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Skills: your best asset.

A person could get a fairly distorted view of the state of American metalworking industries if he or she restricted the information to that gleaned from trade publications, trade shows, or worse the pronouncements of those in the financial community.

All would have us believe that we cannot expect to compete in the global marketplace, let alone with the guy down the street, without making massive expenditures in new technologies. If we don't mortgage our futures on ever more complex flexible automation all directed by hierarchies of sophisticated computers ... well, we simply won't be able to survive.

It all sounds very brave and very impressive; entire plants-no, entire industrial complexes-with nobody in sight but a few computer whiz kids. It all sounds very impressive unless, of course, you've actually spent any time in a real metalworking plant.

It is not good news that we in the United States lag far behind the rest of the free industrialized world in the application of many types of manufacturing technology. The most glaring example is our use of CNC; with about 90% of our national machine tool base non-CNC, we use more manual and dedicated machines than anybody else. The good news is that, incredibly, we still have people who know how to use them, and we continue to train people as machinists. In fact, most high schools and trade schools train exclusively on manual machines; they've had th s difficulty justifying and obtaining CNC as the industries for which they train.

The facts are that most metalworking in this country and elsewhere is performed by metalworkers, that is, people with skills and experience in converting metals into products. They may be CNC programmers, CIM specialists, or might have some other ancillary training and expertise. But if they don't understand speeds and feeds, if they know nothing of setting up work on a machine, they aren't metalworkers, and if they work for you, you're in trouble.

Obviously then, skilled machine-tool operators are your most valuable asset, and anything you can do to maximize their throughput and quality will enhance your operations. And, being people, anything you can do to improve their working conditions will improve their work. The place to start is housekeeping. A clean, well-lighted work area produces all kinds of dividends. You, as management, must do what you can for the environment, and then insist that your employees keep it that way. You don't have to be a psychologist or Japanese to know that pride in one's tools is often reflected in one's work.

As for machines themselves, cleaning and upgrading is appreciated by operators. Many companies devote entire days to this chore, often during the Christmas/New Year's period. Machines are cleaned, painted, and upgraded, often with digital readouts. These simple and inexpensive devices have become far more capable in recent years to the extent that many can now provide leadscrew-error compensations and tool-offset calculations. Today's DROs ease the operator's task of producing quality parts in less time, because they relieve him of worrying about position while permitting him to think about machining, but they are also an excellent way to bridge machine operators from manual to CNC machines.

At Sony Magnescale America we have a vested interest in selling DROS, but since we also sell feedback scales to manufacturers of CNC machines, we can be rather objective in the observation that there is a vast middle ground between manual and CNC machines, and the health of that middle ground rests firmly on the skills and motivations of machine operators. Improving both just makes good competitive sense.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:personnel management in the metal-working industry
Author:Moran, Thomas J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Software straightens up shop.
Next Article:From vision to reality.

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