People perceive engineering differently. While some sophisticated machines need sophisticated training, others make it easier for beginners to produce parts without any lengthy apprenticeship.
When it comes to something as complex as sheet metal fabrication, you need both technology and craft. You hear a lot about high-end machines doing the heavy lifting, but you do not hear often about the workers’ craft to help them navigate around the nuances of the job.
Hard Skills vs Soft Skills
The debate between hard skills (knowledge and use of technology) and soft skills (personality traits) is often brought up in the precision metal fabrication industry.
You can teach a rookie how to calculate bend deductions or read a micrometer, but there is no definite way to make them like their job and become better at it.
A lot of the issues in the skilled labour crisis stem from the attitude. New employees do not come to work on time, fail to communicate well and are generally a challenge to work with.
Both hard and soft skills are undeniably critical factors in determining a worker’s value, perhaps equally. But what is often missed out is the art of it – the craft.
The New Age: Focusing on Craft
Many 21st century metal fabrication shops, small or big, have seen the importance of craft. Small manufacturing companies, in particular, look for workers with not just the knowledge of the technology, but also the craft.
Will you use the band saw to cut the sheet if a hand saw is perfectly fine for the job? Will you send a plate through the deburring machine if a simple hand file will work?
Although, in both circumstances, machines carry out the work with better precision, some jobs need precision less and prioritise time more, which you will get with hand tools such as the hand saw and the hand file.
It is true that you need experience and knowledge to use these hand tools. But more than that, you need to know to angle the file or let the saw do the job. In other words, workers need craft. They need to know the unwritten art.
Precision metal fabrication takes both technology and craft. With knowledge in both areas, a sheet metal worker can produce more quality products faster and more efficiently. And is that not the ultimate goal for both supplier and consumer?