Great Technology + Great People = Outstanding Parts

Originally titled 'Outstanding Parts '

These words explain the logic—and the passion—that drives applications of automation in manufacturing. Sadly, many pundits don’t get this.

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My May cover story about an automated machining cell at Global Machine Works (GMW) includes this quote from Brad Stuczynski, one of the company’s top officers:

“It takes great machining technology plus great people to make outstanding parts.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this statement ever since it came up during my visit to GMW. I wish more people could understand this fully– especially people who are industry observers, news journalists, writers of op-ed pieces, politicians, policymakers and the “general public.” If they could grasp the meaning of this statement and its implications, I firmly believe we would see fewer illogical or uninformed judgments about manufacturing, especially when automation and robots are involved, as these elements are often misunderstood or viewed warily because of their supposed effect on employment. Clearer thinking, in turn, might lead to sounder policy decisions about how manufacturing ought to be treated.

Let’s take a closer look at Brad’s comment by defining certain key terms. The very next sentence after this quote defines outstanding parts as “ones that meet every specification, arrive on time and offer the lowest cost.” Making such parts is the goal of every manufacturer. In a market-driven economy, manufacturers must compete on their ability to meet this goal. This competition compels them to muster the means for ever better, faster and cheaper production.

It follows, then, that “great machining technology” is that which supports better/faster/cheaper production, that is, the making of outstanding parts. How much automation and how many robots will be needed is largely determined by this necessary connection between technology and productivity. (Hint to the outside world: Focus on encouraging and enabling manufacturers to invest in productivity-enhancing technology.) Note that suppliers of technology must likewise be competitive based on the productivity their equipment offers, including its level of automation.

It also follows (and this point is often overlooked or downplayed in discussions of automation) that great technology is connected to people, but they must be people with particular skills. They must be “great people” who are motivated, well-trained and talented. In short, finding, developing and retaining great people is crucial to productivity.

However, opportunities to join a productive workforce are also subject to competition. This system favors hiring prospective employees based on their fitness. (Hint to the outside world: Focus on encouraging and enabling workers to improve their fitness, including an insistence on the personal effort and responsibility this entails.)

Let’s define one more word. What is “passion” in this context? I say it points to a strong belief that making outstanding parts is a truly worthy mission.

Great technology + great people = outstanding parts. If this simple formula could be the starting point for earnest talk about robots, job creation, economic growth and the urgent challenges they bring, we’d be closer to an enlightened and humane course of action for addressing them.

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