Is the old way better?

Posted by Joe Amick on May 24, 2023

I seems like when I ask someone why they do a task a given way the answer is very often "its how we have always done it". My next question is why? It is very rare anyone can answer that question and I end up with "Well Bill showed me this way". Then I go find Bill and ask the same question and he also has no idea as to why. You can continue this process moving person to person until you end up with the janitor and still have no answer.


We have always done it this way is not an answer. We started digging holes with our hands but today we have excavators to do the digging. Should you keep using your hands to dig when you can cut the time and labor so greatly with an excavator? Well you have always used your hands so why change? Anyone who reads that would say no way bring in the machines. So why is it that same logic is not universal? We don't have ice delivered to our homes any more to cool our food we all have a refrigerator. How many people still have an army of goats to keep the lawn down? We advance in so many ways but in some areas we don't apply the same logic.


How many facilities still have people hand sanding parts? Its an area that has advanced but many stay doing it how they have always done it. No one dreams of growing up and becoming a person who sands parts. It is a job that will always be hard to fill as it is dirty and tiring. The thing is that final step of finishing a part be it a sink or just a bracket is what people see first. It is also likely where a lot of the labor cost comes from. It is also often the step that slows down the flow of material and product out the door.


So why not apply the logic used in so many other areas of work and life in general? For me this is the question I just can not nail one answer to. Machines are too expensive, I don't have the space, I don't have people that can run them are some of the answers I find. Well lets look at the those answers.

Machines are too expensive:

Compared to what? Employees are not cheap anymore if you can find them. A machine shows up every day and is very rarely hung over. Machines are also a far more predictable cost long term verses staff. Often the tax aspects of machine purchases work to the advantage of the business as a whole. We all know what happens when you buy cheap things as you very often end up buying them many times offsetting the cost of just getting better quality from the start. How many inflatable pools do I need to buy to get one that holds air more than 20 min?

I don't have the space:

Sometimes this is a real issue with no easy answer. But at the same time how much area is taken up with manual finishing work? That is likely all the space you need. In a lot of cases this can be overcome in the machine design to work with the area available. This should not stop you from looking.

I don't have people for advanced machines:

The reality here is that most often I train the people doing the manual finishing to run machines. They know the parts and know how to finish them so I just need to teach them how to talk to the machine. When I am given an engineer to train its much harder. I have to teach them about finishing and how to talk to the machine. There is an art to finishing where you learn what tools and angles produce the best results and the engineer is likely to not have that where the person hand sanding will. You do not need an army of engineers to deal with automation at least not with me. I can not speak for every company but my goal is for you to be 100% self sufficient, that is the best way to insure you can have the maximum success and I can get there with nearly anyone. Also younger folks grew up with Ipads and computers, they take to the training like a fish to water. Its a great way to give some one an opportunity to shine.


Just because its always been done that way is no reason to continue to do so. There are often better ways to do nearly everything but it starts with being willing to ask the questions. Investing a little into the topic could net a great return but it all starts with the first step. I am happy to answer questions or go deeper on the topic with anyone willing to ask the questions. Feel free to reach out when you are ready to find a better way together.

Topics: , ,