The Sensor Naysayers

June 1, 2008

The shop-floor-sensor naysayers—you know them well. They are found in all aspects of a metalforming company from the pressroom to the toolroom, to the maintenance shop to the assembly area, to shipping and receiving. They are perpetually steeped in the glass-is-half-full mentality. “Yes, but,” is their usual opening when confronted with a new idea. This may be followed with, “We als did it this ,” “Who needs to make this more complicated,” “I do not have the time to learn,” and my favorite, “If God had intended dies to have…”

The Toolroom Negotiator—This naysayer can be one of the most impassive, impervious and unmovable personalities when electronic sensors are initially and professionally introduced into tooling. Having decades of experience shaping and installing grounding wires, banding and plungers for misfeed and part-out detection, this naysayer can come up with a seemingly inexhaustible set of reasons why mechanical die protection is far superior to any “fancy-schmancy” electronic sensors. This naysayer probably would have resisted the changeover from hand-cranked automobile engines in the early 20th century to electric starter motors.

The Maintenance Challenger—“Regular counterbalance adjustments or their verifications with every change-over of dies…we never have performed them as long as I have been here. The same for ram-parallelism checks and tonnage verifications. Critical brake-angle checks? Oh yeah, when the light curtains were first installed we had this done, but not since. Once-a-year checks should be plenty.” Never mind that last night someone (and it amazes me as to how nobody seems to know who this mysterious someone is) left a wrench in the die, cycled the press and told no one about it. Just what do you think was the effect on the linkages and the ram? How about the tonnage distribution? Just how would anyone, much less the setters, know that there is a major reconfiguration of the press characteristics if the maintenance group doesn’t perform regular press checkups?

The Setter Contender—Let’s face it, most promotions in the pressroom are not the result of the mastery of technology by the person being promoted, but rather his ability to expedite parts. Hang around long enough in the shadows of your assigned mentors in the pressroom and you will pick up all of their knowledge and habits. But where did these mentors get their training? For generations the pressroom relied on shadowing for training, the result being that every setter has his or her own special bag of tricks to get a die to run. This is especially so for die protection. Some of the setters have developed manual dexterity that a surgeon would envy when it comes to the adjustments of mechanical contact probes, plungers and bandingthat make up their die protection. Introduce an electronic sensor into their world and these naysayers suddenly become totally and stubbornly convinced that electronics is still a new science. Their lives are filled with electronic gadgets and gizmos of every conceivable type, but not their dies.

Implementing electronic sensors on the shop floor should not be a sport. Making stamping and assembly a profitable venture is challenging enough —why have this additional layer of negativity? Just what kind of joy does a naysayer derive in deriding the efforts of an electronic sensor program? Why the constant idea-tripping and shin kicking? The sneers, the asides, the looks—why? What is it about the metalforming shop floor that encourages such obstinace? One could argue that years of tradition have led many into their comfort zones where the mere introduction of a new device elicits an instantaneous reaction against it.

Of course, there are excellent metalforming shops where new thinking is encouraged by those on the shop floor. I have seen such shops and find them to be humming nicely while their competitors struggle to implement even the most basic of electronic sensing in tooling and assembly machines. There is nothing as impressive as a meeting of toolmakers, setters and maintenance personnel where each individual welcomes with open arms new thinking and technology. Yes, we have to be initially skeptical and prudent about all new concepts, but certainly not immediately derisive, cynical and sarcastic.

Aren’t the current economic times challenging enough? With foreign and domestic competition, rising steel prices, customer givebacks, declining consumerism and all that it entails to our industry, why do we need this layer of negativity from our own shop floor? Just what are we achieving by stubbornly challenging innovative and well-proven thinking? MF

Industry-Related Terms: Checks, Die, Layer, Ram, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Sensing/Electronics/IOT


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