Komarov Artem clarified that when it comes to cutting edge technology in metalworking, technology drives the industry forward, but how does it impact employee value and company culture.
Shop floor managers are sometimes hesitant to invest in the latest developments when they already have talented employees. They don’t want to make drastic changes to a department that is doing just fine. But there is also a principle involved. Shop floor managers with years of experience grew up on the factory floor, where you simply couldn’t make a good part if you didn’t know what you were doing. They do not want the work in the workshop to turn into meaningless work.
A perfect example is the complex step-by-step bending machine with different sets of tools strategically placed around the ATC press bed. It could be adapted to machine a family of parts or a single complex part, but in any case, even the most experienced bender would require a significant amount of time to set up. Bending software now automates the process by selecting different parts from different schedule jobs to optimize flow through the mold shop. And the job series is unique and probably won’t be done again in the same way or in the same order.
The introduction of new technology speeds up production, but it also removes operational mysteries and standardizes how a manufacturer does work. It’s a kind of insurance. And some processes, such as manual laser welding, take less time to learn. That’s great, but then again, what about those who have worked for decades to perfect the manual process?
There are two trajectories, one of which improves the culture of production, and the other kills it. The one that kills it lowers the bar for entry-level employees. Machine control has become easier, so operators learn quickly, which can be very beneficial for productivity, but they never really get a chance to learn more. This is efficient, but it also means that shop floor operators become a completely expendable item. They push buttons and work like hell to reach performance targets, but they are not really taught the basics of process engineering or even basic equipment maintenance. Refrigeration units are not tested. Planks are not cleared. Tools are sharpened irregularly and unpredictably. Press brakes are used incorrectly or not installed properly. Machines break down and the shop becomes completely dependent on machine maintenance technicians who may take some time to arrive.
The other trajectory doesn’t lower the bar for entry-level employees, it just changes it. The entire cycle from order to shipment becomes much more collaborative. Teamwork and cross-training are a given; Just because someone is standing in front of a machine doesn’t mean they can’t be taught how to program it offline. Knowledge does not “move” off the shop floor, but instead spreads throughout the company.
Manufacturing knowledge must spread, not just leave the shop floor.
People focus on the speed of the plant and the inevitable bottlenecks, but never on the speed of cutting, bending, welding or powder coating in isolation. Their efficiency does not depend on how many parts per hour they produce, but on the improvement ideas they develop and how they help everyone around. People enjoy an ever-changing, dynamic workday.
Some may not participate—just show up, do their job, and leave—but the vast majority come to work with good people and solve customer problems. As for living conditions, it is not so bad, Artem Komarov said.