The magic box of technology has fascinated us since the first computerized systems rolled off the production line. This wonderful notion that this latest device, program, or gizmo is here to make our lives better and easier has led to a wave of invention that is still rolling in. Creative minds are always trying to come up with new ways to mechanize everything we do. Sometimes that leads to wonderful creations and other times… well, not so great.
When I was young, I worked at a jewelry store in Alabama. The owner had a particular interest in acquiring all the latest technology. He had gone to a show and purchased some of the newest “magic boxes”. One of these latest and greatest was a water torch. It sounded good on paper, but in the shop, it was a horrible nightmare that spit water everywhere and burned the metals. Thankfully, that didn’t stay in the shop long.
Another magic box he was quite proud to have acquired was the $1,000 dollar box that detected loose gemstones. He demonstrated how in just minutes he can hang a ring on the clip, place it on the box, flip the switch (after shuffling things around to get it plugged in) and moments later the light came on indicating the ring had loose gemstones! What a wonder of technology! Then I showed him how I can hold the ring to my ear and a little tap tap tap with my finger renders the familiar tick tick tick of loose stones. He returned the $1,000 dollar box the next day.
Some of the latest and greatest technology has been truly amazing and made a huge impact on the jewelry industry. Laser technology has opened incredible opportunities and improvements in our craft. A skilled craftsman can use this tool to do intricate repairs and delicate detailed work that would be impossible or extremely time-consuming before this great invention. Even the less skilled craftsmen can use one to accomplish some tasks. However, like all great tools we have at our fingertips to use, the work it creates is only as good as the craftsman wielding the tool. An untrained or unskilled person can wreak havoc and create a lot more damage and destruction to the jewelry they are supposedly working on than actually fixing anything.
The CAD system is another one of these great technology advancements. The ability to create amazing pictures to show the consumers the wonderful creations the artistic minds can conjure is a remarkable tool. It has quickly become such an intricate part of so many jewelry business that it is difficult to remember it is just a tool, and that render image is just a picture. A sketch artist may draw you a breathtakingly beautiful picture of the dream home you describe, but that doesn’t mean that artist knows the first thing about building that house. If you want that dream home image to become a reality, you need to find an architect who can make sure you have lights, plumbing and walls that won’t collapse.
An untrained or unskilled person wreaking havoc on jewelry pieces with a laser can ultimately cost the store owners a lot more money than the training or hiring a skilled person would have cost. The same could be said for CAD operators. Those “CAD Experts” who can create any design for just $35 may give you nothing more than the pretty picture you’re paying for. Their pictures may be genuinely amazing and beautiful, but is it just a picture? Can it actually be built?
A bench jeweler friend told me about their experience with one of these “$35 CAD Experts”. The store owner was delighted to have this inexpensive source for their CAD needs. They were going to save $100 on every project by cutting the CAD costs.
The first project done with this new CAD source arrives. The bench jeweler spends hours adding prongs to all the settings and metal to the paper thin shank. The store owner didn’t save anything on that project. It actually cost more than if the CAD had been done correctly to start with. Perhaps it was just an off day for the CAD expert?
The second project cost extra for the caster to correct the issues with the CAD because the model was not valid enough that it could even be grown. The CAD had to be completely rebuilt. Again it cost quite a bit more time and money for that $35 picture.
One more chance for such an inexpensive CAD expert? Project three arrives at the bench. Time to clean up the casting and set the stones! Oh, wait, first all the settings have to be altered because none of them actually fit the stones. Again, more time and money spent paying the bench jeweler to fix what should have been done correctly in the CAD.
The extra time spent correcting issues with the CAD’s caused some projects to run late. Customers are unhappy with the delays. The store owner is unhappy with the extra costs to correct issues. It seems the $35 CAD Expert is just selling $35 pictures.
Store owners seem to always be looking for the magic box that saves them from needing to hire a skilled craftsman. In the end, cutting corners cost the store a lot more money. Some store owners think the magic CAD box does everything correctly and automatically for them. They don’t realize it is just another tool and how beneficial it is to your business is a product of the operator’s skill level and knowledge.
In the end it is the craftmanship, skill and knowledge that is what our trade is about. The greatest “Magic Box” that will truly prove to be the most profitable and successful asset to your business is great employees.