By Michael Young
I was reviewing one of my student’s training and experience report for ECSA registration in which he was describing how he was implementing a machine line to improve productivity of the manufacturing plant.
Initially, he told me that he wanted to focus on the design of this production line as he would then be demonstrating competence with outcomes 1 and 2 of ECSA requirements.
I then told him to focus his report around how the labour workforce would feel with the implementation of this new machine line. Confused, my student said, “Michael, why should I write an entire report on how people feel about the implementation of this new technology?”
I then explained that ECSA outcome 6 is all about recognising the cultural impact of engineering activities. I further mentioned that when we refer to culture, we are not referring to race or religion. We are referring to how people view the implementation of our engineering decisions and how they feel about that decision. My student was even more confused at this point. So, I decided to explain ECSA outcomes in this manner: “Imagine you were one of those workers and your boss told you that production was inefficient and that the company was going to implement a robotic line to improve productivity. What would your very first reaction be?”
He replied, “Fear of losing my job. I would feel that this robotic system was here to replace me.”
I said, “You just hit the nail on the head.”
By implementing this robotic system, you are creating a cultural change. A change within the environment that creates fear and distress. I then asked how he was going to deal with this fear. He told me that the implementation of the machine line was not to replace the labour force but to reduce the number of safety incidents that were currently being experienced as safety was the main reason for an inefficient production line.
The current labour force was there to operate the machines. So, I told him to focus his report around how he implemented a training schedule to ensure all workers were able to use these machines but also to describe all the communication and assurances he had with the labour force to eliminate fear of losing their jobs.
So, when we are talking about accomplishing ECSA outcome 6, we are referring to how our engineering design and systems will disrupt the current culture of employees or society.
Remember, culture does not refer to race or religion in terms of ECSA registration, it is referring to how people feel, how our system may challenge their current way of performing tasks or challenge their viewpoint.
I know, this may sound strange, but this aspect is often neglected when performing new designs that help solve problems.
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