Foundational Skills of the Supply Chain Technician
Re: Analysis of ini9al competency and basic skill development for technology for suppor9ng supply chain technology opera9ons.
To accommodate the growing demand for skilled technicians in supply chain opera9ons, there are several areas required as a star9ng point. These skills are the founda9on one must master and develop at high levels to efficiently progress as a skilled technician. Often overlooked as insigniﬁcant basic skills, one would expect to prac9ce naturally, these principles must be mastered to render proper development for adapta9on to support supply chain opera9ons in any environment. These skills are ranked below, priori9zed from highest to least.
Basic comprehension of reading and mathema9cs to understand mechanical and electrical processes.
Cri9cal thinking skills.
Troubleshoo9ng development for problem isola9on of all applica9ons.
Blueprint / wiring diagrams / prints / electrical schema9cs proﬁciency.
Electrical background / knowledge.
The skills listed above are essen9al for technicians. This basic skill set can be attained through educa9on, experience and prac9ce. Once this basic founda9on has been laid, a technician can advance to more technical applica9ons driven by logic. This includes, PLC controlled applica9ons, PC based controllers, robo9cs, mechanical and electrical integra9ons, pneuma9cs and hydraulic devices. Once the founda9on has been established, more advanced skills can be developed depending on the interest of the technician and /or the speciﬁc needs for the support of the supply chain opera9on.
To evaluate, the basics will be addressed in more detail.
1.Basic comprehension of reading and mathema2cs to understand processes.
In short, every technician must be able to read with aWen9on to detail to capture content from technical manuals regarding correct processes and procedures for proper opera9on of equipment. I highlight this skill because oJen equipment is not opera9ng correctly and performing due to operator error and/or improper installa9on of the device, as opposed to, malfunc9ons of the machinery itself. Having ﬂuency with the technical manual will allow the tech to be more familiar with possible errors that might occur, including built-‐in safe9es, to protect the operator and equipment. This skill and prac9ce will allow the tech to be more familiar with new and/or exis9ng devices as well as eliminate down 9me and keep produc9on moving.
Cri9cal thinking is not a trait, but a prac9ce. I believe when approaching a problem in any arena, one must ask several ques9ons to eﬀec9vely target the issue and problem at hand, rather than just the symptom. My ques9ons vary, but some samples are below:
What is not working or processing?
When was the last 9me this process was working?
What makes this process work? I.e., switch, power, motor, plc input, etc…
Has anyone worked on this?
Are the safe9es engaged?
Are there any abnormal func9ons, odors, and/or feels of the equipment etc…
An array of ques9ons can be developed to aWack a problem and each technician will develop their own style, but it is impera9ve that a cri9cal approach be adapted to correctly iden9fy the problem. If this is not done, in many cases, loss of produc9on 9me will occur. Technicians with weak cri9cal thinking skills focus on symptoms rather than the actual problem. In doing so, they miss the problem en9rely and replace improper parts, slowing down the process.
Troubleshoo2ng development and procedures for problem isola2on for all applica2ons
This skill is closely connected to cri9cal thinking. Once the technician has cri9cally thought about the problem at hand and properly isolated the problem, it is important to sharpen troubleshoo9ng skills. For example, if power is the issue and is not present at point C, why?
What should the voltage be? Where can I ﬁnd the correct voltage? How do I check for the
correct voltage? What equipment do I use to check for the voltage? How do I work safely in this process? Another example, on the mechanical side, is why is the motor not moving? What makes the motor move? Power? Chain? Gear Box? Developing this skill of asking the right ques9ons enhances technicians troubleshoo9ng abili9es. Training, experience, and lab exercises can develop and sharpen troubleshoo9ng abili9es un9l they become second nature.
3.Blueprint / wiring diagrams / prints / electrical schema2cs proﬁciency.
Acquiring this skill is necessary if you want to communicate with your equipment. I have always said, “If I have the prints, schema9c, etc… I will ﬁx the problem.” This is because I can look at the processes, the inputs and the outputs of the equipment on any front, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneuma9cs and I can determine what processes should be opera9ng when, how and why. If a tech cannot understand the drawings or prints of the equipment, any cri9cal thinking and troubleshoo9ng merely becomes a guessing game, which can costs a company thousands of dollars in down 9me and lost wages.
4.Electrical background / knowledge.
For all the skills and disciplines that can be learned and mastered, I believe mastering electricity and having a thorough understanding of it is a necessity. Every applica9on that exists has some connec9on to an electrical process indirectly or directly. Understanding how electricity works will aid the technician in understanding how to troubleshoot electrical applica9ons and all associated peripherals. This knowledge can be acquired through educa9on and experience and is vital to the founda9on for successful technical support. In addi9on, and ironically, understanding the process of electricity will aid the tech in understanding the processes associated with pneuma9cs, hydraulic, plumbing, etc… This skill, coupled with the ﬁrst four quali9es, will advance the technician to high levels of achievement in problem solving and support in na9onal supply chain opera9ons.
The ability to be mechanically inclined is a plus. However, most techs require specialized training to enhance their natural abili9es. It would be impossible to cover every type of mechanical applica9on or process in one class, or even with twenty years of experience. Processes are always changing and improving with new mechanical designs consistently emerging. In this view, touching on the basics of mechanics through educa9on, including labs, is beneﬁcial by preparing the tech though the process and focus of mechanical applica9ons. Going back to cri9cal thinking and troubleshoo9ng procedures, how does a mechanical process work in any par9cular applica9on? What parts are in involved? What is a normal mechanical noise compared to a problem noise? This skill is important because in most applica9ons mechanical processes
are driven by electrical controls. If an issue exists, the qualiﬁed tech will clearly be able to isolate an electrical issue from a mechanical one, with this skill. Again the end goal is to support the supply chain by keeping produc9on in force and limi9ng down 9me.
Some may ques9on how pa9ence can be categorized as a skill rather than as a personal quality or trait. However, I believe this is a skill that must be learned. When applying the processes and skills learned to support supply chain organiza9ons, pa9ence must be central to each of the applied skills to eliminate mistakes, provide accurate informa9on, and oﬀer clear thinking when aWemp9ng resolu9ons. There may not be a class for pa9ence but certainly exercises can be created to promote this skill.
In conclusion, to accommodate the growing demand for skilled technicians in supply chain opera9ons today, founda9onal training must be mastered before more complex disciplines can be learned. As has been said, for one to learn calculus, one must master algebra ﬁrst. I think the founda9on for a supply technician would be to follow this rule: Master basics -‐ then advance to more complex issues. This analysis is one small part of the big picture for the training and prepara9on for technicians training to support Supply chain organiza9ons.
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