As part of my EE degree, I am forced to take a course in sociology, regarding computers and society. We have to do a paper on the impact that computers have had in a particular area such as online gambling etc.
I wanted to discuss the introduction of the computer to maching and it's effects, ie CNC technology. I was hoping to draw some knowledge from the experts. No, I am not asking for you guys to write my paper, just some thoughts. The effects of this technology be good and bad.
Some points I was thinking of focussing on:
CNC has increased production, it has made products more consistent (generally in a high production situation).
It has displaced the jobs of some good machinists. CNC equipment can work longer, ie they don't take holidays, coffee breaks etc.
People are "less" skilled in running them(CNC) compared to the skills required by a good machinist back in the day.Therefore companies can pay less because their employees are less skilled.
We are losing/lost some well crafted and talented skills (machinists).
Some of the companies that used to produce manual equipment are out of business because they chose not to get into the CNC busniess. Thoughts?
Asian companies are using them more, and their product is inceasing in quality. People will tend to look at Asian made products now that maybe never used because the quality was so bad, but with the use of CNC, quality has increased. Is it also possible that some cheap labour has been replaced with CNC equipment. It is still more cost effect to invest in this tech than to use cheap labour? I am just guessing on this one. Some input from those who have worked there would be great.
I am just looking for a kind of cause and effect regarding the use CNC technology. It' s impact on the economy and society etc. Any any other angles that I am over looking? Any input would great.
I'm not a professional machinist but I have a few thoughts on computers.
Don't forget what the computer age is doing in general to math abilities for the common man in the US. As Johns Allen Paulos points out in his book Innumeracy and others written by him(in book store now)we are losing the ability to make rational, numerical based judgements about day to day situations, relying instead on emotion or perception. Understanding the "mechanics" of math is lost on people who grew up with computers. I do corporate training and see this fact daily in my work. This results in things like not being able to estimate whether or not the number shown on the calculator is in the ball park or not, or not being able to reason out the steps needed to obtain a given goal.
I suspect that there are many computer literate CNC "machinists" out there that couldn't come close to the problem solving abilities of the old days master machinists.
One of the biggest problems with cnc machinery is the operators are just that operators. If the computer doesn't function they can in no way run the machine manually. You would not manually be able to do some jobs on cnc but cutting a keyway or turning a shaft to correct diameter should not be among them. The fellows are good operators and good programers but can't understand manual machining.
Reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut Jrs. "Player Piano". Society after the machines do all the work.
Seems to me that you have hit the nail on the head
In bigger shops you will find the skilled machinists doing setups and programming with the machines running with either a robot loader or a button pusher.
I would have to say that computers, like the DRO, or slide rule, is just a tool. And regardless of the intended function performed you need a competent man (or woman) good with their tools.
So to say it has replaced good machinists would be short sighted. You still need the human mind to analyse complex abstract problems. Computers cannot think, they can only do what we tell them to do.
Seems like I have read some where that one effect of CNC being introduced to the machine shop is that there are not nearly as many tool and die makers being trained today.
The skilled machinist that might be promoted to work with and learn from a master tool & die maker does not exsist like they used to.
Many of the old time tool makers are at retirement age and there is no one to pass their years of experience on to.
Do you think some button pushing CNC operator is going to all the sudden turn into a great tool & die guy?
Does not bode well for the future. I guess they will have to invent a CNC tool & die making robot. :-)
Just remember the old saying:
One machine can do the work of a thousand ordinary men. No amount of machines can do the work of one exeptional man.
Quickchange has hit on something I saw repeatedly long ago. Imagine, you are a supervisor, boss sends you two men. says you can assign as you please but they are both going to be hired.
One man is alert, good reader, thinks well in the abstract mode, a good worker.
Other is in need of help, but a good worker.
Odds are, the reader gets the cnc, the other guy gets assigned to, and works on, the "simpler" equipment, convnetional machines.
Twnety years later, the abstract thinker has really not learned to machine, set up his own jigs etc. He can follow instructions well, can even write instructions. he will have learned to Evade work that does not fit a pattern bacause it won't make money for the company.
The man who went to work on conventional stuff never "gets ahead", but is exposed to a varity of jobs (ones the smart guys dont want), fgiures out how to make his own tools, jigs and fixtures gets quite an education. UNfortunately he is not capable of handleing the jobs needing the abilities he has somewhat developed.
In the long run, the company is going down hill because the talent is given jobs with "promotion potential", the untalented are given "dead end jobs" where they are actualy exposed to a more stimulating environment. It seems a small error, but its one that many are making consistantly. since every one is doing it the effects are hardto spot.
I am re-reading winston churchhills "histroy of the english speaking people". He Does NOT SAY this explicitly, but it is implied. Every civiliaztion has a small extra output that can be invested or wasted. Through the years, it takes many years to determine if the excess is wasted or invested. We , in the USA (and europe I suspect), are wasting our excess on social programs and headed for decline. Its hard to turn things around. We see five years as a long time, fifty years as a life time. society though grows or falls over hundreds of years. Basic skills are lost or grow. People find niches to hide in and do so for their life time and feel well or bad for that lifetime. Every company today is finding ways to "rob the ware house" of materials or talent for short time survival. When we measure success by dollars and cents, disregarding actual material changes, we are on the road to disaster. Thats why the work goes to asia and underdeveloped countries. Work goes where it gets done. THe rest is BS accounting for the short term.
Good example is an engineer comes from college, never gets his hands dirty. never really improves production in the basic things. Management is happy because the money keeps comming in. In the long run though, the place where a well educated man must learn how the tools really work, must figure out and IMPLEMENT newer ideas to earn his living will. over the years make real improvements. He will grow in the real sense. His comapany will grow, his country will grow. His competion will lose power to him. Thats happening to us today. may take many years before the "developing" areas figure out how to seize control of their internal afffairs, but when they do we are goneners. We will be the "under developed".
Look at the old magazines, where ideas (good ones) are promised to make fundmental changes. They seldom came to fruitition. The existing technology was on a different path and the idea perished. Look again, and you see the idea would never getoff the ground today becasue it is socially or envioronmentally not in accord with what we are told is the "right way". My Gson (third grade) is "learning" computers. Shoot, I learned DOS in a few months. No need for it now. when he comes of age to work, he will learn what is NEEDED in a month or so or never. depends on rather he was thought to think or not.
His mother had a routine parent teacher conference. teacher tells of what she is doing to keep the kids from being bored by changing from year to year, daughter was taight from early on that kids arethere one year, never bored casue it alwways new. the teacher is the one who is bored from year to year. so the work is glitzy, but not instructive. And theteacher no longer can spell, write and proper sentence.
We have programmers who think they can machine but ifthey were not backed up by a tool toom that sets the tool, a machiinst who corrects the program (and some time fails to tell any one how he did it), their programs would never make a part. and we have machinist who can't convert a drawing into a part unless some one else converts a part into a program.
Nuff ranting, I should delete this crap but I am hitting submit before i gain my sneses
Thanks for all you have replied.
Steve, I think you are right about us taking essentually one step forward and two steps back. I am one of those guys that gets my hands dirty. I am a jack of all trades, but master of nothing. Employers tend to want so called "experts", or specialists.
Friends tend to frown on me of the things that I have made. They tell me to just go out and buy it. It is amazing that some of my friends that drive cars can't ID spark plugs on their cars. This is one of the things that we touched in class, that is how people used to make their own things, grow their own food, but coporations have (through marketing ) drilled into our heads that it is not cool or normal to make our own goods anymore. They are inferior to factory made.
My grandfather used to drive transports. If he blew a rear end at the side of the road, he would swap in a new at the side of the road. Now adays, it's get on the old cell and call for help. People don't care about doing stupid things on the road, because of road side ASSistance to the rescue.
Some EE students at my school, that are near graduation can't even figure out simple resistor colors. Scary! Know a guy who has a friend that is an eng at Toyota. He says he knows nothing about cars. Can't even drive, yet he is designing cars. That's why I don't think they sould stress grades as much as they do. Know lots of guys with good grades who know nothing but know how to get the answer. They put all this pressure on the grades, and they wonder why cheating is on the rise.
In the end technology is used to make more money. That is to feed the greed. We looked at many studies where tech. has displaced many jobs over the years, automated assembly lines etc. Ironic that one day I might be a part of that dilemna as an engineer!