Proper Planning and the Human Element

Manufacturing equipment, control systems and software are becoming more powerful and simpler to use. However, there’s still room for human error.

Columns From: 1/17/2012 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Derek Korn

Last year, the Coordinate Metrology Society conducted an interactive measurement study at the 27th annual Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference. More than 100 conference attendees participated in the two-day study designed to determine how measurement results were affected by an individual’s core knowledge and behavior.

Participants with varying levels of metrology experience were asked to perform three measurement tasks using advanced inspection software and portable 3D equipment. On the first day, participants executed the measurement tasks with little or no instruction from the study administrators. They had to determine measurement requirements on their own, although administrators would answer any questions posed by the participants. On the second day, formal procedures were provided to the participants detailing how to carry out each measurement task.

The measurement results on the first day varied, even among those who had a good deal of inspection experience. As one might expect, measurement variation was minimal on the second day, when there were clear instructions to follow. What the study demonstrated was that even when sophisticated measuring equipment is used, best practices must be established to impede the introduction of human error into inspection routines. Inspectors must receive unambiguous directions and adequate training to eliminate conjecture and any on-the-fly strategy development. In addition, it’s vital to maintain an open line of communication whenever questions arise.

The title of the report generated from this study is “How Behavior Affects Your Measurements.” However, it’s not clear if “your” refers to the inspector or to management. It should be both. The inspector has to have both the chops and the care to carry out his or her duties properly. In turn, management must establish a standardized process directing inspectors how to perform the measurement routines properly.

This is an example of why formalized procedures are important from a metrology standpoint. Yet, consider the advantages of applying it to all aspects of discrete parts machining. Are you providing detailed instructions to ensure all duties are carried out properly in the shop? Do you encourage all employees to suggest process improvements, and do you give these ideas fair consideration? Is there open communication throughout and adequate support available when questions arise? Do you provide sufficient initial and ongoing training? Finally, are you willing to invest in new technology to make employees more efficient and effective? This last item enables you to get the most out of your employees once human error has been mitigated.

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