Category Archives: Machining Industry

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Any company in the machining industry has to incorporate Lean Manufacturing in their business and process plan to survive these days. To put it in simple terms, lean manufacturing is the production practice of being efficient by eliminating any ‘waste’ in the process plan. Though they may not call it this, all companies strive to be lean because it makes their customers happy, and ultimately, more money.

Although there was seven original “Wastes” involved in lean manufacturing, we’ll look at eight of the most common ones in a machine shop. Most of them are simple, but it can take a lot of work and orchestrating to implement them all. There is no perfect company that has it all figured out. There is always room for improvement, which is why employers seek new ways to lean out their manufacturing process. The acronym for this practice is “DOWNTIME”. Now you could just look this term up on wikipedia, but it won’t give you a real perspective or example of what it means. Those are just general illustrations in the manufacturing industry, but working in a machine shop may produce different scenarios.

Defective Production:

If bad parts are made, it takes more time to either re-work it or make another one. More material, more machine time, more tooling wear, which can add up to almost double the cost of a part. The machine shop pays for this and not the customer, and that is why it is on the list of big “wastes” that companies try to eliminate. We are only human, so mistakes do happen occasionally, but the goal is to decrease the percent of defective parts.

Overproduction:

I believe that this one can go either way, but if space is expensive, then overproduction is definitely considered a waste. If you make extra parts for a customer, it costs more time to make them, and the excess supply of parts costs more to store because it takes up more space in between machining and shipping, plus the time it will take for the customer to order more. If something happens to the customer and they discontinued that part or went to a different vendor, your extra inventory has now turned into a complete waste of money.

Waiting:

There’s two ways you can look at this; the parts that are waiting, or the machinist that is waiting. This happens whenever you have stock waiting to be cut or for operations on a machine. There is usually a waiting time in between finishing the parts and shipping. This takes up valuable time, as well as space. Although it may not seem like a big difference if parts are waiting an extra day or two to be worked on or shipped, the quicker you get the parts out your door, the quicker you can move on to another part/order.

Non-used Employee Talent:What Is Lean Manufacturing

This should be an easy, but too many employers miss it. If you have an employee that is skilled multi-axis machining and/or programming, putting them on a grinder or running simple mill parts is a waste of talent. Even if they need a little more training, it’s much more efficient to move that employee to the more complicated work instead of hiring another person, which you may have to train-in anyway.

Transportation:

Transportation is all of the unneeded movements of parts and materials. The shortest route from point A to point B is a straight line, anything else is wasting time. While it’s not always possible to do this in a machine shop, the shorter the distance parts and material have to travel the better.

Inventory:

This is similar to overproduction because having too big of an inventory takes up space and takes more machine time to run. If you’re making more parts than the order requires, it is considered wasteful inventory.

Motion:

Much like wasteful transportation of parts, a machinist should reduce wasteful motion as much as possible to be efficient. If you’re setting up a job, all the tools should be set-up and ready to go or on the workbench next to the machine. This can be done during cycle time of the previous job to save time. When loading and unloading parts in the machine during production, as well as part deburring, having everything close by or within reaching distance will reduce motion and save time in the long run.

Excessive Processing:

Like mentioned before, time is the biggest money breaker or maker, and if you’re spending too much time trying to perfect parts or orders when it is not needed, then you’re wasting time. If you have wide open tolerances on some or most of the part features, spending extra set-up and/or cycle time to try and get it right at the nominal number is waste. As long as all of the parts are within tolerance of the blueprint, they’re good. If the part doesn’t go together during assembly or function properly, it’s that customer’s job to fix the print, not the machine shop’s job.

Now, how can YOU as a Machinist benefit from all of this? This can help boost your reputation at your current job, as well as your resume. The harder you work at being more efficient, the more your boss/foreman will notice. This may result in better raises, a promotion, or benefits in various ways.

Although not all of these factors directly relate to you, suggesting them to higher authority may give you better recognition in the long run.

CNC Programmer Salary – How Much Am I Worth?

Are you good at programming on CAM/CAD software? Programmers are in high demand in most areas around the United States. The salary, or wage, for CNC programmers depends on a couple things. There’s a wide spectrum of programmers because not everyone has the same experience. However, just because you have 10 years of programming ‘experience’ doesn’t mean you’re worth more than the other guy that gas only 3 years. More on this later…

Master The Systems

While a programmer with less years on the job can get paid more, the more you know the better. Having 8 years of experience on Mastercam is great, but if you know how to program on Gibbs, Surfcam, as well as multi-axis on CAM systems, you’re worth more to certain companies.

Knowing how to run multiple CAM or CAD systems gives you an edge over the competition if you’re looking for a job because you’ll fit the “requirements” for a lot more companies that are looking for a programmer.

CNC Programmer Salary - How Much Am I Worth
Programming on Mastercam

Even if you haven’t worked with a certain software that a company you want to work for uses, having experience with multiple other systems makes you more versatile, which will making it much easier for them to train you in on their programming software. Every CAM/CAD system is different, but you’re essentially doing the same thing with all of them; programming. If you’re used to being acclimated to a new software, learning how to use one more shouldn’t be an issue.

What’s the Demand?

If there’s no demand in your area for a programmer like you, don’t expect to get a high paying job offer in the near future. Big cities with Machining, such as Houston, Minneapolis, and Ohio have a high demand for any and all kinds of Machinists or Programmers. Finding a job in these areas isn’t too difficult today because the manufacturing demand is high.

If you want to get started as a programmer, you can find easier jobs at shops that will start you at the bottom and work your way up if you only have school experience. It’s not going to be a wealthy salary, but it’s better paying than most operators.

Let’s See Some Numbers

Okay, this is probably the real reason why you’re here… Programmers are usually paid more than machine operators, which is a big reason why so many machinists go to school for programming. Before I throw any digits out there, you should know that these are not set in stone. Every market and area of the country/continent is a little bit different. These numbers are a general starting point to show you what a CNC programmer can make for a living.

If you’re looking for a first just as a programmer, even if you’ve been a machinist for a few years, you’ll probably start towards the bottom of the pay scale. Right now, most full-time programmers start out around the 18-20 dollar an hour mark. It won’t make you rich, but if you’re looking for a good starting job, there’s usually a good amount of room for improvement.

If you look in the classifieds of Job listings, you’ll often see Programmer wanted ads with 3-5 years of experience. With more experience, comes more money (for the most part). The compensation is usually in the low-mid 20s for wages, and if you’re working overtime like a lot of shops do these days, that could be a pretty decent paycheck. However, like mentioned before, not only do you have to have the years of experience qualification, but also the right kind of experience as far as programming on CAM/CAD systems.

For you programming masters out there, high 20s and into the $30+/Hr mark is not uncommon. Some machine shops just need a lead programmer that can do it all, and to some companies, that person may be worth 35 bucks an hour.

Lathe and basic mill programmers are usually at the bottom of spectrum because they require the least amount of skill and training. The high-end jobs are usually multi-axis or special milling programmers that require a lot more training.

Once again, these salaries aren’t going to make you a millionaire. But that’s not why you chose CNC Manufacturing as a career, otherwise you would have gone a different and probably less interesting route.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment…

3D Printable Objects – Printers For Home Hobbyists

Here at CNCMachinistTraining.com, we want to educate you on everything CNC manufacturing related, and that’s why I’m taking the time to explain what a 3D printer is, and why they are making people thousands of dollars while doing it right in their home.

First of all, what exactly is a 3D printer, and what does it do? Another name for these printers is a rapid-prototype machine, because it can make you a one-off part without having to ‘cut’ or machine any materials.

That’s right, it actually ‘prints’ out a a real part that you can hold and use, as opposed to my typical 2D printer that prints out flat pieces of paper… Want to make action figures, model cars, tools, or a special replacement part that you can’t buy in any stores?! These machines really are amazing, and everyone that finds out about them are in awe of what they can do.

3D Printer
3D Printer

Depending on how sophisticated the printer is, you can take and scan a P-51 Mustang scale model airplane, transfer it to the computer program, pick your colors, and then click print. It will come out just like your existing plane, with moving parts and all!

If you’ve ever seen those older movies where they punch in their request onto a microwave-like machine, and out comes their order in seconds, a 3D printer is very similar, albeit the cycle time is a little longer.

While pretty much all of the personal or hobby printers are restricted to mostly plastics or composites, there are machines out there that can print out real metals, also known as additive manufacturing, but that’s for another article…

Do CNC Machinists Need To Go To School?

So you’ve decided that you want to be a full-time Machinist for a career, but you’re not sure if you can find a job without going to school… If you haven’t already, check out my article on CNC machinist training.

While many career’s start right after or during college these days, there are a lot of jobs that don’t necessarily require schooling. Years ago you could start out as a shop helper during weeknights while going to high school, but now it seems like you need take at least two years of post-secondary education to get any ‘real job’.

To answer the question plainly, no, you don’t NEED to go to school to be a full-time cnc machinist. There’s plenty of machinists that didn’t go to school and are doing well. In fact, there’s some guys that never took anything past high and ended up owning their own machine shop.

With that said, it may be hard to find a job in the manufacturing industry with little to no experience. In this case, the old saying, “It pays to know” couldn’t be more true. If you have a friend or a friend of a parent works in a local machine shop, ask them if there are any openings at that shop. If they don’t, that friend will usually suggest another shop or be on the lookout if they know you well enough.Do CNC Machinists Need To Go To School

Going to your local Tech school for Machining classes will definitely give you a head start, or an accelerated start if you just graduated from high school and already work in a manufacturing shop. You will be able learn all of your basic machining 101 knowledge, and then work your way up from there until you can program and make your own parts.

There’s shops out there that will start from scratch if they find a young and motivated worker, but the learning process will usually be more gradual over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, those can be hard to come by, and the wages probably won’t be enough to live off of.

One of the biggest problems is that most companies want someone with several years of machining experience, and don’t want to spend their time trying to train someone in, hoping that they will weed out the ill-performing machinists. While they may work some of the time, there’s no real way to tell how good of a machinist someone is until you give them work to do. You can take someone with 1-2 years of schooling and a year of on the job experience, and they might do better than another machinist that has been in the industry for 10+ years.

In the end, it’s up to YOU to decide what to do. The smartest route would be starting right off the bat when you graduate high school and going to a Tech school for machining, and possibly finding a small shop to work for at the same time. However, not everyone is young enough to do that. For those that are older and need a steady full-time job, there are people that take machining classes during the day, and go do to work at night. It can be gruesome, but if you work hard at it and really think that you want to pursue this great career, I encourage you to put the hammer down and quit slacking off!

Good luck!

CNC Machinist Training Requirements

Before working as a CNC Machinist, most companies require some previous experience or training. It could be getting certified at a Tech school, a certain number of years working with a number of machines and program controllers, or using specially tooling/machinery.

It really depends on the shop and what they’re looking for, but you should decide what kind of shop you’re wanting to work at in the first place so you know what to work towards.

Here’s some general requirements for each stage of a Machinist Career (Each level is a prerequisite for the next level)…

Basic Shop Helper/Student:

  • High School Diploma/Currently enrolled
  • Basic math knowledge
  • Hard worker
  • Punctual
  • Can Pass drug/background check
  • Ability to lift 30+ lbs.
  • Listens to authority
  • Quick learner and motivated

Entry Level Machinist/Operator:

  • 1-2 years of Machine trade school or previous experience
  • Ability to use basic inspection tools such as: caliper, micrometer, thread gauges
  • Be able to set tool/work offsets if needed
  • Can change out parts and properly deburr
  • Operate a band-saw
  • Occasional light assembly
  • Able to interpret blueprints

Mid-level CNC Machinist:

  • 3-5 years of previous machining experience and/or schooling in Machine Trades
  • Ability to do to set-ups on CNC milling machine or CNC Lathe
  • Ability to program and edit programs if needed
  • Some experience with CAD/CAM software preferred (depends on the position)
  • Ability to inspect own parts with proper tools
  • Math/Basic trigonometry skills
  • Basic knowledge of feeds and speeds for materials

Lead Machinist:

  • Good communication/interaction skills
  • Proficient in troubleshooting machine and program problems/alarms
  • 5 or more years of previous experience
  • Ability to teach and train new employees on machine operating, set-ups
  • Certified and experience with fork-lift operation
  • Report all maintenance and important issues to Manager
  • Understand the capabilities and limitations of each machine
  • Be a leader and organized

CNC Programmer/Engineer:

  • 2-5+ years of previous programming experience with CAD/CAM software (Gibbs,Surf,Bob,Mastercam,Solidworks,etc.)
  • Complete understanding of machine usage and programming G & M codes
  • Awareness of cutting tool technology
  • Complete understanding of work-holding strategies
  • Ability to make/utilize work fixtures with simple and complex parts
  • Strong tooling knowledge, as well as optimum feeds and speeds for each job
  • Ability to program for different machines; mill/lathe/4th axis/live tooling (if required)

CNC Machinist Training RequirementsNow not all of these are going to be the exact requirements for the job you’re applying for. However, it is important that you experience and can do all or most of the above in the given category for the job you want.

The more you know, the more your future employer will consider you. Having a strong resume doesn’t always get you the job, but it can help you get the wage/salary that you deserve based on your skill level.

Machine Shop Rates – What’s the Average Hourly Rate

If you want win in this competitive market, you have to be on top of your game by being efficient. Depending on what kind of jobs you’re running, you want to run the best equipment and tools for it, as well as utilizing them properly.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive machine. As a general rule, the more complex the part, the more you’ll have to spend on precision equipment. On the flip side, you can charge more because it takes more time and money to run the job.

What Machines Are In The Shop?

There are a lot of factors that can determine the hourly rate of a shop. Shops that can utilize bigger are more powerful machines will generally charge more because the overhead costs are higher, and they can do more than just a small job shop with lesser machines.

What Kind of Shop Is It?

Comparing hourly rates of job shops and production shops can vary greatly. Running production is usually a larger shop with big machines that can run dozens or even hundreds of parts at a time. Efficiency is very important, and rates will often be higher. However, the orders can be started and finished in a fraction of time.

Smaller job shops that do more prototype parts and small batches are usually a little cheaper. However, the cost per part can be quite a bit higher because set-up time is expensive. The more parts you run, the lower the cost-per-part will be.

Quality or Quantity?

Just because a shop has bigger and more powerful CNC machines does not mean it is a better shop. A small 3 man shop can be head and shoulders above a 20,000 square foot machining shop as far as quality goes. In order to meet or exceed the customer’s request, there must be at least oneĀ machinistĀ in the shop that knows how to do that. You can’t just make a program on a CAD/CAM system, load it onto the machine and expect everything to run perfectly. In fact, programming is sometimes one of the easiest part of machining.

The difficult part is making a fixture that properly holds the part, choosing the right tools for the part (size, length, material), as well as speeds and feeds that will be the most efficient (shorter cycle times are good, but if you’re burning through tools every few parts, you’re spending more on tools and down time because you have to stop running the machine and set a new one up; Time = Money). Some characteristics of a well rounded and skilled machinist can be found here.

Lets See Some Numbers!

Currie Engineering
Currie Engineering

So, you want to see some actual dollar amounts for machine shop rates… There’s a few different ranges of numbers, and as a general rule, you get what you pay for. $40-55/hour is considered cheap in the manufacturing industry, and while you may be able to find a local shop that has a rate that low, their work will probably reflect. However, if you need to make parts with wide open tolerances, you can save a lot of money going to a company that is 48 bucks an hour. Manual mills and lathes may be the majority of machines found in a shop like this.

60 to 80 dollars per hour is the average machine shop rate in most parts of the U.S.. Electricity is and overhead costs play an important role in what a shop is charging. However, the most important factor would be quality and type of shop. Prototype and short run parts are expensive due to set-up times. If you need to make a part with tight tolerances, that will greatly narrow the choices down. The shops that are able to make high precision and good looking parts know that, and are able to charge more because other shops can’t compete with their quality.

If you were wondering about the top dollar shops, there are some out there that charge $100/hour and beyond. Why? Along with the above mentioned, the high cost is because they are large shops with multi-million dollar machines that produce a high overhead to run, including well-experienced machinists that often get paid a better wage because of their expertise. It may seem ridiculous if you’re new to the career, but if you add up all of the expenses of machines operating, tools, inspection equipment, coolant and chemicals, electricity, and obviously the machinists/programmers themselves. After adding all those numbers up, they shouldn’t be more than what the company is making per hour, especially if the owner wants to make a profit.

In the end, it really depends on the kind of work that is being done. The higher precision and meticulous that stand strongly behind their quality will charge more, but if you have fussy parts, it is well worth the cost as opposed to rejecting the same part from a lesser shop that can’t meet the tolerances.