The limitations of on-the-job- and self-training
Productivity is directly related to the proficiency of your workforce. The more productivity you expect from your people, the higher the proficiency they must possess. Proficient programmers develop efficiently processed, well formatted, and easy to use programs. Proficient setup people minimize the time a machine is down between production runs. And proficient operators minimize the time it takes to complete a production run while, of course, machining acceptable workpieces. If you want to improve productivity in a given area, often the most effective way to do so is to improve the proficiency of the people involved.
How do you increase the proficiency of your people?
While some people do succeed when left completely on their own, they rarely develop methods that match the solutions you expect or desire. Generally speaking, self-taught people can and do get the job done, but they may not do so in the most efficient manner – and again – not in the manner you expect. And when you allow self-taught people to teach others – well – the situation simply snowballs.
Another potential problem with allowing workers to teach themselves has to do with pride-of-authorship. When a person eventually figures out a workable solution to a complex problem, they may feel that they’ve come up with the best (or only) way to handle the problem. And it’s hard to argue with success – if something isn’t broken most people won’t try to fix it. But just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s working in the best or most efficient way. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to convince the self-taught person that there is a different, better, way to handle the problem – a way you wish them to use.
Instead of allowing people to figure things out on there own, it’s much better to teach them, from the beginning, how you want them to work. In this manner you can lead them to successful habits.
How effective is on-the-job training?
On-the-job training can be very effective – if it is truly training. But in many companies I visit, managers think that on-the-job training simply involves putting a trainee with an experienced person – and that somehow that experienced person will be successful in relating how things are done. While the experienced person may be very good at what they do, they may not be very good at (or have the desire for) teaching a newcomer. Most experienced shop people I know would rather be doing their tasks, not explaining to others how they do them. This is especially true if the experienced person is at all concerned with job security. If they perceive (even incorrectly) that they will eventually be replaced with a lesser experienced person, they’re not going to make very good teachers.
My first question to managers who claim to have a good on-the-job training program is “How much teacher-training have you provided your experienced people to confirm that they’re truly able to teach?” When they answer with “None.”, I’m pretty skeptical about how successful the on-the-job training program truly is.
The best on-the-job training programs – like any training program – depend highly upon the aptitudes of the people involved. If the trainee has an aptitude for learning CNC, they’ll make even a poor instructor look good. Conversely, if a trainer has no aptitude for teaching, they’ll make even a very good candidate look bad. Successful training requires a good balance. Only with good instructors and able trainees can you ensure consistent success.
Going where no-one has gone before
Your people are always limited by what the believe to be possible. And again, if you leave them to their own devices to figure things out for themselves, it’s likely that they don’t have a clue about what’s truly possible – and won’t even begin to approach their full potential for developing the most effective (and productive) methods.
Most people need more help to become fully proficient. And the resources are out there. There are countless trade journals, books, schools, and other training resources available to help – but if you’re leaving people on their own, it’s unlikely they’ll find them – let alone take advantage of them. Only the most motivated people, for example, will pay the cost for the available resources out of their own pockets. As the manager, it will be up to you to direct them to the related resources – and to provide them with the revenue needed to take advantage of them.
Going beyond the basics
Mastering basic tasks may not be enough to ensure a competitive working environment. Progressive companies must ensure that people aren’t just getting by – but that they are leaning what it takes to be as productive as possible.
Sometimes these topics are not addressed in basic CNC classes. In basic classes, the instructor may be concerned with only bringing people to a level that they can begin working with the equipment. To go further, you must search for materials that go beyond the basics. Topics like setup reduction, cycle time reduction, parametric programming, and advanced CNC methods will increase a CNC person’s overall knowledge of what it takes to get the most from your CNC machine tools. And again, the resources are out there. It will be up to you to find them – and once found – to ensure that the appropriate people use them.