Myths About Training

"Practice Makes Perfect."

If this were so, after a few years on a machine everyone would perform the setup tasks the same way, in the same sequence, and in about the same amount of time. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen. In reality, Practice Makes Permanent. People learn to do it faster by memorizing a procedure that works for them, but they seldom learn the most efficient methods without further training.

"Experience is the Best Teacher."

The person that came up with this one never had a shop full of expensive machinery to run and never had to get that order out "yesterday". If "experience" means broken tools, damaged machines, scrap, and late deliveries, then "experience" should be an excellent teacher, since it is surely one of the most expensive.

"They will learn from their mistakes."

The act of simply making a mistake does not mean that the way to correct that mistake becomes immediately apparent. If an operator makes an adjustment on a CNC machine in the wrong direction because he or she does not understand the coordinate grid, in all likelihood they will still not understand the grid after the damage is done. In fact, you can make mistakes for years without ever having a better understanding of why and how to overcome the problem.

"OJT (on-the-job training) is Less Expensive."

To be sure the best skills are passed along, management normally selects one of their best operators to train the new people on-the-job. This reduces the output of one of the most productive people by making them into a teacher for a significant part of each day. This can go on for months or even years. Secondly, to be effective, the teacher must allow the trainee to try out the tasks on their machine. This turns expensive production equipment into teaching tools. In addition, the "best operator" may simply not be a good teacher, or may be unsure of some information.

"Ignorance is Bliss"

Ask yourself how it must feel to be asked to run an expensive machine without getting adequate training. It can be very intimidating. Then, when you have a problem, you ask several nearby operators what to do only to hear several different recommendations, none of which may be correct. And the operator's manuals that come with the machine typically explain what the machine can do, not what the operator must do. Very few of us would find that situation blissful.

"I have highly trained personnel, ... most have gone to the Factory School"

Unfortunately, the whole environment of the factory school makes it difficult for anyone to achieve very much. First, the instructor must try to balance the instruction to fit a wide variety of knowledge and experience among the students. Some may have many years on the job, while others have never worked on a similar machine. Secondly, a trip to the factory school is often viewed as an "all-expense paid vacation". After a night on the town, it can be difficult to gain much from a class no matter how well it is presented. And third, there is seldom any level of accountability. Testing is usually not done, either because of the lack of time or to avoid embarrassment.

"We don't have the time to train."

The time to re-train, or train adequately the first time, amounts to only a fraction of the time wasted by long set up times, extended downtime trying to solve problems with trial and error techniques, lost production time because of broken tool and fixtures, or the agony of having a machine sitting idle while waiting for replacement parts. Of course, many hours are lost every time work is rejected because of poor quality or re-machined to bring it to tolerance.

"We don't need training, our sales are good and our expenses are within budget."

Budgets are like steering a ship by watching the wake. Costs such as scrap and rework, downtime, tool replacement costs, and so on, are planned for in each budget because that is the way it has always been. It is important to understand the impact of cutting these costs. Because profit margins on sales average 10% at most companies, saving $10,000 in operating costs is equal to $100,000 in new sales.