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Measure of the Worker


#1

The Measure of the Worker

  • How does one determine what a worker in the jewelry trade is
    worth? By what standard is the value of a worker determined?

There is a common and misunderstood problem in the jewelry industry.
Very often those who are skilled in a singular, concentrated area
such as ring sizing are more predictable because they receive jobs
tailored to their particular skills. However, those who have
multi-functional skills are more difficult to measure because they
possess more than one set of skills.

Consider this, a sizer can produce more work in less time because
they have a simpler line of processes, their jobs have been
pre-sorted, instructions are consistent, fewer tool and materials
are needed, there is less organization and space required, the
overall process of sizing is consistent and self flowing. They are
not interrupted much nor are they required to handle any other
outside responsibilities such as ‘out-of-process’ work including
customer/phone attendance, conferring with the team and so forth.

However, a multi-talented jeweler with a multitude of function and
skills, such as a sizer/caster/setter/wax
carver/watchmaker/salesperson/designer rolled up into one requires
more time, space, organization and deals with a wider range of
responsibilities. Their bandwidth of duties will be wider. More
handling and time to use a greater range of tool and materials
will to be required. Jobs require more attention, sorting and
processing. They may be needed for consultation with a customer
about a jewelry item or timepiece. In general, working on jobs that
require more than one process or skill will take more time. Sometime
these workers receive less credit because they are labeled as
’unproductive’.

Many jewelers have found that as they expand to many fields in the
jewelry trade, the measure of their work and the processes involved
becomes more complicated. Productivity becomes illusively slower and
thereby they sometime receive less compensation than those with a
single or simpler task.

For example, one may do a counter sketch, examine and consult about
a few watches , change batteries on 7 watches, prep up for casting,
do a setting job and size 4 rings. In the end of the day the bench
progress report will only show that he or she did 5 special order
jobs. Not an impressive figure to the employer doing a daily run-by
evaluation of ‘productivity’. A sizer could do anywhere from 40 to
60 rings a day.

The morale of the story. To guess is cheap. To guess wrong is
expensive.

Daniel Biery Jr.
Master Goldsmith
Industrial Designer
Watchmaker
http://www.nobleconcepts.com
@Dan_Biery


#2

Happy productive New Year to all!

Enjoyed your post, Dan. I also hope that employers could value the
many talents as you have described them - and not see the
productivity and the total output as the only measure of a valuable
employee. Managing time is important, but providing the diversity of
skills, as you described (especially, the ability to communicate with
the customer directly), will allow a variety of services that a
retail shop could provide on site. This is becoming more of a
rarity, from what I have observed, and is still a very needed niche
in our field.

To me, it often takes time to proceed with the problem solving of
the design process. This is a major reason that I hope to be able to
continue as an independent. If a job proves to take more time - I
like to be able to give myself the luxury of extra time to spend in
process - and not fear that I will lose my job because of
inefficiency. To meet deadlines is necessary - but there are times
when I just do not work in a linear fashion. Solutions come at the
oddest moments. The problem to solve stays with me until i am
satisfied with the result. This time spent is not added to my time
clock of “hands on” work spent on the piece. I’m sure if I were an
employee and designing, that i would continue to process my work in
this manner. Finding an employer who valued this approach would be
very difficult.

I do feel that multi-talented jewelers - as described in your post
are an “endangered species” in the name of efficiency and
productivity.

Good luck in your job search, Dan.

Cynthia


#3

Hello Orchidians:

I found Dan Biery’s discussion on this topic thoughtful and reality-
based:

"How does one determine what a worker in the jewelry trade is
worth? By what standard is the value of a worker determined? ...
However, those who have multi-functional skills are more difficult
to measure because they possess more than one set of skills. ... In
general, working on jobs that require more than one process or
skill will take more time. Sometime  these workers receive less
credit because they are labeled as 'unproductive'." 
One of my friends works half days (really about 3 hours/day) in a

local jewelry store doing all their bench work, but is not involved
on the sales floor. He is fast, very able, and (bless his heart)
shares his bench tips with me. He even repairs the shop equipment
when needed - like replacing the pump in the steamer. An all around
nice guy and loyal too. He recently completed 20 years with the
store. I don’t know what he gets paid, but I don’t think it’s
enough… he usually holds additional part-time jobs (auto repairs,
dog grooming, etc). This leads me to wonder what the store would do
if he was injured or suddenly couldn’t work. Where in the heck
could they find another, equally qualified jeweler who would work
part-time? Frankly, when he told me he was working in a brake
repair shop, I worried about injuries to his hands and eyes. If
that happened, his jewelry work would be compromised. Sorry to
ramble, but it seems to me that employers should take a hard look at
what it would mean to their business if the employee was missing.
Could he/she be replaced at the same skill level, and how much would
it cost to do so? Now the employer has a better idea of that
employee’s “worth”, and should take steps to adjust compensation or
otherwise appreciate the employee. Just my US$.02 Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S. Biological and Agricultural Engineering 237
Seaton Hall Kansas State University Manhattan
KS 66506 (785) 532-2936