The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001
outlook 2001


Changes show up on shop floors

By Hal Johnson
Herald Writer

A fabrication shop worker sets a computer controlled punch for the type, size, and number of holes to bore into sheets of metals. The punch machine bores the holes and moves the metal faster than the worker could do manually.

And the worker has walked away to do something else.

If such a device is not in any of Mercer Countyís 47 metals fabrication shops, it soon will be, said Dale W. Deist, president of Bucks Fabricating, Sandy Creek Township.

"The bottom line is productivity," Deist said.

"Weíre competing with foreign counties. They have low labor rates. We have to use the intelligence of our people the best way we can," Deist said.

As technology has made office work forces more productive, it will carry over to make fabrication shops more productive, he said.

In fact, in a few years the fabrication shop may start to look like an office, complete with a personal computer to give workers information on orders.

Bucks -- a maker of roll-off waste disposal containers -- is using a saw that a worker can set to run and then walk away from, Deist said. Another saw can be set for a single cut and then adjusted for the next cut.

Deist said a colleague in the same industry has a brake press with a computer to adjust to the thickness or the metal to be bent. Once set, the machine can make several uniform bends, so there are fewer rejected parts, he said.

Robotics welding should be coming to local fabrication shops soon, Deist said. Welders will "teach" the machine the pattern to be welded and the machine will repeat the pattern on its own, again leaving the welder free to do other jobs, Deist said.

An advocate of teaching welding in local schools, Deist is adding technology to the list to be taught in vocational classes. High school students also should be taught to read a technical manual and follow its instructions, he said.

"If someone comes to us to be a welder, itís important to us that he had vocational classes in welding," Deist said.

When workers are introduced to an automated machine, they generally go through a two-week learning curve, Deist said. "Thatís two weeks of pain," he said.

Workers are at first frustrated, and need to refer to the manual, hr said. "Once they get the hang of it, they wouldnít dream of going back," Deist said.

To get workers to accept technological changes, the owner has to accept it as well. "I have to set an example. I have to do that is every day life. I stay tuned into using technology and itís fun. Itís job enrichment," Deist said.

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