By visiting various companies, I realise more and more that there is one problem shared by all: the lack of technical personnel.
When meeting with company employers, plant directors, and production managers, this topic often comes up, with all the difficulties it entails and the problems it generates.
For many companies, selling on the market is the primary challenge.
At business development courses, which, at times, seem to be more like survival courses for businesses, you are taught to aim at internalization.
Theoretically, internalization is a good idea; not basing one’s sales on the internal market only is a good idea in terms of not risking too much on a single market, even if internalizing is not as easy as one might think.
In any event, let’s say that as good students we have done this too: one eye toward the internal market, one eye towards foreign markets.
Let’s suppose we have managed to get over this hurdle concerning sales, and that the turnover and budget level is going well.
Once you get past this hurdle, it is easy to think that most of the work has been done…
NOW, THE PROBLEM IS TO PRODUCE THE SOLD PRODUCTS IN COMPLIANCE WITH AGREEMENTS WITHIN THE RIGHT TIME FRAME
(EVEN WITH A LACK OF TECHNICAL PERSONNEL)
I was saying that, at the various industrial companies I visited over the years, once a sales contract is closed, a major wound opens up in order to complete the work on time with less and less technical personnel available.
Every year that goes by, the problem of personnel who retire and are not replaced with those who are just as qualified presents itself more and more often.
One of the reasons for this is that, often, the personnel who leave the company have decades of experience and, in fact, often were there when the company first started doing business.
When this happens, the company suffers a loss that even after years it cannot fill, despite all its good intentions.
This is when trouble starts.
Without those who put their “two cents” in at the right time, it seems that the company is no longer able to produce and/or deliver products that it had been making for years.
As a result, customers start to complain about late deliveries or malfunctions in the products themselves, and so a long and painful process begins in order to try and fix things, in the face of angry, anxious customers.
WHEN CERTAIN PROFESSIONAL FIGURES RETIRE, COMPANIES RUN A HUGE RISK
Well-consolidated companies are not immune to this terrible truth.
Ultimately, there are people behind the companies and behind the brands, so, if we think about it, it is not so impossible that when certain key figures leave for one reason or another, the large brands also experience this problem.
I am sure that you have directly or indirectly experienced this problem in your professional life.
If it was directly, you certainly told yourself that the next time you would have to plan this event better by having personnel work side by side with the more experienced personnel so that they can learn as much as possible from them.
This technique, known as shadowing is a good idea, but unfortunately it will not be a 100% replacement of the figure with years and years of experience, even in cases where the shadowing lasted an entire year!
In any event, shadowing remains one of the most effective techniques at the present time.
However, I see another glimmer of hope in our favour, provided it is introduced as much as possible:
TECHNOLOGY IS INCREASINGLY OF HELP WHEN IT COMES TO THE LACK OF SKILLED LABOUR
This is what I mean by that phrase: I noticed that, in various sectors, technology gives a helping hand when there is a lack of specialisation.
Let’s look at some common examples: in the past, to make delicious tortellini, in addition to ingredients you also needed skilled labour in order to obtain a tasty dish.
Today, you can go to any “Ristorante Giovanni Rana” at a shopping center, order your tortellini, and have the restaurant staff prepare for you a plate of good-tasting tortellini, perfectly cooked and quickly served.
All this is possible without any skilled labour.
In our example, there is no cook but simply employees who follow defined procedures, cook with flat screens near the burners, on which the customers’ orders are displayed, and consequently the procedures again shown on the screen on how to prepare the dish, step by step with even a final photograph that shows the employee what the dish should look like at the end.
Years ago, no one would have bet on the fact that a computer would be needed in the kitchen in order to cook a meal, as people would have simply imagined a cook with his/her tools of the trade.
This became necessary to make up for the lack of skilled labour. In fact, if every “Giovanni Rana” restaurant had 6/7 cooks at the burners, there would be no need for computers at all.
If you also take a close look at your company, you will certainly notice areas where you would have never imagined to see a PC take the place of a worker. One area where today all companies obviously have a PC installed is the warehouse.
Today, thanks to a PC that manages your stock, your can:
- IMMEDIATELY KNOW THE QUANTITIES ON HAND OF A SPECIFIC ARTICLE WITHOUT HAVING TO DO ANY COUNTING
- KNOW WHERE THE ARTICLES ARE PHYSICALLY LOCATED WITHOUT HAVING TO SPEAK WITH THE WAREHOUSE MANAGER
- QUERY THE INVENTORY CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN THE PAST 6, 12 or 24 MONTHS
- KNOW THE COST OF A PRODUCT, ITS SALE PRICE AND SO ON
Without technology, all this information would be tied to personnel, who would necessarily have to be the skilled type.
And, if that personnel were to stay home from work for some reason or another, this would have consequently caused problems.
TECHNOLOGY HELPS TO MAKE UP FOR THE LACK OF SKILLED LABOUR.
Even in my experience as manufacturer of machine tools, I have seen many cases where through the introduction of hi-tech machines, the company was able to make up for the lack of skilled workers.
In my specific case, when designing machine tools one has to keep their feet on the ground and think about who will be using our system.
The machine tool will have to be simple to use, in other words user-friendly.
So, from the very start of the design phase and through technology, the machine tool must be made user-friendly, so that there will be no need for an engineer to make it work.
The following concepts are taken into consideration when designing and building a machine tool:
- IT MUST BE SIMPLE TO USE
- IT MUST BE INTUITIVE
- IT MUST BE USER-FRIENDLY
Today, the MULTICENTER represents this new type of machine tool, designed in compliance with the concepts listed above.
One of the key ideas that kept us faithful to the concept of simplicity was to force ourselves to design only one machining center for each workstation.
This is a crucial advantage for those who program the machine, as they do not have to worry about having to turn into aerospace engineers in order to avoid collisions with other tools located in the work area.
We also eliminated the Turret, or Revolver head, not only due to rigidity issues and limited tools available, but rather, once again, during the programming phase the turret would require the operator to make sure that the other two tools, next to the one doing the processing, would not collide against the tooling.
Another feature that makes the MULTICENTER user-friendly is the fact that, unlike TRANSFER machines or flexible turret equipped machines, the tools can be changed from the outside without the operators having to physically access the work area, a task that is usually uncomfortable as the area is full of shavings and leaking coolant, showering them in cutting fluid.
These are only some of the features that allow the MULTICENTER to be operated by less qualified personnel compared to other machine tools.
The operator interface is the icing on the cake that completes the INTUITIVENESS concept.
In fact, on the special touch-screen, the operator can only see the controls that can be carried out under those conditions, thus eliminating those controls that cannot be selected at that moment.
THE MULTICENTER WAS DESIGNED FOR EASY USE: IT IS A USER-FRIENDLY MACHINE WITH AN INTUITIVE OPERATOR INTERFACE
Any operator who knows how to use a 3-axis machining center already possesses all the skills he needs to use the MULTICENTER.
All it takes is 4 hours training to illustrate its use to the operator.
Machine use was not the only aspect taken into account, as maintenance was also considered.
In fact, by analysing the preventive maintenance activities that can be carried out by the customer or by PORTA SOLUTIONS directly on request, we came up with a simple and quick way to intuitively access the areas of interest.
THE RECIPE IS: A MACHINE THAT IS SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE AND THAT REQUIRES LITTLE MAINTENANCE!
The MULTICENTER is based on TRANSFER technology.
In fact, the 4-station pallet rotates like a TRANSFER, consequently it is fast; but, instead of simple transfer units, 3 independent MACHINING CENTERS were used, with tool change and pallet rotation B axis This was done in order to guarantee easy use and high productivity.
THANKS TO THE MULTICENTER YOU WILL NO LONGER NEED SPECIAL MACHINE SET UP PERSONNEL
Since 2005 we have been gradually introducing this new product on the market, thus opening up a new segment.
We are committed to making machines that are simple and intuitive to use.
Today, we can boast the largest machinery fleet installed in this category, with over 100 centers sold both in Italy and abroad.
Expert in Flexible Production