Synergy in the CNC Environment

CNC machine productivity is directly tied to the people who program, set up and run the machines. It also depends on support people, such as tool engineers, manufacturing engineers, tooling engineers, quality/inspection people and tool crib attendants. Everyone in the CNC environment has an impact on productivity.


Unfortunately, just about everyone in your company will have a different idea about how a given issue could be handled best. It can be difficult to get two people of similar interests—say two setup people—to agree on every
aspect of an important issue, but reaching a consensus among several people from different departments might be impossible. Yet, everyone involved will have to live with the decision that is eventually made.
Productivity-related issues can include the following: Should one operator run two machines? Should we wait for an inspector to check the first workpiece before we begin a production run? Should cutting tools be assembled and measured in the tool crib? Should inserts be stored at the machine or in a central location?
It is difficult to compete in today’s world market when people are more concerned with establishing and/or maintaining some kind of pecking order than handling the problem at hand. The smallest disagreement can escalate into a productivity-killing argument.
Unfortunately, synergy is directly related to human nature. It’s not in our DNA to reach a compromise when we feel we have the best idea. When two people feel equally strongly about an issue but have different ideas about how it should be resolved, the result is often a heated discussion or argument—or worse. 
When one person finally “wins,” the other feels slighted. This will taint the way they approach the next important issue. This process will escalate as each person continues to out-do the other.
How do we rise above the petty arguments that lead to escalations? How do we solve problems without hurting feelings? How do we make it palatable for people to change their methods based upon the results of a decision? These are tough questions. How well you answer them might determine your company’s prosperity and survival.
My suggestion is to make decisions based on their degree of impact. In my opinion, the two most important factors are your company’s productivity and the people who are most affected by the decision. 
Productivity-Based Decisions
When company productivity is your highest priority, you base decisions on the degree of impact they have on the company’s output, which in turn, equates to its very survival. Your company will survive only if it continues to compete, and improving productivity ensures continued success. While it may not be enough to influence everyone, people should understand that if the company doesn’t prosper, neither will they. 
With this method, the decisions you make will provide the company’s highest productivity levels. When faced with two or more ideas, the one providing the clearest path to improved productivity will be chosen. Of course, people can still disagree on which alternative leads to better productivity, but at least people will know the (fair) criteria for how the decision will be made.
Personnel-Based Decisions
All people affected by the decision should have a say. Ideally, those who are most affected should have more of a say than those who are affected to a lesser extent. That’s not to say that less-affected people can’t present ideas—it just means that they may not be as involved in the actual decision.
This may fly in the face of management people. It means you’ll have to involve people who do not commonly help with decisions. But think for a moment: Who has a better understanding of what it takes to perform a given task? Is it a person who does it every day or a manufacturing engineer from a different department who may spend only a few moments evaluating the task? Often, we confuse trivial tasks with trivial people. No one in your company is trivial, but they may perform tasks that you consider trivial. If any task becomes a productivity-related issue for your company, it only makes sense to include the people who perform it in the decision and to weigh their suggestion/s heavily.
This approach will also minimize some of the politics. People who are the most affected by the decision will have the greatest say. An unaffected person who may have an ulterior motive won’t have as much say in the decision.
Probably the most important point is that people must feel that your decision-making criteria are fair. You must ensure that people understand how decisions are made and be consistent when making them.