The Learning Curve Phenomenon

The Learning Curve (see below) measures the relation between increase in per worker productivity which leads to a decrease in per unit labour cost at fixed prices. This is associated with advancement in labour skills from on-the-job experience. The learning curve effect leads to a fall in cost of production per unit due to the increased involvement in the production process by labourers and managers who become more and more familiar with the production process. This entirely leads to improvement in their efficiency level. By efficiency, we mean a greater amount of output generated per labour unit.


Applicable to CNC Machinists

It is difficult to predict what can be expected in terms of a new employee’s learning progress. In the situation of a new CNC machinist, it may be helpful to plot a knowledge graph against time to measure their learning curve (see below). This is essentially used to help train your future CNC machinists and forecast productivity per labour unit. If you notice, there are no values shown for time or knowledge. Since each person is different, you cannot set a time period at which everyone will acquire a specific knowledge or skill set. The first day of your machinist starts at the left corner. Each day, the machinist gains new experiences and knowledge. This is how you move up the curve. You can presume here that there is an increase in knowledge because the machinist is given more responsibilities, adding to their experiences.


It is not yet a smooth sail from here. It is often normal to incur problems with running the machine as a beginner. Although they know how to run the machine, they are not yet aware of how to overcome any downturns. This day is shown on the curve where the steady increase of the curve changes direction and slowly moves down. You call this the period of relearning. This is why MultiCam provides machinists with support manuals and technical support. They can always refer to the manual for additional details and build their knowledge. During the period of relearning, the machinist gains experiences that will help them overcome repetitive issues.

A fully experienced machinist knows they can make mistakes at any time. At this point in their learning curve, they adjust their work habit to accommodate this reality.  Finally, the learning curve reaches a plateau and ends with a small dip. The plateau represents the period where the machinist performed efficiently in the long-term. The reality of today’s CNC machinists is that the plateau is a much shorter period of time and need to be cautious of the dip. This is due to complacency and boredom that may set in quickly. It is your job to make sure your machinist is continually learning, watching their learning curve, and improving it.


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