About 12 months ago I wrote an article for Timber Trader magazine, called “CNC Saw Operation – not Rocket Science”, however the magazine changed it to “The Case for Ongoing Training”.  It was published in the October issue in 2018.  My opinion at that time which remains largely unchanged, is that operating a CNC saw to its best is much more than rocket science.  I have always been a strong advocate for continuous improvement and training – and have invested in that personally and in the businesses in which I have been involved, facilitating and encouraging both professional and personal development.

Without going over the earlier (but still current) ground of that previous article, I will summarise it as being about the gradual loss of essential Operator skill necessary to get the best out of a Linear/CNC saw. Not just operating it – really getting the best out of it.  The best result is often not realised due to the decline in skills through staff movement and lack of ongoing training to maintain high levels of competency.

I also believe in investing in staff to ensure a base level care of the machine and maintenance is being managed – but in this article I want to build on the theme from the earlier article further by looking at it from a fundamental level and drawing a pretty basic comparison.  The simple proposition is; Value Recovery through Skills Development = Profit.

If you operate a Frame and Truss business, be it a smaller operation, or a larger operation  – possibly running multiple shifts, chances are you are either making use of an Accountant on a regular basis or have your own Accountant(s) employed in the business.  They help your business by guiding your decisions, watching your cash flow and helping the business run profitably.  Now when you chose to work with that Accountant (or employed them) you probably checked out their credentials.  Currently to get a Batchelor of Accountancy takes about 4 years full time University study, and it’s a pretty well rewarded job.  A good Accountant can make a positive impact on your bottom line.  So, let’s just leave the Accountant doing Accounting things for a moment and look at the big costs of running a Frame and Truss plant.

Across Australia and New Zealand, roughly 50% of a wall frame is timber and its perhaps about 40% of a roof truss.  I did a quick “vox pop” across four operations in the AUS/NZ region running one, two, or three CNC saws (of different types) and a mix of single or two shift operations.  The value of timber purchased across those four sites was in excess of $30M.  Individual sites ranged from $4.2M to $14M per year in value of timber used.

The starting place, the very first thing, that happens to that timber in most plants is you put it to the CNC saw and cut it up into truss or wall components.  Make a poor decision here and the value is lost – it cannot be recovered. Sure, not all of that timber you purchase may go through a CNC saw, but most of it will.

The question is still “are you getting the best out of your CNC saw?”  An efficient optimisation result by a skilled Machine Operator at the CNC saw and subsequent improved timber yield of say 1.5% as an example, is $63,000 – $210,000 (based on above figures) straight to the bottom line.  The recovery is effectively “free timber”.  So, are you getting the best optimising result, or are you in a mindset where you are just trying to get the job out the door as fast as possible and get paid for it?  Why not have the best of both worlds?  This is where a motivated, skilled, well trained Machine Operator comes into the picture.  What does it cost for a week of training for an Operator?  How much does the Operator get paid?  Are you remunerating the position of Machine Operator commensurate with the value that a skilled, motivated, well trained person can recover for you?  What is the hourly rate of the Accountant?

Let’s go back to our Accountant.  They have had 4 years of expensive University education, and yet through staff movements, the Machine Operator may have had no formal training on your saw at all.  Does your Accountant know who the Machine Operator is?

So now the question is, “where is the logical place to invest in some training to unlock the hidden yield to gain an immediate improvement in the bottom line?”

Invest to achieve value recovery as early as possible in the process and that will start with the Machine Operators.

What else?  I see a lot of advertisements about speed of saw cut, simplicity to use, footprint, service support and more, and I will agree that a saw should be fast and easy to maintain and that the software on your saw should certainly be easy to use.  But it’s no use flogging a dead horse, all the training in the world won’t help you if the software on your machine cannot give you a range of optimising results through easy simulation and altering basic variables such as available material, price of that material, potential for processing stacked “like” components etc.  Our Hundegger TURBO-Drive ticks all those boxes and with the “Truss UI” touch screen, it couldn’t be any easier, but behind the simple operator interface, we have very powerful algorithms to calculate speed, yield and value optimisation to deliver the returns that are there.  Without this, the gains from training will be harder to realise, it will be more of a challenge and may be time to upgrade.

This article was provided by Sam Rowe (pictured right) of FTMA Bronze Sponsor, Hundegger.