Among the many challenges facing today’s metal fabrication industry. One of the most pressing is locating and hiring qualified workers. In fact, this has been an ongoing struggle for many years in fabrication and other manufacturing industries. There are a number of reasons behind the increasing magnitude of this problem. Key among these is the fact that “old school” craftsmen with the knowledge and experience required to run older, less automated machines are gradually retiring and creating a “skills gap” in the industry. This is compounded by the inability of fabrication to attract and train enough skilled workers to adequately fill the labor pool.
With the departure of the “old school” craftsmen, we invariably lose much of the hands-on knowledge and experience they built up during their long careers. Many had an in-depth understanding of a variety of processes and equipment, and only someone fortunate enough to have worked beside and trained with one of these craftsmen could have benefitted of this invaluable resource of expertise. Without their knowledge, skill and know-how, the workers who follow these craftsmen cannot be expected to perform at the same levels of quality and performance.
The good news is that all is not lost! Today’s advances in high-end technology are forging new paths to accomplishing tasks faster and better than ever before. Better still, they are capable of incorporating some of that “old school” knowledge into their processes. Today’s high-end fabrication equipment manufacturers have integrated “smart knowledge” directly into their machines. This built-in “smart knowledge” is employed in many ways. They have the ability to employ embedded knowledge systems to recognize material properties and characteristics. They have hardware and electronic systems that can dynamically adjust the machine based on the material currently being processed, and software algorithms that can perform sheet utilization better, and with greater efficiency than any human, however skilled, could possibly achieve. These automated systems deliver machine efficiencies at levels significantly higher than ever before.
Business owners sometimes wonder why they should invest in new machines that employ advanced technology when their older machines have already been paid for. After all, these machines are “free” right? Unfortunately, however, “free” machines can become very expensive when we cannot find the skilled workers to run them. In the end, when we consider a technologically advanced machine’s ability to outperform older machines with less technically skilled employees, the question changes from “can we afford to invest in new technology” to “can we afford not to invest in new technology”.
The embedded “smart knowledge” in today’s high-end fabrication equipment, combined with today’s computer-savvy workers, can make finding qualified production employees a much easier task. And “smart”, automated technology ensures that valuable, “old school” knowledge continues to survive–and thrive–in today’s high-end fabrication equipment.
By Frank Arteaga, Head of Product Marketing, NAFTA Region
Bystronic Inc., Elgin, IL – Voice.firstname.lastname@example.org