Original Date: 04/24/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Press Brake Training
Midwest Metal Products has developed a training program for press brake operators that provides consistency of training and work methods, consistency of results, improved product quality, and increased productivity from its workforce. The approach used in this training program lends itself to expansion for other metal-working skill sets.
Midwest Metal Products (MMP) has developed and implemented a comprehensive press brake training program to ensure that the quality of its work and the cost of its products meet the company’s standards and corporate goals. One of the many challenges facing any contract precision-metal fabricator is the availability of well-trained press brake operators. Forming of metal products occurs after value-added work has already occurred to fabricated parts. Any single miscue causes expensive rework or scrap and rebuild of the products being manufactured. Press brakes are used in the forming of the metal parts, and press brake operators are highly skilled individuals who require the longest training time of any equipment operators. Therefore, it is extremely important that they consistently perform to the highest level of quality.
Prior to implementing a standardized training program, MMP trained any employee who was interested in running a press brake. Trainees were typically teamed with older, more experienced operators and learned from them. Since the company has 14 press brakes and operates on three shifts, the consistency of the training varied immensely. Numerous different (and sometimes conflicting) work methods were passed down from operator to operator, and there was no consistency. This training method typically took 6 months to complete, during which time quality and productivity were negatively affected.
MMP developed the training materials and a press brake training manual in conjunction with equipment manufacturers’ recommendations and manuals, industry standards, best practices in use at their facility, and by researching printed materials on press brake operations. One of the first changes made at the MMP plant was the standardization of setup sheets and procedures. This gave the company a starting point for everyone to use the same process and equipment for setting up a forming operation versus the previous method of everyone doing what they had been taught from various other people. Each student is now trained by an experienced instructor in a two-week, 40-hour-a-week training session that combines classroom with hands-on training. Classes are restricted to two students per teacher, which helps to ensure that each student receives adequate one-on-one training time with the instructor.
By using standardized tooling and setup sheets, standardized teaching manuals, and dedicated teaching personnel, MMP has realized a minimum of 20% production-time savings for each trainee and has greatly reduced rework normally experienced with new press brake operators. The success of this standardized training has prompted the company to develop a training program for more experienced press brake operators and to begin the development of a specialized training program for other fabrication skills and operations.
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