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Eliminate distractions that cause lapses in attention

Setting up and running CNC machine tools requires setup people and operators to focus on the tasks at hand. A high degree of concentration is often required to keep from making mistakes that can cause wasted time, damage to machines, and/or injured people.

Most companies have come up with rules that attempt to limit such distractions. A few obvious examples include rules that limit the use of cell phones, music playing systems, and any other activities (like eating and drinking) that impede concentration, coordination, hearing, or vision. While distractions caused by many activities and devices are pretty obvious, others are not.

Consider, for example, certain work related distractions. Just about any time a person must break out of their train of though to do anything opens the door to forgetting where they left off when it comes time to continue. Think about times when operators and (especially) setup people must stop what they are doing to answer questions, take a phone call, or go and get a needed component. Though the distraction may be related to company business, it is still a distraction – and can cause the same problems as distractions that are not related to work.

I remember one company in which I was accompanying the lead setup person during a walk from a machine he was setting up to the tool crib – a walk of about 100 feet. During this walk, he was stopped five times. Another setup person needed advice. Two operators had questions about their machines. An inspector needed to tell him about a job that was having problems. And, almost comically, the shop manager wanted to know when his machine would be in production. A walk that should have taken about a minute took almost a half hour. The fact that he remembered what it was he was going to the tool crib for in the first place was admirable.

My suggestion in this regard is to set up a working environment that minimizes the potential for interruptions – especially when the task being accomplished is especially critical – like a hot job – or in any way dangerous. Don’t let people be interrupted until the completion of the task.

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