Work Experience - Week 2!

July 20, 2015

Hello again, apologies for being late with my postings (once again), my laptop has been sent off to be repaired again. I'm having to write this post on a Raspberry Pi which is very frustrating as the only screen I have to use with it is a massive TV which I have to sit fairly close to because I have yet to invest in a wireless keyboard! It's also quite laggy which is really testing my patience but I'm getting by alright with it, I'm very excited to get my laptop back next week though. It's been 2 days and I'm already missing it!

Anyway, last week was my final week (4 days, actually) of work experience at Birds Eye and I enjoyed it just as much, maybe even more, than my first week. On my first two days of this week I was in the labs, over the road from the main factory.
On my first day in here, I was labelling testing bottles and agar plates so the could be identified when I pipetted samples of foods into them later on. Before doing this, however, I had to cut up some food samples which had been collected from around the factories and brought in for testing. I had to cut up about 30 samples, some of which were quite hard to cut which caused the activity to take forever! I then had to put the samples into the fridge over lunch. When I returned from lunch, I had to put some chemicals into the bags with the foods I had cut earlier on. I then used a stomacher 400 machine which is basically a mechanical stomach simulator. You put the bags of food samples and chemicals in and two plates on pistons push onto the bags, simulating digestion. I did this to all of the bags I had sorted out in the morning and I have to say that using this machine along with the "whizzy machine" was the highlight of my time in the lab. The "whizzy machine" being a small machine which vibrates when a test tube is put onto it, causing it to mix the contents of the tube. anyway, after stomaching the food, I had to pipette samples of some of them onto agar plates which were put into the fridges. The bags I had stomached were also put into the fridges, ready for what I would be doing the next day.
The "whizzy" machine.
the stomacher 400 machine.
The next day, I began by doing some more pipetting, cutting and labelling for that day's food samples but then I went into the room in which all of the dirty smelly work was done with salmonella, etc. I'm going to be honest, that room smelt worse than anything I've ever smelt in my life. Rhino poo smells better than that room. You know when you go on a long plane journey for like 14 hours and don't brush your teeth for the entire flight and you get that disgusting bacteria taste in your mouth? Yeah, imagine that but 10x stronger and all around you. It smelt like when you don't brush/wash your retainer for a few days but 99999x worse. It was disgusting, I felt like vomiting multiple times but I managed to get by. Anyway, in here we too samples of the foods I had stomached the day before which had grown loads of bacteria on them and just stank. I had to put tiny samples of about 0.5ml into small pellet-sized containers which were heated up and then poured into salmonella testing strips (or something like that anyway). We put these into a salmonella testing machine and then left this over lunch to do its thing. After lunch we then had to log it onto the computer whether the food samples tested positive or negative so the appropriate actions could be taken by those in control of the pallets those samples came from. I then did some audits on some vegetables to look for contaminations. This basically consisted of pouring peas onto a white tray and just pushing them around, searching for little red bits or things that shouldn't be in there.
Testing food samples for salmonella. [source]

The next day, I was back with the IT department which was definitely the highlight of my time overall. One of the main jobs we had was to repair a "scada" machine which is used to control pressure in different machines around the factory. At first, we tried simply removing the hard drive and putting it into a different machine and booting that up but the same problem occurred, meaning the problem was with the hard drive rather than the actual machine. We took the hard drive back to the IT office and ran a error check and repair scan on the drive. This then fixed the problem and allowed the computer to boot when I put the hard drive back into it. We then made a clone of the hard drive just in case it goes wrong again. I also set up a new user account on the server and a laptop for someone who is starting work this week, this involved setting up all of the software and connecting the laptop to the company's VPN service. After all of this, we returned the computers to where they had come from originally and that was that day done.
The next day I was back with IT, rebuilding laptops, overseeing machine repairs and doing some spreadsheet work. The spreadsheet work involved adding figures to work out how much some externally contracted programmers were costing the company to do some work on a machine and let's just say that I'd love to be getting paid what they do!
After this, I took a 2 hour lunch hour (oops, sorry not sorry) and then returned to my dad's office, from which he took me on a tour of the one factory I didn't get to see on my visit and this was Denes II, where the vegetables are made and where the main cold store is. The cold store was amazing. It was around -30°C and there was snow everywhere and it was about 30ft tall and just filled with shelves with big octobins on, as far as the eye could see!
Overall, I really enjoyed my placement at Birds Eye and feel I benefited greatly from the experience. I am extremely thankful to anyone who worked with me and helped make it happen because if it wasn't for them it wouldn't have been nearly as good. I'm really going to miss working there but I've been told by the IT man that if I ever want to stop by I'm welcome to so I look forward to doing that!

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