What I mean by that is that a robust process with repeatable workholding and stable, consistent tool behavior basically becomes "Load and Go". You can probably can find/train workers and/or co-bots to do that, but getting the process to that point, finding someone to do the "Set-Up" is the challenge and where is the real shortage.
As Udo Jahn writes in this important article, his point #3, investing in new technology is vital to fill whatever kind of gap exists. Building custom fixtures is a specific art, but modular tooling and perhaps additive manufacturing (I have yet to see anything on this obvious application) is changing this.
Selfishly, our technology of Machining Dynamics removes the mystery of choosing speeds and feeds for milling tools. Simply tap-test the tool and you instantly know where it will run stable and where it will not.
There are technologies from companies like Caron Engineering, Inc. that will optimize feed rates automatically and detect tool wear or breakage.
There are already a lot of technologies around your shop that have replaced human "skills". The feel of a micrometer thimble, the issuing of a tool from a crib, the setting of tool offsets with a piece of paper and much, much more.
Now let me try to bring home the discussion of the 10,000 Hour Rule and the MSC question of learning to use manual machines.
Out of college I worked for a great man named Pat Benjamin at Allen Benjamin in Tempe, Arizona. We produced taps, gages and reamers using purpose designed grinders. We also had a small area set aside with a manual mill and lathe. Pat was a competitive boat racer and used the shop to make or modify parts for his boat and made it available to all of his employees to use on any personal project.
Think about that. If you own a CNC machine shop, I'll bet a lot of your employees have hobbies. It might be cars, motorcycles, hunting, model airplanes, golf, almost anything. I will also bet most of them have an idea for a new gadget or device for their hobby. What if you were to set up a small manual shop, stocked with remnant material and resharpened (but not usable in production) tools? Let them use it on their own time for whatever they want to do.
Use focused training, appropriate automation and new technologies (like our's) to get new workers making parts on your state of the art CNC machines now while back filling their basic machining knowledge by appealing to their interests.
"If you build it, they will build"
While a fan of the concept of the 10,000 hour Rule, I recently revisited the biographies of President George Bush and Ted Williams. In World War II, with no previous experience they were trained to be combat pilots in TEN MONTHS. About 1600 hours. Not to sink a jump shot in a game, but to go to war and risk their very lives.
On the home front, women by the thousands were called up to immediately learn to run machine tools, welders and, yes, set rivets. The recruiting messages were especially misogynist:
"If you can run an electric mixer, you can run a drill press."
(FYI - The iconic Rosie the Riveter poster was created by Pittsburgh artist, J. Howard Miller, and first appeared at the local Westinghouse plant. Pittsburgh IS the center of the universe.)
This was wartime, a time of crisis. There was no time to waste. Robust processes were put in place, training was formalized and condensed, new technologies were developed such as the Link Flight Simulator.
Today, can we use the same initiatives to fill the Skills Gap? (Still hate the term). Get the parts made today, then back fill with continuing education to get those who want to reach their own 10,000 hours of expertise.
This is a fascinating subject and the answer is obvious to traditionalists.
It reminds me of the concept of the "10,000 Hour Rule" that my friend Tony Schmitz recently wrote about. It was coined by author Malcolm Gladwell to illustrate that it takes about 10,000 hours of work or practice to become an expert at something. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (with a 2 week break) is 2000 hours a year. Do that for 5 years and it adds up to 10,000 hours. It now takes the average student about 5 years to complete a bachelor's degree. 10,000 hours. The average major league baseball player spends 5 years in the minors. 10,000 hours. To become a journeyman electrician requires 5 years of an apprenticeship and supervised work experience. 10,000 hours. It takes 4 years of medical school and years more of residency to become a medical doctor. 10,000 hours plus. Do you think Steph Curry, Sidney Crosby or Lionel Messi practiced their shots for 10,000 hours. You bet they did, from a very young age.
However, If you believe the headlines, we have a crisis. There are simply not enough people to make the parts that we need to be made. They call it the "Skills Gap" (don't like the term, it's not a lack of skill, it's a lack of training).
Can we wait 10,000 hours? To be continued...
After watching a true freshman quarterback in the college football national championship and the performance of rookie signal callers in the NFL, this rapid learning curve could be attributed to a video game, Madden NFL. Retired Oakland Raiders coach John Madden was approached in 1984 for an endorsement of a game. He insisted that the game be realistic and educational. Since coming out in 1988, over 130 million copies have been sold. Generations of future football players and coaches learned the terminology and strategy of football by playing Madden NFL. As computer power increased, the complexity and accuracy of the game consoles and software have kept up. Sound familiar? Just like CNC machines and CAD/CAM software.
To attract young people to the industry maybe someone could create a manufacturing video game. Very technical simulation games have been created for other industries, such as, Kerbal Space Program and SpaceChem. Back in 1996 at IMTS, Omat commissioned a video game where the player controlled the feed rate override of an endmill on a tool path competing against their Optimill feed rate optimization system.
Years ago when I was a distributor we sold a lot of 55 gallon drums of metalworking coolant concentrate. They were typically mixed with water at a 5-10% dilution. The drums were big and heavy, costing a lot in freight to ship to us, as well as, requiring special equipment and vehicles to deliver them to customers. We needed to rent extra floor space to inventory the drums, not daring to stack them more than one on top of another. In other words, we rented a lot of wasted air space. Plus disposing of the empty barrels was a problem for customers. Upon learning that the drums of concentrate still contained a lot of water, I mentioned this to Charlie Vollaro, then the owner of Far West Oil. He created a formula that we called “100:1”. One five gallon container of 100:1 produced the same amount of coolant as the typical 55 gallon drum. We found 5 gallon cubetainers, cardboard boxes with a plastic bladder used by the dairy industry. Easy to inventory and ship.
Never went anywhere but we thought it was a good idea, similar to what this article describes about Tide.
I received a number of messages asking me to identify the models of machines in the stability lobe diagram in my last post.
I didn't as that should not be the take-away. This is not a machine tool comparison test. What it does show is how different the same tool will perform in different machines. A different tool configuration would change the results.
I made some changes to the diagram to show the endmill manufacturer's recommended speed (the green shading) and depth of cut (the blue dot) from their catalog chart, which was 1500 SFM and 1X Depth of cut at a full slot. Material was 7075 aluminum. Clearly the tool would have chattered in EVERY one of the machines, so with trial and error you would need to keep trying lower and lower depths of cut until it was stable. I also expanded the speed range to 15,000 RPM so you can see the impact on the lobes of each measurement.
The take-way should be that finding the very best speeds and depths of cut, WITHOUT measuring the tool point dynamics, is very hard if not impossible. You are leaving money on the table.
If you accept the science of Machining Dynamics and that a Stability Lobe Diagram exists for every tool/toolholder/machine combination then this might give you pause. The exact same endmill and toolholder assembly with the same tool stick-out was tap-tested in seven different machining centers and the lobe diagrams for each were overlaid. The speed range on this chart for comparison purposes was limited to 10k although some of the machines had faster spindles (none greater than 15k).
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