How Do People Stand Working Assembly Lines?

OK yesterday my temp agency in its wisdom of brilliance, decides to send me to a factory. I never worked in a factory before. Anyway my job consists of standing in front of a conveyer belt. Four bottles of ipubrofen go past me. I put a styrofoam piece ON the bottle. Then it goes to a machine that “taps” this styrofoam piece into the bottle. Another person loosley puts on a cap, then it goes to another machine that tightens the cap.

OK putting styrofoam on a bottle for 4 1/2 hours a half an hour break then 3 more hours.

It’s not difficult as much as mind numbing. The factory is so loud you can’t hear yourself think, and heaven forbid if you look away for one second the bottle goes by without a styrofoam stopper in it.

My question is how do people do this, day in and day out?

This is standing up constantly, minimum wage, overnights and a 5 week assignment, which I took 'cause it’s the only thing that guaranteed me any stability. OK don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for any work, but I don’t see how I’m gonna do this 40 hours a week for the next five weeks

So if you ever worked on an assembly line, how do you stand it? :slight_smile:

Foam is your friend. You need Crocs and ear plugs.

As for the rest, are you allowed to wear earphones? If so, check out the available e-books at your local library, or download audio books/NPR shows etc. on line.

If not, try replaying movies in your head, or books that you have read. The key is to develop an intellectual response, rather than a numbing response. Search for intellectual puzzles on line before you go in each morning and ponder them.

Learning a language is also good. Even if you can’t listen to CDs, you can read up in the morning and practice during the day.

You can also read up on isometric exercise. This will help to forestall physical numbness and cramping.

Good luck!

ETA: and you may want to consider Depends, you know, just in case. . . I know I’d never make it! LOL!

When I worked in a cabinet factory, music made the mindnumbing boredom just fly right by. See if it’s safe for you to wear headphones of some kind.

I feel your pain! I worked on an assembly line the summer between my freshman and sophmore years of college. Nothing, but nothing, convinced me more to continue my education!

You get used to it. You let your mind wander to all sorts of strange topics, like sick and cruel things you want to do your boss. And yes, it will eventually numb your brain.

At least on the assembly line job I had I got to sit, and there was no conveyor belt.

One of the tasks I had for a few days was to glue a metal thing inside of a ceramic thing. I could probably do 60-100 in an hour. A coworker, who was fast becoming a friend, had the same task. We decided to sit together and talk while we worked. Not only did the time pass enjoyably, but we paced each other, so our productivity went up. We also had nearly identical productivity numbers.

Our supervisor thought that that was “suspicious” and forbade us to sit together ever again.

God, I hated that job.

No you can’t wear any headphones. Like I said it’s not hard, it’s just so mindnumbing. The noise isn’t so loud it’s damaging to the ears, it’s just loud enough to surround you.

I guess you get used to it, I guess I should get a pair of insoles for the feet. Standing up for 8 hours, is do-able for me, but I’ll have to get used to it.

And some of those people have been doing this and similar jobs for TEN years? I was like, wow I have enough problems with my hand an a computer mouse, I can’t imagine after ten years of putting a stopper in a bottle what your hand is like :slight_smile:

Right on.

I worked in a meat packing plant in college. One time I moved to an assembly line job involving a power saw because it paid more. After a trip to the emergency room, I decided to do move to a job there that was a little more stimulating if for less pay.

There’s a reason why mentally challenged people are often suited for these jobs, e.g., sheltered workshops. They don’t require the same level and novelty of mental stimulation that most of the rest of us do.

Ah, but many auto workers make six figures doing this type of work. Certainly it takes considerable overtime pay to get there, but if they’re in a plant that’s in high demand, they rake it in. I used to supervise a guy with a real, legitimate law degree. I know that we have an overabundance of lawyers in the United States, but we’re still talking a postgraduate degree!

Historically, high wages compensate for the mind-numbing boredom.

Henry Ford didn’t pay that outrageously-high (for the time) $5 a day because he was a philanthropist; he paid it because that’s the only way he could get workers for his assembly line.

…and that carried through to the very recent past, at least in Detroit.

Jumbo Mayonaise jar (just the jar, no mayonaise on sight) line at a plastics factory. Worst job ever.

At one point I worked the clear plastic water bottle line. The bottles pop out of the mold still hot so we had to wear thick gloves. They came out two at a time and you had to grab each bottle and tear off the melty tabs. Sometimes the bottles would pop out and bounce the melt tabs would stick to the other bottle ruining both. You’d just toss the worthless bottles into a bin and at the end of the night they were ground down to powder. I remember one of the regular workers coming up to me and chastising me for having too many ruined bottles because I didn’t catch them fast enough.

That’s how people stand these jobs. They need them enough to CARE about a few ruined plastic bottles.

I’m thinking that most assembly-line-type jobs don’t pay as well as the auto industry used to.

But you’re right, some of us did the jobs we did at the time because the money was good and the training requirements were light.

4 1/2 hours without even a 10 minute break? That seems unusual, but perhaps the states I’ve worked in happen to have different labor laws.

Proud Ex-Nyquil-Bottle-Adjuster-Prior-To-Entering-The-Labeling-Machine worker here. 20 years ago and I can still hear the distinctive whiiiirrrrrr-phzzzzzzz-snick of that infernal machine.

For the record, doing the Laverne and Shirley inflated glove to alleviate the boredom results in the shutdown of the entire line for half a shift so that maintenance can disassemble the conveyor and retrieve all of the latex glove shreds :cool:

The scary thing about this kind of thing is that you do get used to it. I worked with people who did. Being brain-dead for eight and a half hours a day is not a good skill to cultivate.

You know those lights that hang over portraits to illuminate them? I made the shades that go over the bulb.

Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.
Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.
Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.
Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.
Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.
Pick the flat piece of metal off the stack on my right. Stick it into the slot. Lock it into place. Pull the lever to bend it into shape. Unlock it and put it on the tray to my left.

I didn’t speak Spanish, so I couldn’t talk to my co-workers.

Every time I pulled that fucking lever I said to myself “I’m going to school so I don’t have to do this the rest of my life”.


I too once had a job like this. I was able to hide an earphone in one ear, snake the cord down my shirt and pants, and hide a transistor radio in my sock. My hair covered my ear. If you wear hearing protectors that look like earmuffs, you can do the same thing with an mp3 player. And you need hearing protectors.

Not to want to sound elitist or anything – OK, back then I was pretty elitist, I admit – some of my coworkers were fellow college students, and some worked the AL as a career. The lifers lacked a certain intellectual keenness. It was a little like working on the set of Deliverance.

And there is a reason that they forbid listening to music. I saw a woman lose her hand for the pleasure of the secret distraction of music while she picked up cut pieces of plastic.

So weigh that option carefully.

For two years I worked night shift in a plastics factory with a college degree so that we didn’t have to pay for a baby-sitter. Sometimes tears would involutarily run down my face from the burden of mindlessness.

I was fortunate enough to have been educated in a time when memorization was still considered a valuable learning tool and so I had a vast store of poetry and Bible verses to amuse myself during the long nights.

I also ran through my song lyric reperatoire and played word games in my head. I suppose the mental amusements in themselves could be distracting. But I doubt they were any more so than falling into the daze of “automatic pilot.”

The most difficult part was working with women who had been there for years supporting a family with no help and hoping some day to be able to go to school. Broke my heart knowing that they were, at least for their children’s formative years, trapped.

I was home from college over Christmas break and decided to go to a temp agency and make a few hundred bucks during the 3 weeks instead of just sitting around. I got placed in a CD factory assembling the cases for 2-CD sets of a special edition of Beatles music. For 12 (!) hours a day I did this and all the co-workers at our table were nasty. There was a 60-ish year old man and his retarded son who were working there just long enough to get some money to buy insurance for his truck and pay his fine for the traffic ticket for being caught without insurance. Then they were gonna quit and go back to their life of being incompetent slugs.

After that I was very thankful to get back to my painfully difficult course work, but never regretted taking that job for that time.

I knew a guy who loved chess and he claimed to be going over chess games in his mind all day.

I knew another who was a writer and he said he did most of his “writing” while standing there.

I couldn’t do it.

Good shoes, although you lucked out with a standing job instead of a hustle-your-ass-all-day job so that’s something. Minimum wage sucks, but what you’re describing is the easiest assembly line work I can imagine.

Look for the advantages, there’s always some pros to balance out the cons, learn to concentrate on them. Things that start like “hey, no one is demanding that I solve complex problems” can turn into a real appreciation for a job that’s essentially a mental vacation you get paid for.

Can’t hear yourself think? Then your coworkers probably can’t hear you much either. What a great time to practice your Elvis impression or work on your kareoke skills or do repetitive drills on the foreign language you studied in high school and don’t want to forget. If they can’t hear you, they won’t care, and in what other job can you do silly stuff like that out loud all day?