Sify Plainspeak: SME Interviews with Ed Lugo of ARG and Indresh Chauhan of Sify, Part 2

Part 2 (Continued)

Indresh:   When you came in, you were 21, young, probably didn’t know a whole lot about what manufacturing was about. How were you trained?

Ed:   A lot of the training was done by word of mouth, tribal knowledge that was passed down from senior operators or technicians to the individuals that were coming up behind them. That took place for a good 10 years as I went through a self-induced apprentice program. I learned a lot from the old-timers. Over 10 years, I moved around into four or five different disciplines at the time, going from block development, to template making, to master layout and so on. I then transitioned through jigs and fixture; I worked in slinging plaster, and ultimately got into business operations in the tooling organization.

Indresh:   For each of these positions you were rotating through, did different people teach you differently or was it pretty much the same?

Ed:   I think in those days, and I’m talking about the mid ’80s and into the early ’90s, a lot of it was paper-based books. The cycle time in which you picked up everything you needed to know to be productive in the job was much more extended than it is today. I had the luxury of time to learn my craft or my trade, if you will. Fortunately, I was a fast learner.

Indresh:   So, in those days, what would a day in the life of someone new coming into the manufacturing industry be like?

Ed:   In those days, when you started, and I’m talking from a tooling perspective, you would be concerned primarily with the tools you had in your toolkit and about whether you understood the engineering and the paper drawings that you were provided. Very little of this activity had to do with computers, and only the most senior people had access to them.

Indresh:   Let’s fast forward to your recent experiences in the industry. How have things changed since then?

Ed:   The operator today obviously must hit the ground running. There’s an expectation regarding what their productivity levels are going to be within the first three months. To meet those productivity levels, one has to understand not only the hardware and the manufacturing processes but also computers and other automated methodologies. They also must understand the machines that is required to run the processes, not to mention that they need to be aware of the new materials that are being used now in aerospace, with a lot more use of composites than before, a lot more use of stereolithography, a lot more use of varied materials such as ceramics, than what was previously used, such as, aluminum and steel.

Indresh:   So, when you started, you had a window of time to learn, and there were mentors who were also guiding you.

Ed:   That’s right.

Indresh:   The technology was also simpler.

Ed:   Much simpler, much simpler, and we were on the same program for a long time. The cycle time for these programs was very slow. For instance, when I started in the world of commercial aircraft, the 747 had been in place since 1969. 20 years later, it was still going. Although there were improvements, not a lot was changing often.

Indresh:   Life has become so much more complex and complicated.  A person in manufacturing is supposed to come up the learning curve much quicker and faster than before. They’re also expected to deal with much more complex concepts, materials, production methods, and methodologies. The tolerance for errors has gone down.

Ed:   Yes. It’s all about quality, cost, and schedule. If errors show up, they obviously impact cost, schedule, and quality. To mitigate the effects to any of those areas, one must be very aware of your surroundings, the people you work with, the processes that you’re trying to adhere to, and understanding of the product that you’re manufacturing.

Indresh:   Have the methods of training and developing the workforce changed much?

Ed:   I only liken this to when we were kids, we used to spend time working on our vehicles. We would spend time building our bicycles. We would spend time touching hardware. There’s been a huge degradation in the tactile learning process that has affected specifically the millennial generation. Nowadays, you take your car and you plug it into a computer and it tells you everything that’s wrong with it. When we were starting out, we had to figure that out with a screwdriver against your ear and the head cover.

There’s been a heavy reliance on the educational community to provide needed skills to hit the ground running, to be productive when you hit the manufacturing workspace. A lot of the older programs that helped mold a young man’s or a woman’s abilities to work with wood, or metals, have been stripped away from the schools.

Indresh:   You have just mentioned an important point – the fact is that the younger generation does not get the same opportunity to touch a piece of equipment and experiment with various mechanical parts, electrical parts simply because now everything is modularized. If something goes wrong, you just change a module.

Ed:   Experimentation is a big deal when you think about trying to determine what works best and what doesn’t. The manufacturing world tried to mitigate the effects of that by providing very precise, very exact checklists and manual information, very detailed drawings that would allow someone to interpret them. Again, you needed to have the skillset required to interpret those engineering drawings, to understand what those checklists were telling you, and to act upon the information that was contained in a paper manual.

Indresh:   It seems to me that maybe life for the manufacturing workforce has now become simpler. Is that right?

Ed:   I would not call it simpler. It’s a more difficult situation. I would, again, draw the similarity to the car. If your car breaks down, you have no choice but to call a tow truck to get you towed to a garage because only there will they have the technology to assess what the real problem is. It almost makes you helpless because you cannot appropriately react to something that’s happening.

Indresh:   Right. If we were to extrapolate that to the manufacturing shop floor, we would say that the machines, even though they still have mechanical parts, but they’re also heavily computerized and automated.

Ed:   Yes.

Indresh:   With that having been said, if something goes wrong, something stops, earlier, you as an operator could go and tinker with things. Now, there’s nothing much you can do except just wait for help to arrive.

Ed:   Correct. Technology has outpaced mechanical capabilities by 500%. The computer power in these machines has enabled a great amount of information to be available to the operators, engineers, and managers right away. As far as being able to act upon that information, unless you have an awareness of how things fit together and cause and effect, you cannot appropriately resolve any issues that you may find with the machines on the factory floor.


End of Part 2… to be continued in Part 3


Ed’s Bio: Ed Lugo is an Executive Advisor for Alliance Resource Group Inc. – ARG. Prior to joining ARG; Ed was Integrated Product Team Leader for Northrop Grumman Corporation based in El Segundo, California. In this role, he was responsible for the integration of automated solutions supporting the manufacture and assembly of aerospace structures, and the executive interface on critical business activities supporting strategic direction. He previously served as Tooling Representative to the Systems Engineering Integration Team, SEIT, on the Joint Strike Fighter program where he supported new software integration, training, process improvement and sustainment. Mr. Lugo served as Co-Principle Investigator for the National Science Foundation Grant supporting next generation aerospace workers. He has instructed courses in engineering processes for UCLA Ext and ECC, and served as an advisor for SME Tooling University. Ed is an alumnus of Pepperdine University where he completed his bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Afterwards, he pursued further education at National University for his MBA.

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Indresh Chauhan
Indresh Chauhan, AVP at Sify eLearning

In helping Learning Development leaders gain clarity on how to make the most efficient use of training dollars to improve performance, morale, and business results Indresh brings industry best practices and design-thinking in eLearning and Instructor Led Training (ILT). His expertise is most useful to Fortune 1000 companies that have multiple product lines in highly competitive markets. With thousands of employees and customers across geographies - their success or failure depends upon the "human" performance.

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