Your most important resource

The people you have working for you contribute the most to your success. Without good, knowledgeable people, even the best managers will likely fail. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder and harder to find and keep proficient CNC people. Given this problem, you have two alternatives: You can either improve the proficiency of your people, or you can simplify the tasks they must perform.


Improving proficiency is probably the single-most effective way to improve productivity. Proficient programmers write efficient programs. Proficient setup people make efficient setups. Proficient CNC operators run good parts. Think of any facet of manufacturing (or in any profession). Improving the proficiency of the people involved will, in turn, improve their productivity. It's as simple as that.


The most obvious way to improve proficiency is to provide training in areas that your people are weak. Get them up to speed. And don't just get them to the point that they can make do - bring them to the point that they are truly confident with the tasks they must perform. Again, truly proficient people are the most productive people.


Though providing training is the most obvious way to improve proficiency, there are alternatives. Positive reinforcement for jobs well done, incentives to reach acceptable proficiency levels, and tangible participation in the companies success help provide the motivation it takes for your people to want to improve. With the right amount of motivation, your people can do just about anything.


As stated, you can also improve productivity by lowering the proficiency (skill) level required to perform a given task. I call this the fast-food approach. When you order your favorite meal at any fast-food restaurant, you probably say something like "meal number three". Your server simply presses one button on the cash-register and is told the food to put in the bag and how much to charge. When you pay, the server types the amount you've provided and the cash-register tells them how much money to give you back. This makes it possible for just about anyone to work in a fast-food restaurant.


You can apply this approach to any task a CNC person is required to do. Though most (motivated) people would prefer to learn what it takes to become proficient with the task at its current difficulty level, you can also achieve great success by reducing the skill required to perform the task.


Complex tasks should be pretty easy to spot. Look for wasted time, duplicated effort, confused people, scrap parts, damaged machines, and in general, anything that detracts from productivity. These symptoms should be taken as a signal that you must either improve the proficiency of the people involved - or lower the proficiency required to perform the task.

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