Dealing with people who have _no_ mechanical aptitude
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    Default Dealing with people who have _no_ mechanical aptitude

    So, as with most manufacturers, we have a hard time getting decent help. There is lots of overtime because we can't get enough help, which leads to more turnover... it's a vicious cycle. Even though our turnover is typically less than 10%/yr, that is still quite a few folks when you consider we employ >1000 at our facility.

    When I hired in during the early 90's, you had to have graduated from a machinist school or other technical professional school to even be considered for a position (for production positions). This led to a highly skilled workforce that did great things. Fast forward 10+ years and there are no longer anywhere near enough graduates of technical schools to fill the void due to the change in how the g'vmt viewed education. So you start hiring off the street and weeding out. Occasionally you have one or two who fall through the cracks of the weed out and become long term employees who are not really fit for the job.

    I've had the pleasure (pain) of dealing with one or two of those the past week or so. I'm still not sure how I've kept from choking them...but somehow I have managed.

    Guy #1 is a decent guy and he's mechanically inclined and can do stuff, but is scatterbrained due damage from a previous career. You have to keep him on task and you have to watch him to make sure he doesn't do something stupid occasionally. But for the most part, he's ok.

    Guy #2 just has _no_clue_. I still don't understand how he has remained employed doing this job.

    Just this past week and a half, while setting up a newly built production line:

    Guy #2 is setting up a machine where we have a pneumatic device with pins on it that extends to align / seat the part in the fixture before it is clamped. He can't get the bolt for one of the pins to tighten up because the hole is full of gunk, but decides that since he can't tighten that one up, he'll just loosen the other one "so they match in looseness". (Note, trying to align a part to hold a 20 micron (0.0008") tolerance.) Then gets huffy when I tell him that won't work and he has to do it correctly. Thinks his way will work fine (he knows it all).

    Then spends an hour and a half adjusting on the alignment to get the part aligned... finally comes over and says 'I've moved this adjustment 3 mm and it's still not moved the part at all'. I'm thinking..... hrm.... go over and take a look.... the pin isn't even touching the part because he put one ins that is too short, yet he has spent 1.5 hrs adjusting the fore/aft position of it and has scrapped 15 parts in the mean time. (He never looked to see if it was touching the part.)

    2 days later.. We are running trial parts by hand for capability studies. He's running a machine. Calls one of my Mfg Tech's over and asks him why I programmed the machine so that the coolant slowly shuts down during the cycle so that by the time the drill is running it's just barely pissing out of the coolant lines. My Mfg Tech is so taken aback by the stupidity (while watching the coolant die off during the cycle) that he can't even verbally respond to him...... he just goes over and gets a coolant buggy and puts 30 gal of coolant in the (virtually empty) tank, which results in the coolant working the entire cycle now. (Note several thousands of dollars worth of diamond tooling in this machine.)

    Last night I get a call, they are running more trial parts. Guy #1 destroys my probe and $500+ custom styli on machine #2 by forgetting to raise up Z axis before returning A axis to vertical while clearing a fault. (And does this by MDI command, not by hitting "home" - which actually would have been better because the machine would have raised Z before anything else happened.)

    How do you folks deal with this? I'm not the supervisor, I'm engineering. All I can do is report my personal observations to management. But this incompetence is driving me nuts.

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    How do you folks deal with this? I'm not the supervisor, I'm engineering. All I can do is report my personal observations to management. But this incompetence is driving me nuts.
    Do what most of us would do.. Try to fix the issue, make suggestions (in a positive way), sometimes
    just taking control yourself works.. Try working with these people to train them up and motivate them
    etc.....

    Then, more often than not, you realize you're fighting an up hill battle and say F'it, and just do
    your job, and realize that if things get screwed up, its not coming out of your pocket.

    "Hey Mr. Supervisor, he's going to F' that all up, I already told him how to do it and he won't
    listen, when it blows up tonight, don't call me, and I'm not working the weekend to fix it."

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    I am thinking I need to talk with the wife to let me travel more...got to contracting myself out. Apparently anything above common sense I can make the big bucks.

    It's a vicious cycle that started by brainwashing young A-B high school students they had to go to 4-yr colleges(while paying 1000% more for tuition) to make something of themselves. I have mentioned that again and again on these boards. They can't fix it in time so you know what they do...brainwashing them to think they will work in pristine factories like Lamborghini and putting the schools closer to a bus line...no joke.

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    You've worked at a big company long enough to know that they succeed in spite of themselves. Just let the company keep peeling off $1000 bills and carry on with your life. Either someone will notice and correct the issue, or it really doesn't matter.

    In a big company, it's often more costly to try to fire people than to just let them burn the place down from the inside. The more union representation, the worse it gets.

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    I'm listening. I need a solution too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonytn36 View Post
    So, as with most manufacturers, we have a hard time getting decent help. There is lots of overtime because we can't get enough help, which leads to more turnover... it's a vicious cycle.

    <...snip...>

    How do you folks deal with this? I'm not the supervisor, I'm engineering. All I can do is report my personal observations to management. But this incompetence is driving me nuts.
    Tony, I didn't realize you & I worked together... Although I'm nowhere near your skillset, and nowhere near the size company, I was in your shoes, at least within the context of your post. I was the engineering guy (used loosely) and had to work with the production guys. The supervisors were very non-technical, and pretty much responsible for keeping everyone working, and parts getting ran. So I feel your pain...



    How to deal with it?

    Teach & Train. I was given one of the better operators who showed some promise, and basically tried to teach him what I could in small, daily bites, and then force as much responsibility & problem solving on him as possible. So when an operator would have an issue - pick one of the million - he and I would go check it out. I'd usually try to point out the problem to the operator & my helper, and teach through the fix if it was something we could talk-through right there.

    Then, I'd try to coach my helper through fixing the issue, and I'd teach/train the operator on what happened, what to look for, etc... 99% of the time, everyone learned something and left happy.

    Long term, I'm not sure how successful it was, but I'm quite happy to hear that Jon's doing really well on his own since I left.





    Something I heard a pistol instructor say one time - The students that struggle the most, are the one's that need help the most. Meaning the one's that frustrate you the most, are most in need of your help. Just try to remember that, and stay positive.




    Occasionally you'll run into someone that is just a bad fit. Doesn't mean they're a bad person, but they just don't belong in that environment - perhaps at no fault of their own... That's tough.

    Just try to make it easy as possible for them to do the job correctly. Pictures, charts, cheat-sheets, whatever... There was one guy in particular that I thought was just hopeless at first. In time - over the course of a couple years - he actually turned out to be a pretty good operator, and someone you could trust to do a good job.




    Not saying I did everything perfect, but that's how I tried to work through it. Best of luck.

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    Those sorts of stories are told all over the country I am sure. When I had the company with employee's I volunteered to go to high schools and talk to the mechanical classes. They didn't have machine shop classes anymore, but had wood shop and basic mechanical classes that included how to change oil in the car, some welding, drilling a hole, some drafting but mostly was auto mechanics and a demo of a small CNC machine that made engraved name plates. Anyway the local machining association would set up an appointment with High Schools and I would take a 1/2 day off and bring a surface plate and a BIAX Power scraper as that is a big deal to see how I could flake a plate. The kids would gather around and try it. I would get their attention and the teachers probably went out for a smoke.

    A few of us association members volunteers would do 2 to 3 HS's a year. After I got their attention I would say raise your hands if you know the answers. 1) How many of your have heard of the job of Machinist? A few would raise their hands and say a relative which was usually an uncle or grandpa. 2) Then I said How many are going to college and be an Engineer? Again a few raised their hands and finally I said 3) How many want to work on cars? Hell the majority raised their hands. The association send with pamphlets showing how a High School Grad could go to work at a machine shop and make more money then either a graduate engineer or auto mech.

    Many of the shops had in house training as I'm sure many of you do now. I used to have a test I gave potential employee's that tested mechanical aptitude with a simple 4 pictures of the same part and one different. Now that I am pretty much retired I was talking to a local farm implement dealer and he said he does the same sort of talks at 4H meetings and hires kids who grew up on a farm. He said he has had a lot of luck. One of the my friends in Texas got involved at the local high school volunteering with the robotics club to gear the kids about his fun he had in his machine shop.

    Another friend at a grinding and polishing shop said he started to advertise for polishers instead of machinists that part of the job was polishing ground parts. He said he hired 2 men who had polished dentures. LOL. He said they turned into good employee's. So my advise is to look outside the box and we all need to go to local school board meetings and talk to them about returning shop classes to schools. Good Luck
    Rich

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard King View Post
    Another friend at a grinding and polishing shop said he started to advertise for polishers instead of machinists that part of the job was polishing ground parts. He said he hired 2 men who had polished dentures. LOL. He said they turned into good employee's. So my advise is to look outside the box..
    THIS... works. Doesn't matter what the materials or tools were.

    Matters that they had a personal interest in doing a good job. That they paid attention to "feedback" from what was going on in front of them and made progressively better decisions to solve problems right away, ELSE STOP THE MARCH, and go get help.

    Same thing with selecting and training Junior Officers. The ones who never seemed to make a mistake? That isn't "sustainable".

    The "environment" is going to furnish challenges and surprises. Always.

    The truly valuable were those who could SPOT things going awry, early and make changes - fast - to meet the new situation. Self-correcting, ever and always, as it were. That isn't so much a "mechanical aptitude" thing as an alert and observant brain thing.

    If you can detect in an applicant that sort of alertness, that "situational awareness" as habit and core personality, it doesn't much matter what the previous job or training was.

    Those folks can learn a new one. And do it again. Fast and well.

    The others? F**k "turnover" stats.

    Some years a company just has to bite the bullet and clean-house so they can create the better environment that earns lower turnover going forward.

    First ones to go are the managers - ULM and COO / CEO not immune - who should never have let it go to rot to being with.

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    The vast majority of our employees are good people with good skill sets and are teachable. I do a lot of teaching. But you have the occasional Guy #2 who just doesn't seem to have the mental ability. He just doesn't seem to be able to put two and two together and come up with four when looking at anything most would consider common sense. I've tried to do training with him, but he already knows it (nothing) all.

    Someone above said it, you have to "want to". Most older people take some pride in what they do and want to do a good job. Some just don't give a crap. We get younger folks in who have just never done anything, some don't even know what a wrench is or how to use it. But at least they are teachable for the most part if they "want to" - and not a lot of them do. Been brought up and given everything with no effort required to obtain it and have no work ethic at all.

    As stated above, one of the issues is the legal climate of today. It takes forever and a lot of effort to reduce out a poor hourly employee in a manner that won't result in a potential lawsuit if you don't get them within the probationary period. And we are non-union just for the record. I think we have an excellent management group at our facility - but they are hamstrung by corporate HR and Legal in situations like this, where the employee hasn't broken any rules, they just aren't a fit for the job.

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    How about have a video procedure and check list on how to do things? Or rules to follow when doing set ups. Maybe have another employee help to be a team and both have to check the list?

    Have a machine not in operation they can practice on? It could be part of the training ? It might be as simple as having a work area employee of the month certificate or closer parking space for 1 month award to get them thinking of doing it right. I recall several years ago I was working at a Federal Mogul plant in SE Missouri and they had high School type classes after work they had their employees attend and when they passed the were called plant engineers. One guy was leveling a machine and kept asking his supervisor which way was up on a level... Finally after the supervisor tried to explain it a couple of technical ways, he got flustered and said to him..."when you pass gas in a bathtub which way does the bubble go?" They guy understood that explanation..LOL....

    They also had these piston grinders that were a special sort of centerless grinder and it had an alignment bar that would need to be adjusted periodically. The plant engineers (maintenance men that passed the class) would argue about the best way. I watched 2 shifts and their counter productive methods, so the supervision and I decided that that operation had to done by the machinist from the tool room as they were the sharpest guys in the plant and that worked. Might take something like that? Good Luck...Rich

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    Once place I worked at advertised a vacancy for a Radial Arm Driller. The local job centre sent a guy round for interview. It turned out the guy had been rock driller in nearby quarry ! No, he didn't get the job then but nowadays they might have give him a go.

    Regards Tyrone.

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    They have a class for it, apparently guy #2 graduated with honors
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails imagescao5pk0k.jpg  

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    Guy #1 ?

    Can't help you with your problems, but figured you could use
    a small humor break.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails criticalthinking.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonytn36 View Post

    How do you folks deal with this? I'm not the supervisor, I'm engineering. All I can do is report my personal observations to management. But this incompetence is driving me nuts.
    My suggestion to you is to start drinking heavily


    I noticed some years ago that people have their individual limitations.

    Some people do not wish to learn, and some seem to have their brains full, where they are completely normal humans, but new information just bounces right back out of their heads.

    The problem in hiring is finding people who are motivated but also will be good employees.

    One day I interviewed two people. Both mid 20's, one was smart, worked in machine shops all his life, could walk in and do the job, probably better than I could. But he called himself 'a bit of a job hopper'.

    The other walked in and started asking 'what is this called' 'what does this do' 'how does this work'. never been in a machine shop. Shall we say he understands the motivations and life history of the characters in the show 'Shameless'

    I hired the second

    He has been with me for ten years

    I has not been without its occasional bumps, but the first would have been good at his job but a horrible employee. By the time he got good at what I do, he would have become bored and left. The second has become good at his job but has always been an excellent employee.


    In your description I see less of a failure of the employee but in management, you do not put people in places where they can cause destruction when you know that is what they will do.

    The employee does not know his limitations, his supervisor should

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard King View Post
    How about have a video procedure and check list on how to do things? Or rules to follow when doing set ups. Maybe have another employee help to be a team and both have to check the list?
    Good point. You need to HAVE all three available.

    Some folks are "visual" learners. Some learn better from text, others from verbal and show-me hands-on instruction.

    That's a "core personality" thing, and not one easily changed, if it can be changed at all.

    You have to be prepared to present "all of the above", then pay attention to which one(s) worked best for each individual, and reinforce that going forward.

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    OP needs to leverage Guy #2's "skillset" by foisting him on a competitor. The effect of this is amplified, as you not only remove his idiocy from your pool of human resources, but you add it to the competition's. Making your company better and theirs worse. Leave printouts of local job openings on his car windshield, or in his locker. Sign him up on a recruiter's email blast. Better and easier than firing. Eventually it'll pay off.

    Chip

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    For many things a MOP or Method Of Procedure sheet is created.

    When one is working on something like a telco switch that requires exact procedure to avoid a crash that takes it down the MOP lists each task in specific orders in minor detail with supporting documents that fully detail each step.

    Had one party skip one step once that caused the switch to domino crash and caused an area wide outage for 6 hours....

    After that they included a page that stated simple statements that in a nutshell said if you did not fully understand the tasks to stay away.

    For complicated to simple there should be common tasks and making setup sheets or MOP should not be complicated.

    We call it wife test meaning ones wife should be able to read the instructions and complete the job if they had the skills to do the physical part).

    The instructions need to be clear and in common form without industry specific terms.

    Those who may be slow" can use them as a simple checklist and it makes the operations standard and routine.



    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337Z using Tapatalk

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    Early in my career I discovered that most of my grade nine class had absolutely no idea how a small gasoline engine even started. They all lived in apartments. My Brother in law in his teens had to mail a letter and asked where the post office was. I had to explain what a mail box looked like since he had lived all his life in a small town.
    My daughter works in cognitive psych research and is not surprized to encounter people who do not know the difference between a wrench and a screwdriver. Any funny thing you hold in your had to do mechanical things is a wrench.
    Many people have zero aptitude simply because they have never been exposed to things mechanical. I still amazes me how many people in large urban environments do not have a drivers license. They have no need to drive and have no interest in learning.
    Either do massive in house training or as someone mentioned seek people from a more rural pool where from early age they are around others who "fix" things

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Quiring View Post

    We call it wife test meaning ones wife should be able to read the instructions and complete the job if they had the skills to do the physical part).
    I worked with a fellow who had no great skills but a good worker, nice guy. He mostly worked in inspection, which in a gyro manufacturer is way beyond sticking a micrometer on a part and accepting or rejecting. A typical test involved setting a gyro up on a spin table, orienting it to line up the axes, and calibrating it in different modes. When he was assigned to a new test, he carefully listed all the steps in terms he could understand. In time, "Charlie's notebook" became the standard because anyone of average IQ could read it and do the test.

    Bill

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    What you describe is unfortunately a symptom of societal changes. Where once many people did a lot of their own home repairs, etc. gradually "working with your hands" fell from favor and became looked down on. If you asked a typical bunch of elementary kids how many want to be machinists or mechanics very few hands would raise.

    There have probably been millions of words written about this subject yet every year it seems to get worse.


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