Is CAD/CAM Making Your Shop DUMBER?

We have written a few posts now ranting about how true artisans are being replaced by Artificial Intelligence and how manufacturing may have summoned the demons by over-utilizing complex and “intelligent” software to completely replace the “human factor” (  you can read a post HERE ). That thought was even the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal … of course much more eloquently.

Here is the complete Wall Street Journal article …
Automation Makes Us Dumb 

This post is dedicated to some of the ideas and messages highlighted by that article … intermingled with reasons why we feel our Kipware® software is such a great option to combat the “dumbing down” of America.

Have you “drank the CAD/CAM kool aid”? … or in this case embalming fluid?

“Dazzled by our new machines … we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves. But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggest that our own intelligence is withering as we become more and more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.” 

Let’s take a look at this point referencing manufacturing. It seems that software developers are really keen on making their software more and more complex … and more and more capable of removing the human interaction … after all, that’s what brings in the big bucks. Instead of simply helping the artisan (machinist) step away from the drab and cumbersome tasks … CAD/CAM has striven to take ALL the thought and “human factor” out of the part programming and manufacturing process. The goal of modern software developers is to grow the automation more and more … but these often result in a “lazy and uneventful design that are void of intellect, imagination and emotion” says architecture professor Jacob Brillhart.

When CNC machinery first came along, it was celebrated for it’s ability to make the machining of complex shapes … take an arc for instance … possible. Creating the G code to machine that arc was still in the hands of the artisan. By keeping it in the hands of the artisan, it lent itself to the human interaction … which more often lent itself to new and innovative shapes … more things could be done with that arc. As CAD/CAM has striven to replace ALL human interaction … it has also removed more and more of that “human factor”. More and more, these new and more powerful software are leaving users only with the drab, mindless, less demanding tasks … and the human innovation and human creativity has been removed with the “skill” being built into the computer.

“Yesterdays machine operators are today’s computer operators.”

As the WSJ articulates … take for instance the modern pilot who actually may be losing his edge thanks to the cockpit computer. We have taken so many tasks away from the pilot and shifted it to the “autopilot” … we have started a “skills fade”. In 2007, British aviation researcher Matthew Ebbatson conducted an experiment with a group of airline pilots. He had them perform a difficult maneuver in a flight simulator … bringing a Boeing jet with a crippled engine in for a landing in rough weather. When he compared the simulator readings with the actual aviators flight records … he found a close connection between a pilot’s adroitness at the controls and the amount of time the pilot had recently spent flying planes manually. In other words … when we are forced to perform tasks manually we are more likely to sharpen our skills and our know-how. When software takes over … manual skills wane.

Why is Kipware® Different ?

 My belief … in manufacturing … complex software that performs ALL the tasks automatically are to blame for today’s “dumber” shops … and possibly the skills drain that shops are experiencing. Human-focused software … like Kipware® … engages the operator with lots of prompts and pushes people harder to think, act and learn. Our skills develop and get sharper only through practice when we use them regularly. In our recent article I made the point that … programming a rectangular pocket or the roughing of a multi-step shaft is not rocket science … but it is tedious. Kipware® can assist by creating this simpler G code quickly and easily … but it’s imperative that the user have the ability to create that G code manually if he had to. The message … ” I could do it if I had to but it’s faster and more efficient this way.” … must be valid. If the user can’t do it … and is relying on the computer to perform a task he is incapable of … that’s a problem. The pilot having the ability to land the plane if he had to … is a lot different than him relying exclusively on the auto-pilot because he doesn’t know how to land the plane.


Our software design philosophy and our Kipware® titles reflect a certain feature … that software plays an essential role but is actually secondary to the human operator. It takes over routine functions that a human operator has already mastered. Kipware® becomes the users partner … not the users replacement. Kipware® often relies on the users strengths and interaction … allowing them to bring their ideas and experience to the process … and allows them to enhance the results with the use of the skills and experience. The simple act of knowing how to save a file on the computer … for example … can oftentimes be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I often hear the question … when I save a file where does it go? With Kipware® … it goes where you tell it to go … not where the software decides it should go with automation that keeps you out of the process. You have to think … act … understand … process. All our Kipware® titles are guides … sure they can automate tedious tasks … but they can also be expanded by the human operator and can take them both to places they could only go with an interactive partnership.

Everyone in manufacturing is in awe at the power and scope of the computer software available that will do the various manufacturing tasks … and we should be. And there certainly is a place for the complex CAD/CAM applications in the manufacturing environment. But our marketing slogan … “Not every job requires CAD/CAM.” … rings true here. We believe that putting every job … even the simplest … through a CAD/CAM system … as outlined here … is making your shop dumber. We should not … and must not … underestimate the value of our own talents when partnered together with technology. Even the smartest software lacks the ability to replicate the human insight gained through years of real world experience and hard work. “If we let our own skills fade by relying on automation, we are going to render ourselves less capable, less resilient and more subservient to our machines.” 

Kenney Skonieczny – President
Kentech Inc.