The problem? You got it … lack of skilled workers and a poorly maintained infra-structure. Many companies are faced with these current challenges in the coming wave of opportunity. So, what does that mean for US companies that need to prepare? Sure, new equipment and automation that boosts productivity sounds like the “easy button” for a solution. But, is that the best place to start? I think not … because even though it seems like a slam dunk – investing in equipment without trained and qualified people will not solve the problem. And, are you quick to invest on rumors of potential on-shoring? Most companies aren’t. After all, in many ways this will be like starting over … and in that case, you have to think like a start-up company and begin with what you have and let the market conditions
drive your next moves.
Although new equipment and welding automation may be viable, or in fact, the only solution to meeting a potential increase in demand for manufactured goods here in the US … there are several things you should consider before you make those decisions. What’s the first thing you should consider investing in if you want to keep pace with leaders in your sector? TRAINING.
That’s right. Investing in training can give you an immediate improvement and help you prepare for growth. Let’s face it, training has fallen to the wayside in many areas due to outsourcing, offshoring and a strictly maintain-it attitude for US manufacturing companies. So, with the prospect of work returning to domestic soil, companies must now invest in areas that have been neglected – beginning with people.
This issue is compounded at the moment because our education system simply can’t keep up with the current demand, let alone any increases in demand. There is already a shortage of welders in the US along with other manufacturing trades as seasoned employees have changed careers when jobs were lost and the next generation of potential employees has thought twice about manufacturing related careers and have instead elected for more stable, more prestigious jobs in areas like healthcare and technology.
So, if you think that qualified people will be easy to find by posting your job on CareerBuilder or by recruiting new graduates – think again! Companies are already doing everything they can to attract what talent is out there, while many jobs simply go unfilled because there aren’t enough welders to go around.
The answer? You got it … companies need to invest in their own training programs to supplement workers available for hire. How can training help you prepare before investing in new capital equipment? Take a look at these key areas of potential savings:
1. Equipment optimization: Even in good times, many welders have learned on-the-job and have little to no formal training. So, understanding how to optimize your current (and future) equipment can have an immediate impact on improving productivity. Improper setup or operation of equipment can be cost more than you know, in addition to handicapping your potential for growth. You never want a welder to wonder, “what’s this button do?” The reality is that an untrained welder has no idea how to adjust their technique or machine settings to make a significant impact on productivity. In addition, properly running equipment can reduce pre- and post-weld operations like grinding and polishing that are non-value added steps that can consume profits quickly.
2. Improved quality/Reduce rework: The best companies know the cost of quality and understand that it costs 3-4 times as much to repair a weld than to do it right the first time. Leaders in this area have robust training programs to make sure welders and operators make good parts. Training programs cover on how to identify potential issues and correct them – serving as the front line of quality control. In fact, the cost of weld repair continues to climb as parts make their way to a customer, which is the last place you want to do quality control. If an end-user finds the problem, not only are the repair costs exponential – the likelihood of losing your customer is increased, which is the ultimate cost. In a competitive market, quality can kill you and open doors for your competitors.
3. Reduced consumable costs: While your suppliers are benefitting from increased consumable sales, your profits are suffering horrendously. In order to be competitive, meet deadlines and maintain quality, you need to train welders and operators to reduce waste. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that welding consumables are expensive. Just look at the metals used in welding like copper, stainless and aluminum. Combine that with shielding gas flow rates that may be double the requirement and you may not be competitive at all.
So, before you rush out and invest in new equipment or automation, get a handle on your current operation by investing in training. This will allow you to understand what you currently have and where you’re starting from so you can make the best decision when the time comes. And, you’ll be investing in the most important element for your future – your people. Remember, you will need skilled welders and operators who know your operation to successfully implement the new solutions of tomorrow.
Don’t have a welding training program? Contact WeldFusion.com to discuss options for creating your own internal training program. In addition, there may be resources in your area that you haven’t yet considered. Either way, training is a good place to start and it’s never too early to prepare.