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Blog – The tradesperson vs. the tool

Blog – The tradesperson vs. the tool

Would your machinery pass a job interview? Part One

When we consider hiring new employees for our businesses, it’s de rigueur to embark on a thorough and often time-consuming search to find the right person for the job. However, when it comes to investing in new machinery, equipment or technology, our first conversation is with our financial controller. 

What happens if you employ a similar approach to ‘hiring’ machinery as you do to hiring people?

Understanding the cost of a machine is one thing but understanding the value that’s attainable when the people on your team are mixing with the right machinery is a whole different ballgame.

Integra Systems CEO and Managing Director Paul Hughes, Commercial Director Erika Hughes and Director of Innovation Russell Hughes talk about the importance of successfully integrating machinery with people in industrial design in this first instalment of a three-part interview.

How important is machinery compared to people-power in manufacturing?

Paul Hughes (PH): “Everybody's got their own view but my take on it is you've got to have the right machinery and you've got to have the right people.”

“With all the machinery we choose, we try and do more with it. We try to really push the boundaries and do more with it than its intended use. You can have the best machine in the world but, if you haven't got the people that want to make it happen, it won't happen. You’ve got to have people who have a positive attitude with the machine or it's completely useless.”

Erika Hughes (EH): “It's about bringing out the best in anybody, really – it's good leadership. You need to be able to drive the machinery and lead it in a way that brings the best out of it. It’s about having the skills to bring out the best, if not better than what the machine proposes to deliver. You need to think of it in two ways – the people driving the machinery and the machinery driving the productivity from people. It's a two-way street.”

Russell Hughes (RH): “Today’s sophisticated machinery is capable of a lot more than what most people think. If you haven't got good designers, you won't get the best out of the machine. That’s the balance.”

PH: “You can look at a lot of machinery, like we did when we went to EuroBLECH in Germany last year, but you’ve got to ask yourself: ‘Are your people willing to, or capable of, getting the best out of that machine?’ If you can't answer that, then it's too big of a risk to take.”

So you’re saying designers should have a creative vision and not rely solely on the tools to do the job for them?

PH: “Yes, exactly. You've got to be willing to learn what those tools can do for you. As designers, we have a vision of what the machine can do for us, and our people have got to embrace that too and think, ‘Let's see what this machine can do for us’.”

“When we approach machinery, we make sure it is able to do most of what we currently do. But the machine may also be able to do a lot of stuff beyond that, and we know we’re going to break boundaries once we can design our way into the benefits of that machine.”

RH: “Yeah, the company’s driven by design, and then we apply that to the machine.”

Continuing that line of thinking, what do you need to consider in getting the mix of people and machinery just right?

EH: “The kind of people you choose to drive the machinery need to have that progressive approach to innovative thinking. They’ve got to think beyond what’s in the manuscript or in the machinery operation manual.”

PH: “We've never seen machinery as replacing people but, instead, enabling them to value-add at a higher level – an up-skilling kind of thing. We don't believe in too much automation. Of course, your machinery has got to be automated and state-of-the art but you don't want to take the person out of it all together. Taking out the person can take out a lot of creativity. It's more about introducing an automated bender or different kind of mould to the business that then frees up the current operator to do more programming. They get more job satisfaction.”

RH: “It can increase turnover without putting more people on, and you’re not replacing people either. That's an important part too, because you can take on more work and handle it much easier.”

PH: “It's more [about] how can we take someone and move them to a higher skill level – make the easy stuff easier so a person's doing more meaningful and productive work in their day.”

So, efficiencies aside, would you say the right technology and machinery help make room for your people to learn how to execute new processes and encourage them to take on new challenges?

RH: “Yes, and get better quality too. Quality output – that's really important.”

Next up:
Assessing the 'skills' of your machinery – Would your machinery pass a job interview? Part Two

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Published in Blog
K2_WRITTEN_ON February 13 2019
Written by Emma Westwood