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Who are your gatherers?

If you place a high priority on keeping your CNCs running, you better ensure that the people running them are able to keep up. When a machine finishes a cycle, someone better be immediately available to get the next cycle running. Obvious tasks include removing the previous workpiece, cleaning the workholding device, loading the next workpiece, and pressing the cycle-start button.

In similar fashion, when a machine completes a production run, someone better be immediately available to start the next setup (assuming you have work for the machine). Obvious tasks include tearing down the previous setup, putting things away, making the next setup, and verifying the program to get a good workpiece.

While it takes time to complete the tasks necessary to restart a cycle and make a setup, this time can be reduced by making sure that all items a setup person or operator need are available at the instant they need them. It doesn’t make much sense to have a very expensive machine sitting idle waiting for a critical component (insert, fixture, wrench, etc.) to be located and brought to the machine. And it makes no more sense to have the highly paid and experienced setup people and operators doing the gathering.

As you watch your CNCs, look for times when they sit idle because a needed component must be found. Determine what can be done to eliminate this down-time. If, for example, you have a CNC helper gather needed components, you can eliminate the related downtime.

The person doing the gathering must, of course, be able to locate needed components. In some (lesser organized) shops, this can be quite a challenge even for experienced people, meaning your gatherers must have more experience. If your shop is organized – everything has a place and is always put back in its place – a person with lesser skill can be hired to do the gathering. Regardless of what you must do in order to have a separate person do the gathering, when you consider the benefit you’ll achieve, it will be worth the effort.

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