There was a time, not long ago, when employers could rely on new hires to possess rudimentary knowledge of basic assembly methods, schematic diagrams and proper use of hand tools. These skills were the result of individuals who grew up maintaining their cars. Yet that way of life is largely a thing of the past, much to the dismay of employers. The current focus on advanced technologies and high-end skills is crucial and necessary, but you cannot overlook the need for basic skills, such as the ability to install bearings, lubricate machine slides or align couplings.
Production managers recognize these skills are the foundation for a company’s economic and technological progress, and whatever advancements occur; basic assembly skills will remain invaluable to manufacturing. Thus, even in the age of technology, it is crucial to consider the importance of basic skills and identify any gaps in your workers’ training so those needs can be addressed. Indeed, it’s important to remember that, though advanced technologies require highly trained technicians, such technologies also necessitate more fundamental skills that must also be learned and practiced to gain proficiency.
For example, though automobiles in this day and age are so advanced that most people can no longer perform routine maintenance, their construction would not be possible without basic assembly skills. While designing and configuring automobiles’ sophisticated electronic systems requires highly trained technicians and engineers, the car’s components must still be mounted and its wiring harnesses properly routed to ensure system failures do not occur.
For complex technologies to continue to evolve they are dependent on fundamental assembly skills, as general as understanding the importance of tightening the nut on a bolt and not the bolt’s head. No matter how well a company designs its products, improper assembly will lead to its premature failure once placed in service. So, though these skills are commonly referred to as “basic,” they cannot be taken lightly.
Take a hard look at your organization. Do your employees have the necessary skills to drive your business success forward? It is not uncommon, given the current pool of available workers, for production managers to find themselves with technicians who have advanced technical proficiency, but lack familiarity with the basics, such as how to properly torque the bolt pattern on a machine flange, how to route and connect wiring harnesses, or how to properly install pump systems. The importance of these basic skills cannot be overstated when something as small as a missing or improperly installed O-ring can result in a catastrophic machine failure.
Companies like Michelin, GE, DuPont, Northrop Grumman and Hewlett-Packard, which greatly emphasize the technological side of manufacturing, still recognize the need to ensure a supply of workers with basic assembly skills to carry their companies into the future. To that end, many companies are increasingly incorporating assembly training programs into their own training centers, as well as supporting these programs in local educational institutions.
An example of this occurred early in 2016 when GE Appliances in Louisville, KY and Amatrol, an interactive technical institute, donated equipment, curriculum and training to two local high schools to promote career readiness in the area of manufacturing.
Various Fortune 500 company executives have expressed concern that basic skills training is not widely available enough, meaning there are not enough skilled assembly workers to fill their needs. Whatever advancements the future holds, production facilities will continue to need individuals who have a wide range of basic assembly skills and those individuals will always be indispensable. So, while the kid who learned such skills at home may be a thing of the past, the necessity of those skills is stronger than ever, despite ever-evolving technology.
Editor’s Note: Valve Manufacturers’ Association has a popular course that helps skilled workers learn the basics about valve and actuator construction and function. The next class is coming up in Houston, Oct. 18 to 20, 2016.