A virtual approach to CNC machine training – Ikusasa addressing skills shortage

Company launches CNC training centre to train employees in G-Code programming, CNC setting and CNC machine operating. Training centre includes a 10 and a 12- seater training room and a 3-axis CNC milling machine and a 2-axis CNC lathe that are located alongside the lecture rooms.

Today, computer numerical control (CNC) machines are found almost everywhere, from small job shops in rural communities to large multinational companies in large urban areas. Truly, there is hardly a facet of manufacturing that is not in some way touched by what these innovative machine tools can do. Everyone involved in the manufacturing environment should be well aware of what is possible with these sophisticated machine tools.

One way to take the fear out of crashing an expensive new CNC machine is to train your shop floor employees, even if you already regard them, rightly or wrongly, as CNC operators or machinists.

It is an old cliché but it is also fact. There is no chance that you are going to let an unlicensed driver – or should I say anyone else including your spouse – drive your new vehicle that you had planned to purchase for some time which cost you over R500 000. So why let an unskilled employee or one that is semi-skilled operate your new CNC machine tool that more than likely cost you more than your new vehicle and is one of the very reasons that you were able to purchase your dream vehicle.

Ikusasa CNC Training Centre is a fully equipped lecture facility that includes all the latest tools to assist learners in grasping the intricacies of a CNC machine tool. The company has also invested in a 3-axis CNC milling machine and a 2-axis CNC lathe that are located alongside the lecture rooms

It is true that there are a number of simulation software packages available these days that feature programming methods actually used on the shop floor. But if your employee does not know how to use these programmes then you are back to square one.

More importantly though, many neglect an important link in the CNC machining environment – basic CNC machine setting and operating. It can be likened to expecting someone to pass their drivers licence before they have had lessons on how to drive a vehicle followed by passing a learners licence test. As we all know, once we are allowed to hit the road legally, we only become more skilled in how to handle our vehicle, through experience.

Few would argue with the importance of having a skilled workforce. In some cases, new employees bring the skills needed to be “up and running” quickly. However, it is more common that a certain amount of training is required to equip employees with the necessary skills to be successful.

In most companies, the largest productivity gain can be achieved by improving the proficiency of people. This is true for just about any task to be performed, but here we’re talking about CNC machine tool use. Improving the proficiency of CNC people should be a priority for any improvement programme. If you want better, more efficient and more user-friendly CNC programmes, improve the proficiency of your CNC programmers. If you want faster setups, improve the proficiency of your setup people. And if you want better and faster production runs with fewer scrap workpieces, improve the proficiency of your CNC operators.

With steadily fewer people receiving formal schooling in the machinist trade, machining businesses are increasingly training employees themselves – informally. A new employee that is capable, reliable and committed can often be taught how to perform various machining related tasks that the company requires. However, the employees training and advancement is usually reliant on the owner or a designated employee, who inevitably are often too busy to impart their knowledge or provide training. In-house training is also expensive.

Companies also face the problem of losing good employees, despite their best efforts, because they are lured away for more money. Add to this that many skilled people are leaving the country and that the older generation is not prepared to mentor these days and you can start to see the extent of the issue. It is leaving owners of machining companies with a void that is becoming increasingly harder to fill. With no employee trained up in the basic skills of CNC operating you will be understaffed and left with an unwanted problem to solve.

For these reasons, and because it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire experienced CNC operators, more and more companies are finding it necessary to provide on-the-job training for new employees.

New CNC training centre complete with practical training
Ikusasa, a Level-2 BBEEE company has recently been established to address this area of concern. But the company has taken it further by not just offering theoretical training in a drab technical school or college environment.

Ikusasa have opened a purpose designed CNC training centre in centrally located Sunnyrock, Germiston, Gauteng that will inspire the most unmotivated employees to upskill themselves and become a fully qualified machinist. The training centre includes a 10 and a 12-seater training room.

The training centre includes a 10 and a 12-seater training room

The company does not believe that learners will perform if they have to attend training courses in a setting that is monotonous, uninteresting and featureless. They also do not believe that training to operate a CNC machine can only be done through lectures without having the opportunity to immediately put into practice what they have learnt in the lecture room.

“One of the best things about having practical training on a CNC machine during training is that it removes the fear of crashing an expensive machine, enabling learners to gain confidence as they develop new skills,” Ikusasa says.

Investment in a CNC lathe and mill
Ikusasa CNC Training Centre is a fully equipped lecture facility that includes all the latest tools to assist learners in grasping the intricacies of a CNC machine tool. The company has also invested in a 3-axis CNC milling machine and a 2-axis CNC lathe that are located alongside the lecture rooms.

This will allow attendees to immediately put into practice the knowledge they have learnt in the lecture room, a rare option in South Africa.

The company also believes that machining “knowledge” consists of a range of general, contextual information. Although the company will be concentrating on upskilling candidates to become skilled in G-Code, CNC setting and machine operating the company has engaged the services of three cutting tooling companies to train delegates on the importance of tooling when machining. This includes the essential machine operations of cutting speed, the role of the toolholder, the purpose of a cutting tool coating and various other machining-related tasks that a machine shop will require. All of which are areas of machining that influence how quickly an employee can assimilate new tasks and respond to new challenges.

The idea of Ikusasa CNC Training Centre – meaning the future in the Zulu language – has been formulated by concerned industry leaders who have vast knowledge in CNC machining, CAD/CAM and the associated software programmes.

Although the courses have been designed and developed by industry personnel, Ikusasa have not neglected the importance of streamlining with the governing requirements and have aligned their courses, which will be delivered by industry personnel, with MERSETA and other governing learnership programmes. Accreditation with these bodies is currently being acquired.

NQF qualifications will be developed at a later stage. The company’s immediate goal and vision is to help industry fill the void that can be detrimental for many in the future. The company is not looking for certificate hunters but rather motivated individuals that want to become fully qualified machinists.

Training for the industry is Ikusasa CNC Training Centre’s mission. By training your shop floor workers you will maximise your workforce efficiencies and offer opportunities that were not previously achievable, they believe.
The Ikusasa CNC Training Centre became fully operational in January 2019.

For further details contact Ikusasa CNC Training Centre on TEL: 011 663 2600 or visit www.ikusasatraining.co.za