In Defense of the Factory Job

How a manufacturing setting can offer new perspectives



After a few months spent working in a factory setting I surprised myself by falling a little bit in love with it.

Going back home to a more rural area for the summer means less options for employment. So when I secured a last-minute job in the reliability department of a major manufacturing site not far from my family home, I was grateful to be offered a 40 hour work week.

I wasn’t expecting my gratitude to extend beyond that. From the start I anticipated growing bored by repeating the same task, scanning in thousands of return and recall items over again, and wishing the school year would come fast.

Although I did grow bored on occasion, I tried to stifle that boredom by remembering the dozens of others out on the assembly lines whom I passed each morning on my way in at 5:29 and how they always appeared wide-awake as they talked to each other with interest- and they’d do this year-round.

I began to pass the time by noticing those around me and trying to figure out how they managed to keep themselves interested in their work. For instance, three women would walk laps around the building together during their breaks every day and one man would make farting noises with his hands whenever he walked by a friend.

Soon the work I viewed as tedious evolved into a familiar routine I welcomed. When I would see the same people doing the same work every day not only did they begin to matter to me, but what they did began to matter simply by association.

In a manufacturing setting with several different departments, each with a specific task, everybody has a clear and distinguished purpose contributing to the success of the company. In contrast to life as an undergraduate student the clarity of my purpose served as an appreciated novelty.

For a while, I was not consumed by thoughts of trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and which interests to prioritize. For the summer, what was required of me was just one task and when I left the workplace I got to leave the work behind.

After work hours I could make myself available to family and friends without the never-ending distractions of studying, emails, essays and other projects. I also found myself noticing the items around me and how they all had to be manufactured somewhere in some way by somebody.

Because of my experience in a factory setting I can better imagine all the labor and resources that went into making a simple window frame, spoon or the rings used to hang a shower curtain.

I feel I know a little better how the world as we know it came to exist and I began to understand that if it weren’t for the production of an item so overlooked as the door hinge many real people with real families would have to find work elsewhere.

I have my summer work experience to thank for this insight.