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Machinists: beware dips n learning curve.

When you hire a new employee, you take all of the appropriate steps so that your new hire will be successful. But your company is unique, so no matter how bright and experienced this new hire, there will be a period of time where he learns the job.

Your new machinist's level of knowledge can be plotted in a graph against time. This graph is called the learning curve.

Notice in the typical one shown here there are no values shown for time or knowledge. Each person is different, so there is no set time period at which everyone will acquire a knowledge or skill set.

The day your new machinist starts is at the bottom left corner. Each day, the machinist gains more experience and knowledge (moving up the curve). This increase in knowledge is often quite "visible" as the machinist is given more responsibilities.

There will come a day (A) when the new machinist is feeling pretty good about the job. Maybe the new machinist has been learning a CNC machine and now feels pretty good about life. This machinist may say to himself, "It's been tough, but I've learned a lot and now I've got this new job and machine figured out."


That will be the day the job and machine tool make him suffer. I've often said that CNC machine tools seem to be able to read your mind. They lull you into a sense of security. Just when you think you know the machine and can handle any situation--BAM--you pay for your overconfidence.

This day (B) is shown on the curve where the steady increase of the curve changes to a downturn. The machinist now must go through a period of relearning.

During this period of relearning, the machinist gains experience that will help overcome repetitive problems.

As time goes by, the machinist regains some of the confidence lost at the downturn. A smart machinist realizes that the job could make him suffer at any time and does not get overconfident. Once again, the machinist is climbing the learning curve.

As the curve shows there are more low points over time. What is the difference between the first high point and the second high point?

A fully experienced person knows that he can make mistakes at any time. That person adjusts his work habits to accommodate the reality.

Eventually, the learning curve reaches a plateau (D) and then seems to end on a small dip. The plateau used to be a productive period where the machinist performed efficiently on the job for the next 30 years.

The reality of today's world is that this plateau is a much shorter period of time, and you must continually watch for the dip. Complacency and boredom can set in quickly, so you must be ready for the next learning curve to start.

If you do not keep learning and improving, you might just be so complacent that you are "elected" to a new job, whether you like it or not.

Steve Rose is a professional trainer and president of RTSI, Solon, OH. Rosaken Rose offers website development. They can be reached by phone at (440) 542-3066; e-mail; or on the Web at www. Copyright Rose Training Systems Inc., 2009
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Title Annotation:shop talk
Author:Rose, Steve
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 2009
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