Bushell also stresses the importance of properly training new employees.
“The majority of our new employees have no press-operating experience,” she says. “Also, operators on the afternoon shift have less support available for troubleshooting problems, so they must be more self-sufficient. Therefore, a robust operator-development program is essential for their success and the success of the team.”
The company’s skills program involves a combination of classroom, online and hands-on training complete with competency assessments throughout the process. Larsen & Shaw has developed its own standard work, core and technical modules and has recently organized them into a formal training plan by work area. Skill sets are established upon successful completion in various phases.
“This leads to development of competent operators much earlier in their careers than in the past,” says Bushell. “It’s a morale booster since we all want to feel good about our accomplishments each day. The next steps are to build this into the architecture of our new ERP system (from Plex Systems, Troy, MI) so that the training programs and progress will be more visible than ever before.”
Such training requires investment in time and money, but for Larsen & Shaw, results justify the expenditures.
|An existing die at Larsen & Shaw has been retrofitted with a feed sensor using best practices, including placement of a steel block to protect the sensor, robust conduit to shield the cabling from damage and a quick-die-change connector.
“This has been (and will continue to be) a significant investment on the part of the company as it requires the time and attention of our technical leaders to develop and deliver the various components of the program,” Bushell explains. “We certainly have a lot more work to do; however, it is also the most effective way to ensure that this knowledge is passed along to the next generation of hinge-making experts.”
But what about the standard and most common model of training in North America, where new employees simply shadow more senior ones without any formal exposure to the theories and reasoning behind the operation of a given machine? It just doesn’t stack up, according to Bushell.
“Gone are the days where manufacturers can afford to wait for employees to acquire skills through years of experience only,” she says. “Global competitive pressures will not allow it. Therefore, it behooves us to take a more proactive approach to developing the skills required for the ongoing success of the company.”
Training, Commitment Drive Die-Sensing Success
Readers of my past columns and articles in MetalForming are quite familiar with the concepts behind and justifications of having a dedicated person to research and properly implement electronic sensors within dies and assembly machines. This individual has the title of sensor applications specialist, and at his or her disposal is a sensor laboratory − a special room for experimentation to ensure that a given sensor performs on the shop floor. Larsen & Shaw has such a program in place, achieving a level of excellence due in great measure to the company’s superb abilities to carefully perform experiments on the proper selection and implementation of sensors within its dies.
Over the years, Larsen & Shaw had sensors on some dies, but did not institute a formal die-sensing program. After reading articles and columns in MetalForming discussing the benefits of in-die sensing and witnessing first-hand the damage and productivity losses resulting from misfeeds, the company took advantage of a complementary consultation visit to learn more, and has been on the error-proofing road ever since.
The biggest hurdle, according to the sensor applications specialist I talked to at Larsen & Shaw, was arriving at the conviction that results will be there if you spend the money and time to pursue it. The first several months of the program, he explained, are going to be the most difficult in that you will not see many productivity gains. But if you hold course, make good judgments and implement and adapt to the technology as you learn it, you will eventually see and experience mounting program success. The program has truly arrived when the press operators no longer want to run any dies not equipped with sensor technology.
Surely one can learn from Larsen & Shaw and walk away quite impressed with its managerial commitment to skills training and technology. MF
See also: Plex Systems Inc.