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1997 FIN – Computer Simulator is Changing How Header Operators Are Trained

September 09
00:00 2009

1997 FIN – Computer Simulator is Changing How Header Operators Are Trained

October 6, 1997 FIN – Once again the computer is changing the workplace. This time in addition to pleasing management with practical, cost-cutting changes, the computer is even threatening a right of passage.

Cold header trainees traditionally learned by mistakes and the consequential hazing by veteran operators.
The computer is “just like the shop floor,” Daniel Nelson of Rockford, IL-based Rockford Development Group told a workshop at the International Fastener & Precision Formed Parts Manufacturing Exposition. “Only we don’t have all the screaming, yelling, high blood pressure. We don’t have to get the plane ready because the order is late and the contract penalty clause for late product shutting down the customer’s assembly line.”
“It used to be you had the old timer leaning over their shoulder asking, ‘Yumpin Yiminy, what do you think happened?’ when a trainee created a mistake,” Nelson said.

Now the RDG’s Cold Header 101 course on a computer is eliminating some of the training-by-mistake process that fueled the hazing of trainees.
“The trainee often learned the hard way by repeating the mistakes of his predecessors,” Nelson noted. “Learning on the shop floor costs the manufacturer machine time, scrap, damaged or destroyed tooling; machines crash and the customer orders become past due as the trainee slowly learns.

The basic cost of the software is $2,000 for the Cold Forming 101 course. There are also courses on roll threading and an advanced cold forming course and tutorial programs on micrometers, calipers, decimals and the metric system.

With computer simulated “setups” trainees can “make cyberscrap,” and they can make it in a matter of seconds instead of four to 16 hours on the shop floor, Nelson said.
“They don’t even get dirty – but we don’t need to do that yet,” Nelson added.

The simulator program begins by teaching the components of tools with an inside view of each type of blow. The program can be stopped for discussion at any time. Another section demonstrates how the variables in setting up are interrelated and affect the results.
Students can destroy the simulated machine and make adjustments until they get it right.

Another part of the simulator program sets up a problem and gives trainees four possible solutions. Their assignment is to choose the best answer.
The computer doesn’t just respond with a “right” or “wrong” light. “We tell trainees what would happen with their choice. This is a learning experience. I strongly recommend that even if they pick the right answer first, we go through the wrong answers. Talk about it. Ask why wouldn’t it work? The instructor should tie in all that shop knowledge and folklore.”

The role of the “old timer” isn’t eliminated by the computer. Nelson’s lesson plan has five or six students and “an experienced old timer who doesn’t hate people” leaning over the trainees’ shoulders asking, “What do you think happened here?” or “What would you do about it?” “Why?” “What wouldn’t you do about it?”

When a trainee’s setup blows up the tooling it is a “great time for the instructor to say, ‘You know what tooling costs? Well, that was $12,000 worth of down time.'”

The computer animation should the student what happens with each choice.
Nelson emphasized that it is vital the instructor not tell the trainee what to do. “What we are doing here is building an experience base in this new person. They just made a mistake. It is a teachable moment. If you tell them what happened, they will say, ‘Ah, ha,’ and they will forget.”
Instead, with the assistance of the instructor, the goal is to build a “mental architecture,” Nelson explained. “If they do the building, that is what they are going to fall back on when they get to the shop floor. If you tell them, they don’t construct it.”

Not a Day at the Movies

“People do not learn from media,” Nelson said. “No matter how well a video may be done. People learn from thinking. I can give you all kinds of whiz bang animation, but unless they are thinking they are not going to learn and they won’t be able to fall back on it on the shop floor.
Students remember only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 50% if they watch during an explanation and 90% if they learn by doing, even if on a simulator, Nelson said.

Some students can master the simulator in eight hours. Others it may take three to four days.
This doesn’t eliminate the need for real-time experience,” Nelson acknowledged. “It is building a foundation of understanding and confidence.”

Nelson said in talking with experienced operators and students he found that “the star performers in this industry are visual learners. Show them a moving picture that they can interact with and they have it for life. Show them a book and they get upset.”

The simulator can give employers a “strong indicator of whether the candidate will be able to master the skills,” Nelson said he finds. “If they can’t get after two hours, they’re not going to cut it. Maybe they should be a manager.”

Nelson said one company tested an applicant who claimed a decade of experience, but failed in the simulator. “It became a warning flag to look into whether the applicant could be technophobic or there were other problems.”
In checking references the employer discovered other problems.

Nelson said RDG used interviews with operators, engineers, supervisors and managers to develop that program and found that top heading performers had higher reasoning skills.
“They’re the ones that know these things,” Nelson said. Though he has a masters degree in instructional technology, he readily concedes he knew nothing about cold heading before designing the software.

Now some of the old timers “are jealous they had to learn the hard way.”
“The good operators are skilled technicians,” Nelson said. “They want you to think it is black magic, voodoo. It really isn’t. There is a science back there.” ©1997/2009 Fastener Industry News

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