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How to train employees?

Stoney83

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 19, 2014
Location
NW Ohio
My shop has been growing as of late. The oldest employee has been there for about 8 years. Hired one guy full time about a year ago. One part time guy 6 months ago and another part time guy a week ago. These guys are all fairly smart and making a little better than average wage for the area and their skill sets.

This Friday I went out of town and bought a used machine. Saturday morning I find about 50 scrapped parts and a damaged fixture (my most complicated fixture) that I should probably replace instead of welding. Today I change the inserts on an expensive face mill and one of the screws has been over tightened with the head stripped.

There are various ways I can idiot proof all this stuff but my fear is if I do that they will never learn anything. Plus I already babysit them enough and don’t get to work on the things I should.

We have tool presetters, all of the fixtures are marked with workcordinates, program numbers and sometimes even a Z offset that will get super close to tollerance. Basically all they have to do is throw in a fixture, probe it and then select the proper program. Many of the production jobs have spec sheets. I don’t want to get in to probing routines to ensure every part is loaded correctly. I would by some torque screwdrivers for the face mills (if they make them?) The damaged fixture was from them not updating a tool offset even tho we have tool setters.

I know stuff happens and I try not to get mad. I feel like I could have given them all the day off and been basically in the same spot. They made more good parts than bad and overall the day was probably a net positive money wise. But they also screwed up more stuff than they get paid and I now have more things to do and not nearly enough time. So the question remains how do you train operators to bring them to the next level.

I apologize as this topic has probably been brought up before but today’s environment is likely different than previous post from years ago.
 

thewynner98

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 20, 2021
My shop has been growing as of late. The oldest employee has been there for about 8 years. Hired one guy full time about a year ago. One part time guy 6 months ago and another part time guy a week ago. These guys are all fairly smart and making a little better than average wage for the area and their skill sets.

This Friday I went out of town and bought a used machine. Saturday morning I find about 50 scrapped parts and a damaged fixture (my most complicated fixture) that I should probably replace instead of welding. Today I change the inserts on an expensive face mill and one of the screws has been over tightened with the head stripped.

There are various ways I can idiot proof all this stuff but my fear is if I do that they will never learn anything. Plus I already babysit them enough and don’t get to work on the things I should.

We have tool presetters, all of the fixtures are marked with workcordinates, program numbers and sometimes even a Z offset that will get super close to tollerance. Basically all they have to do is throw in a fixture, probe it and then select the proper program. Many of the production jobs have spec sheets. I don’t want to get in to probing routines to ensure every part is loaded correctly. I would by some torque screwdrivers for the face mills (if they make them?) The damaged fixture was from them not updating a tool offset even tho we have tool setters.

I know stuff happens and I try not to get mad. I feel like I could have given them all the day off and been basically in the same spot. They made more good parts than bad and overall the day was probably a net positive money wise. But they also screwed up more stuff than they get paid and I now have more things to do and not nearly enough time. So the question remains how do you train operators to bring them to the next level.

I apologize as this topic has probably been brought up before but today’s environment is likely different than previous post from years ago.
The problem i see in this country is that anyone who's worth their salt usually is in the same position as you. Very few guys get good and are amazing and stay working for someone else.

Sent from my LM-V600 using Tapatalk
 

MCritchley

Hot Rolled
Joined
Mar 22, 2007
Location
Milwaukee
Yes they do make fine quality torque screwdrivers- we have one that’s a Snapon and works well. It takes a 1/4” hex bit.

They are not that expensive, there are also cheaper ones available.
 

ttrager

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 23, 2015
You are in a small shop, "Tribal Knowledge" is likely the rule (I assume).

You are the Leader, your consistent example is what will make this work . . . eventually.

I assume you were told why the parts were scrapped. I mention this because your concern regarding "holes in training" have to be first targeted accurately at the root cause. What went wrong and why? No evasion, no "stories", the real deal. I don't work there so I have no idea about the people, whether this is already in place or not at all, or anything in between: Your people must feel the confidence to come to you and fess up accurately about oopsies.

Assuming you identify why things like this happen, accurately, everything else flows from that.

To keep this shorter, as opposed to longer and therefore useless and TLDR:

You are a small shop, a close-knit set of people. Take it in small, but targeted bites IMHO. I could go on about "training programs", "ISO", blah, blah, but not really practical here.

1) What went wrong and why? Specific skill training? Discipline problem? Distractions (e.g. people talking with each other during machining)? Do they have the right tools & are they calibrated? Proper prints and work instructions?
2) Once identified . . . accurately . . . go over the situation with them and provide instruction with the communication "Ok, this shouldn't have happened, here's what we found, and here's the Correction (Correction Action) so we keep it from happening again." And give that Training. If it's tool, workspace, or other resource issue, that's easily fixed: buy/fix/calibrate the tools, or get better tools (pure guessing here, you haven't indicated tool issues, just covering the bases with my opinion is all).
3) Document it. Small shop, you undoubtably are juggling a bunch of stuff, but setup a basic spreadsheet you can log an issue, date it, identify the Job, and a fast comment on what was done. Keep it brief, managable, but pertinent.
4) Evaluate. Are the signs / markings at the positions you alluded to enough, and still accurate? Is the problem reoccurring? Do YOU, as the Leader, sense/see there's still an issue or not?
5) Check them periodically. Just a casual fly-by, how's it going, you still on track with what we talked about? That kind of thing.

Eventually you may decide to formalize instructions more, maybe write up distinct "Training Cards" for specific tasks or jobs. I've done that where I work now. But right now your biggest challenge is to set the culture and the example for problem solving. Your people need to feel ownership/pride in doing the work, and taking the initiative to keep the work right when something goes oopsie (at least sooner than 50 parts scrapped worth).

You don't have to be "hard core fix it all at once". Just consistent, like a heartbeat, with the preferred METHODS you want to see, to keep jobs safe.
 

michiganbuck

Diamond
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Location
Mt Clemens, Michigan 48035
QT: [Many of the production jobs have spec sheets.] Good, but do general jobs have a process sheet?
A crew sheet should be employed when instructing a job and left at the job work area.

QT: [I would buy some torque screwdrivers for the face mills (if they make them?)]
They do make them and they can be color-coded for each torque spec.
Fixed Preset Torque Wrenches for Sale | Pro Torque Tools

QT: [There are various ways I can idiot-proof all this stuff but my fear is if I do that they will never learn anything.]

Very often failure to provide rules, instruction, and tools limit people's abilities.

QT: [Saturday morning I find about 50 scrapped parts] What is the inspection rule? *Check/inspect a part at one-hour intervals on this job.

Spec sheets might have a note of common error or what to watch out for.

Some jobs my need a simple gauge to check an important aspect of the part.
 

AJ H

Hot Rolled
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Training employee's is expensive because no matter how much poka yoke you throw at a job someone will come along that knows how to FUBAR it.

We've had good results sending people to the local community college for machining classes. It cost the company several thousand a semester out of pocket but it's worth it IMO.

The employee is happy they're being invested in and comes to work with a good attitude and tries hard.

They are able to learn things that they either aren't exposed to in your shop or there's not time to go over, helping them climb the ladder.

Most importantly hopefully some of their green, stupid, bonehead, rookie mistakes happen on the school's equipment instead of yours, this alone can be worth the cost of tuition.
 

Joe Miranda

Titanium
Joined
Oct 19, 2004
Location
Elyria Ohio
You are in a small shop, "Tribal Knowledge" is likely the rule (I assume).

You are the Leader, your consistent example is what will make this work . . . eventually.

I assume you were told why the parts were scrapped. I mention this because your concern regarding "holes in training" have to be first targeted accurately at the root cause. What went wrong and why? No evasion, no "stories", the real deal. I don't work there so I have no idea about the people, whether this is already in place or not at all, or anything in between: Your people must feel the confidence to come to you and fess up accurately about oopsies.

Assuming you identify why things like this happen, accurately, everything else flows from that.

To keep this shorter, as opposed to longer and therefore useless and TLDR:

You are a small shop, a close-knit set of people. Take it in small, but targeted bites IMHO. I could go on about "training programs", "ISO", blah, blah, but not really practical here.

1) What went wrong and why? Specific skill training? Discipline problem? Distractions (e.g. people talking with each other during machining)? Do they have the right tools & are they calibrated? Proper prints and work instructions?
2) Once identified . . . accurately . . . go over the situation with them and provide instruction with the communication "Ok, this shouldn't have happened, here's what we found, and here's the Correction (Correction Action) so we keep it from happening again." And give that Training. If it's tool, workspace, or other resource issue, that's easily fixed: buy/fix/calibrate the tools, or get better tools (pure guessing here, you haven't indicated tool issues, just covering the bases with my opinion is all).
3) Document it. Small shop, you undoubtably are juggling a bunch of stuff, but setup a basic spreadsheet you can log an issue, date it, identify the Job, and a fast comment on what was done. Keep it brief, managable, but pertinent.
4) Evaluate. Are the signs / markings at the positions you alluded to enough, and still accurate? Is the problem reoccurring? Do YOU, as the Leader, sense/see there's still an issue or not?
5) Check them periodically. Just a casual fly-by, how's it going, you still on track with what we talked about? That kind of thing.

Eventually you may decide to formalize instructions more, maybe write up distinct "Training Cards" for specific tasks or jobs. I've done that where I work now. But right now your biggest challenge is to set the culture and the example for problem solving. Your people need to feel ownership/pride in doing the work, and taking the initiative to keep the work right when something goes oopsie (at least sooner than 50 parts scrapped worth).

You don't have to be "hard core fix it all at once". Just consistent, like a heartbeat, with the preferred METHODS you want to see, to keep jobs safe.

What I have seen work best in a small shop environment is that you need two really good people in charge; one to run the office and administrative aspects and the other to handle the shop environment. Roles will certainly need to overlap but that is about the only way to minimize the kind of stuff you described.
 

ttrager

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 23, 2015
Joe Miranda: Probably a good suggestion. The idea of having a METHOD of instruction/training and problem solving in place, and being consistent with it, would still apply. Just responsibility divisions on who handles what.

Good suggestion on your part.
 

Stoney83

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 19, 2014
Location
NW Ohio
Thanks for the feed back. I’ll get some of the Torque screw drivers ordered and poke-a-yoke those parts with markings for orientation. They where loading a part 180 degrees out. On most parts this is obvious but on these it a bit harder to tell. So they where about .050 short on one end. These parts are new and lacking a spec sheet or instruction since we’ve only been running them for maybe a month. Should have done that the first day we made them.

I did hire the part time guy full time so I can work on spec sheets and do more productive things myself. He will start Monday. The machine shop I poached him from probably won’t be happy but that’s not my problem.

“ What I have seen work best in a small shop environment is that you need two really good people in charge; one to run the office and administrative aspects and the other to handle the shop environment.”

I had this before my dad retired and things ran really smoothly. The guys I have now aren’t at the level yet. Although 2 of them have potential to be. I’m gonna send the guy that’s been here a year to the local college for CAD/CAM. The guy that’s been here 6 months has 5 axis programming knowledge. He hardly ever makes a mistake and in some ways is more talented than me; in other ways he lacks a well rounded knowledge. The guys that’s been here 8 years was the marketing guy who now runs a cnc. I’ve been trying to give him more administrative jobs and now with the new full time guy maybe I can.
 

Stoney83

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 19, 2014
Location
NW Ohio
“What went wrong and why? No evasion, no "stories", the real deal.”

There all honest guys and try to the right thing. I was actually kinda impressed the operator who damaged the fixture wrote down all the tool offsets for the job and work coordinate numbers. So finding the mistake was really easy.

I also covered all the mistake made that day with everyone so hopefully they are learning
 

Straightedge

Hot Rolled
Joined
Mar 17, 2009
Location
Germany/California
When I started the business, I screwed up with some early hires. I went cheap, I went inexperienced, and I had a hard time judging people in interviews. In return for this, I got to deal with guys who had child support/divorce-insanity/alcoholism/you-name-it and basically was rewarded with having all the responsibilities of running the business and having to act like a psychological counselor for these guys. Looking back, it was a total waste of time. They say you can't fix stupid but you can definitely fix this problem. Here's what I learned:

1. You hire for attitude first, then for aptitude and experience.
2. We never advertise for help. We initiate the contact with the prospective employee, not the other way around. We only contact prospects after getting word-of-mouth recommendation from someone we trust.
3. We pay serious money for quality. I just looked up the numbers: the lowest-paid guy here earns $61.45/hr plus benefits. A very experienced and brilliant part-timer (PhD physicist, not a machinist) gets $163.93/hr.
4. When you engage ultra-high quality employees, problems tend to solve themselves.
5. One guy in particular stands out. With him, all I do is roughly describe what I'd like with a few hard specifications and a budget and then let him think through the details. A few weeks later, he brings me in the lab with the prototype all worked out and more elegant than I could have conceived.
6. The quality employees allow you to pursue niche work that has very little competition and decent margins.
7. Being ultra-selective about your employees will not make just your business, but your LIFE vastly better.

You can be your own vo-tech and teach guys skills that add value, but that's almost secondary. You can't really train people to be the kind of people you want--conscientious, honest, responsible, and smart. You have to hire that out the gate.
 

Kalispel

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Location
Ohio
7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Leader

Something I was reading earlier today, maybe it will benefit?


I differentiate the terms “Leader” and “Manager”

Managers tend to do things right
Leaders tend to do the right thing

A person can do both but it is rare.

I have seen a lot of managers do horrible things by the book. I’ve also seen a lot of leaders decline manager roles because they refused to use their influence to advance the company’s policies.
 

Janderso

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Location
Chico
This subject applies across a broad definition of job types.
Skilled hands on-technical jobs are harder to fill year over year.
I think a big part of it is todays youths aren't exposed to mechanical repair of any kind.
There is no 7th grade metal shop which I thought was the best thing in the world. (that was 50 years ago.)
Todays cars for the most part, dad takes to the shop so us kids don't get to experience opening the tool box to use our gray matter to figure out how to go about fixing this thing.
Some good ideas listed. It takes years to develop a quality hand. Then the trick is to retain them.
 

jscpm

Stainless
Joined
May 4, 2010
Location
Cambridge, MA
LOL, if you get rid of the assholes who hate their job, that is 99% of the problem.

If somebody WANTS to work, eventually they WILL work.

The other thing is: don't expect your employees to be you. Most people are morons and you just have to accept that and embrace it. Once you learn to love morons, things will get a lot better.
 

chuckg7442

Aluminum
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
I don't know if it's just me, but what happened to the days of on the job training? I do see the value in building up employees how you want them. I understand that one needs to weed out the weak, so to speak. I understand that that slows down business and takes valuable time away from other employees, which is hard in a small shop. Depending on the style of work, like production vs prototype/small batches, seems like it would be a good thing to build relationship with employees and have the senior machinists guide the newbies.
 








 
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