If you’re considering adopting modern automation technology and robotics into your production processes, you might be wondering if you need to hire new people with advanced skillsets. After all, it makes sense that you might need them. Those fancy new machines have to be complicated to run, right?
Well, yes and no.
The complicated part – the coding – is our job. The rest can be done with skillsets you probably already have in your factory.
You might think of some of your team as set in their ways and resistant to learning new things. (And undoubtedly, you know your team better than we do.) But the skills needed to run a modern wood manufacture robotics setup are not advanced technical skills. You don’t need to go looking for a recent graduate with a degree in industrial robot programming wizardry. You actually need the opposite: a seasoned equipment operator with a good amount of experience on the shop floor.
Your operator’s role will be to “supervise” your new machine, making decisions on when to stop processes, perform maintenance, and make adjustments. Back-end coding isn’t part of the job. This is true even if you want to introduce a new part shape or size into the process. The reason is that the modern computers and programs behind your new equipment are powerful enough to take many new part designs or measurements – or whatever adjustments you need to make – and handle them itself. One of our clients reported that it’s as simple as entering part dimensions into a spreadsheet.
Only your grandfather considers that “computer programming.”
In truth, there are three types of people needed to make your transition to automated production cells a success.
As we said, the most important part of this person’s skillset going forward won’t be traditional CNC programming. Instead, you’ll need to leverage their expertise at seeing the bigger picture in interconnected production cells. They’ll be overseeing automated machines, inspecting quality levels, deciding when maintenance is needed, and making the call about when to press pause to correct, adjust, or maintain the machine.
For example, let’s say you’re manufacturing cabinets and you’ve got a nesting CNC machine for dowel hole drilling and dowel insertion. Your operator notices one day that your melamine layers on the last batch of product that was doweled are getting chipped quite a bit. He understands that the cutting tool on the machine probably needs replacing. He’s safeguarding quality and makes the call to bring in the second person who willbe essential to making automation a success at your plant: the maintenance tech.
Your maintenance first responders are the ones called over by your operators when it becomes clear that a machine has a problem. They’ll be first on scene to troubleshoot and determine what needs tobe done to get your equipment back online.
These guys have a technical background, and are able to perform routine maintenance and some repairs on machines and equipment. They know how to handle wiring, can read electrical plans, and understand AutoCAD. They can drill, weld, and generally handle a variety of tasks needed to keep your machines running and repair them when they go down.
Your maintenance technicians will be responsible for maximizing machine uptime. We’ll also be supporting them as needed, ensuring that when they have questions, we’ve got answers.
There’s also one final person needed:
This is the person who’s responsible for overseeing adoption and incorporation of new automated equipment, and ultimately making sure that the new technology generates the desired returns. This might be you, if you’re here and considering learning more about how automation and robotics could work at your factory.
Your champion will be delving deep into your new technology to understand things fully and be responsible for the interconnected flow from one process to the next. This person is probably excited about the possibilities and benefits of automation, and is envisioning a more competitive and productive future for your company. Your champion will be someone that’s passionate about possibility.
To be clear, there will be some training needed to make your new equipment work properly. For your operators, we typically deliver about 20-40 hours of intensive training up front, and then support your team with on the floor coaching to ensure a successful transition.Your maintenance techs and champions will need a bit more time to get fully up to speed. Their level of involvement during the initial phase of equipment deployment and willingness to problem solve will be the key determinants of the amount of time needed to get them to the appropriate level of competency.
You might be imagining your more seasoned team members and wondering how you’re going to get them to buy in to newprocesses. No doubt, some will resist change. That’s normal. But don’t forgetthat many will also benefit from changes! We’ve seen older guys “turn back the clock” and become a lot more productive because they no longer have to wrestle with big pieces and parts. The machine does the heavy lifting for them, and they can put their considerable skills and expertise to work.
Think your team can’t do it? Give them a chance to surprise you! A more modern plant can be an outstanding place to work once people get adjusted.