are powerful and valuable and should be treated as men are treated).

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - b