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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email
Hey super-smart candidate looking for a job… You like technology?
Here… Have some… First one’s free…
OK, maybe that’s a little creepy, but it gets the point across for this column.
We all know that attracting and keeping talented people is a major problem in our industry. I keep hearing it over and over again. Some of us even blame the lazy younger generations that don’t want to work anymore. I got to say, I wouldn’t want to work in most positions in most shops either… 60 seconds in a spray booth for me is like eating a Tide pod. So now what?
I’ve noticed the overall shift from employees on the shop floor to the front office. More employees in the office, fewer and fewer on the shop floor. If you think about it, we need fewer machines to accomplish our tasks than we used to. Pocket screw machines are few and far between these days. Fewer machines, means fewer people on the shop floor. There are, however, more and more tasks in the front office. The capacity of a shop used to be dictated by the shop square footage and number of employees, but now, the front office team can drastically impact the output of a shop.
What if we poured some gas on that trend? What if we attracted elite people in the front office to optimize the work on the shop floor? To make sure that the star people on the shop floor are not wasting their time or are not getting frustrated about broken processes or mistakes? What if we started by keeping the great people we have that love working on the shop floor with their hands.
At a recent customer shop tour, I noticed the sink cabinets were done a little different than how most shops make them. There was a full top, but with two large shaped cutouts. This makes the heavy cabinet lighter and the cut outs happen to be a perfect place to lift the cabinet by. If I were the assembler or installer, I would like this change. I also noticed honeycomb pantry ends that also would alleviate the weight of an already heavy cabinet while keeping the desired thick end look.
All of these changes happen when you put experienced shop people together with tech savvy front office people. You need both sides to make beautiful things efficiently and make working on the shop floor enjoyable. We focus on getting more people for the shop floor, but are we really getting the most value out of the existing shop floor people we have? The ones that know our business. The ones who can come up with the best ideas. The ones who love our business.
If you look at software and technology as a way to attract tech-savvy employees, you’ll have better chances of getting some good candidates. The job market is flooded with tech wizards and they come in all ages and backgrounds. We need to find a way to lure them into our industry and reap the benefit of 
their talents in our manufacturing industry.
The bottom line is there are fewer and fewer talented shop people. We need to empower them to be as efficient and happy as we can by removing the stress and allowing them to focus on fulfilling tasks that make them proud when they leave at the end of the day. We can’t waste their time. They’re our most valuable resource. Get technology, hire smarty pants, make 
the shop mo better… but don’t do it from a windowless van…

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