It’s no secret that machine techs are in short supply across the machine tool industry, including metal fabrication, and that shortage has severe ripple effects that can hinder productivity in a serious way. When a fully automated laser cutting machine crashes or otherwise shuts down unexpectedly, the entire shop can be starved of work.
Some techs are true road warriors, a life not everybody wants. At the same time, boomer techs from machine manufacturers and distributors are retiring in droves, and many of them are choosing to continue working on machines independently.
“The irony with the service tech shortage is that a lot of techs have a lot of downtime.” That was David Rhodes, director of sales and customer success at The UP! App, a Columbus, Ohio, startup that’s tackling the tech shortage in a novel way—with an app.
The skilled tech shortage is a nuanced problem. Many machine techs, especially those who focus on specialized technology or within a specific geographic region, work in a feast-or-famine world. When it rains, it pours, as multiple customers call at once. Then the storm passes and the phone doesn’t ring.
As Rhodes recalled, “Before this all started, we started thinking, you can hail a ride with an app. You can even find a date with an app. Considering the high cost of downtime, wouldn’t it be great to have an app like that for industrial machine maintenance?”
The app could effectively strengthen the connection between those who needed machine maintenance and those who could provide it—and ultimately help mitigate the tech shortage by better utilizing available tech capacity. With the app, techs could broaden their customer base and make those long stretches of downtime a rarity.
The company ultimately developed the app, aptly named The UP! App, and rolled out a soft launch in late 2017. “We recruited 120 service providers in the [Midwest region] and marketed to mom-and-pop shops and contract manufacturers,” Rhodes said, adding that the initial launch focused on the machining business. App usage grew through 2018, and this year the company is ramping up its presence in the metal fabrication market.
Here’s how it works. Service requesters (like job shops) download the app or access it at theupapp.com. They create a profile and enter machine information, including the machine’s serial number. The app accepts uploaded photos, videos, and anything else that would help the potential tech understand the problem. They also choose whether the machine is operational, semi-operational, or completely down, and request a completion date.
“Our algorithm then matches the request to a network of service providers in the area,” Rhodes said, adding that this involves scanning a tech’s qualifications, expertise, and specialization.
The techs receive an email or phone notification, visit the app, and see the request. If they have availability, they create an itemized quote, including their hourly rates, attached price sheets, certifications, and other material, and specify when they can arrive at the plant.
Read the full article here: https://www.thefabricator.com/thefabricator/article/cadcamsoftware/new-app-addresses-the-machine-tech-shortage