The Keys To A Sucessful Interview

The article contributor is www.machinistmaker.com

Over the years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates for a wide variety of roles in the machining trades. What I’ve learned in that time is that a successful interview consists not only of the interviewer learning everything they can about a potential candidate, but it is also crucial for the person being interviewed to learn all they can about the company where they are applying.  If both gain a firm understanding of each other, the odds of a mutually beneficial partnership go way up.

Here are some tips for a CNC Machinist that can help create a successful interview:

1)      Don’t show up to the actual interview more than 5-10 minutes early. I understand arriving well ahead of schedule as to not be late, but then wait in the parking lot. I’ve had candidates who showed up thirty minutes early. It can create awkward moments or interactions for everyone if you are waiting in or around the office for an extended amount of time.

2)      No one is expecting you to show up in a suit and tie when interviewing for a Machine Operator position. I highly recommend you look professional and put together, but it’s really your skills and ability that will do the talking. I like someone to make the effort to dress “business casual”, but I’ve hired many qualified people that were wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes.     

3)      Bring a few clean copies of your resume, try to relax, be friendly, and smile.  If interviewing with me, you would need to be prepared to discuss the following: accurately describe the role you played at any of your previous employers, what skills and abilities have you mastered, why you became involved with the trades, and what does your ideal job situation look like? Many candidates were hired because they clearly communicated that they had run similar machines in the past and were able to read a micrometer, a bore gage, and a caliper. It can be that simple.

4)      This should be a no brainer, but be honest. If you are a novice operator who has just completed some tech school training or a CNC boot camp and have limited experience but are willing to learn and will have great attendance, tell them that. Don’t overstate your skill set and set expectations too high. Conversely, if you are experienced and can come in and hit the ground running, feel free to state that as well. The most important thing is that you represent the real you. A good interviewer will weed out the “fact from fiction”.

5)      In a casual way, and at the right times try to find out the following. Does the company have a formal training program? You may inquire about this when you are discussing your skill sets and abilities. How long has the average employee been with the company? The time to ask that might be when taking a shop tour. Inquire about the company’s benefits package. They should clearly explain insurance, vacation, holidays, 401K etc. I say to do it in a casual way so that you do not raise concerns that you are looking to advance too quickly or are only interested in time off or vacation. Sometimes asking a tremendous amount of questions can give a potential employer concerns that you are either high maintenance or will need constant attention. I’d also shy away from saying you want to grow and advance quickly in the company. The interviewer ‘s main goal is to fill the role you are applying for and their immediate thoughts tend to be assessing if you a good fit for the company and are capable of doing the job. Too many questions about advancement make you sound less interested in the job you are applying for. If you are hired and do good work, new opportunities within the company should present themselves.

6)      Pay close attention throughout the interview process. Was the individual you interviewed with on time and prepared? Was the person nice? How about the facilities, did they appear to be clean, well lit, and orderly? When you took a tour did the other employees appear to be enjoying their jobs? All your observations can give you a hint as to what type of company you may be working for. Make sure it meets your standards.

7)      At the end of the interview thank the individual for his/her time. If this is a company you would like to work for and a job you would want, state that fact.  Also ask when the company plans to make a hiring decision and if they will get back in touch with you. A great many companies struggle with communication after the interview. Sometimes you may not hear back for weeks or you won’t hear back at all. This is a bad practice by many companies, but it is a sad reality. Don’t take it personally. Keep moving forward and don’t miss out on any opportunities because you think you might hear back from a previous interview. Keep moving forward in your job search. If you applied through a staffing agency they will most likely be doing the follow up for you. That can help greatly with the flow of information. As a point of reference, when I feel good about a candidate they are usually offered a job the same day or easily within a week.

Finally, later that day, after the interview as a form of self-reflection, think about how you did and where there might be room for improvement. Maybe you were a little nervous, or forgot a few things you wanted to mention, or didn’t clearly convey your skills and abilities. That’s ok. Interviewing is a skill and, as such, if you work on your process and approach you will see positive results.

Taking Care of Business and Working Overtime

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The article contributor is MachinistMaker.com


I used to joke that the reason I liked overtime was because I was finally being paid closer to what I was worth to my employer.  Additional weekly hours can be a fact of life in manufacturing plants and machine shops. It’s a nice way for companies to flex up their hours to deal with increases in work load without having to hire extra employees who may have to be let go when workloads go back to normal. Overtime is great when it is convenient to your life situation. This usually means you have the time to work it and are in need of some extra cash; other times it is not so desirable. It seems like we notice an uptick in hours during the nicer months of the year when you would like to be off, or perhaps right after you committed to something major outside of work. There are no easy answers regarding overtime. This article addresses the benefits, drawbacks, reasons, approaches, and methods regarding working extra hours.

Benefits:

Working extra hours has something to offer everyone.

  • For the employee, you get to earn extra money. This money can help you pay down debt, start accumulating savings, buy dinner and a movie, or take a much deserved vacation.

  • For the company, they are able to meet customer demand. This makes for a happy customer, which can lead to more business.

  • For the customer, they are then able to satisfy their end user demand. This makes their customers’ happy, which can lead to more business.

Below I describe potential business circumstances and how companies can deal with increases in demand.

If you ask anyone in manufacturing to describe the business cycle they usually say it’s either “feast or famine”. Out in the shop that means there can be wide swings in the amount of work that needs to be done on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.

A company has a variety of options to handle an increase in work load. Those plans vary based on the reason for the increase in business. Every plan usually involves overtime.

  • When a single hot project comes up, the simplest and easiest way to deal with it is to work some extra hours either during the week or on the weekend. The problem goes away in a relatively short amount of time, perhaps only a few days or weeks.

  • If the demand is seasonal based on a customer’s products, a plan from the past may be utilized. That may involve working overtime during the week and weekend. Perhaps a few temporary workers will be added as well. This overtime could last a few weeks or a few months.

  • If it is a more sustained increase caused by a rise in demand across the board for the products your company provides, the need for overtime may last a bit longer. This may involve overtime during the week and half or full shifts on the weekend. The company would probably be looking to add additional full-time workers and, perhaps, new equipment as well. This overtime would last until demand drops or enough new workers are hired to keep up with demand.

Drawbacks:

There can be some potential issues that arise when working a great deal of overtime.

  • While overtime in the proper amounts can be beneficial, there is always a danger that working too many hours can “burn out” a CNC operator or machinist.

  • Lower productivity on the shop floor may occur. The production rate can suffer when long hours begin to affect energy levels and attitude.

  • Higher scrap rates can occur when people lose focus as they become fatigued. They may be just going thru the motions and their head just isn’t in the game as it should be.

  • There may be lower morale. As people get tired or burnt out, patience can run thin and tempers can flare.

Best Practices:

  • If you can’t meet a certain overtime schedule, offer an alternative. If you have a family function planned for a weekend you are scheduled to work, perhaps you can offer to work an hour or so every day during the week. Ideally, your company would accommodate that request, but even if they can’t, it shows you are dedicated to putting in additional hours and offering options to achieve it. Never commit to working overtime and then not come in to work it.

  • Hopefully the company you work for realizes that if overtime is being worked on a long term basis, some planned time off from the overtime hours on a rotating schedule would go a long way to keep an employee fresh and motivated.

  • Free your mind. Don’t worry about work when you are not on the clock. At this point/level in your career you are allowed both a mental and physical break from thinking about your job during off hours.  For committed employees, sometimes that is easier said than done.

There is no simple recipe for the right amount of overtime or its duration. Companies need to try various approaches, tactics, and schedules to find what will work best for all.



CNC Operating is a Gateway Career

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Article contributor is MachinistMaker.com


One of the great things about becoming a CNC machine operator is that you are starting on a career path that has a tremendous amount of growth potential.  The organic growth of a Machine Operator is huge.  Over the years, as you progress from a basic machine operator to a seasoned “chip making expert”, you will gain a great deal of knowledge, career satisfaction, as well as a growing paycheck. But there is something more that comes from working in manufacturing. Let’s refer to that something extra as “exposure”.

What kind of exposure are we talking about? With your new position you will be given a front row seat to a great deal of cutting edge manufacturing methods and technology. That may involve production methods, machine maintenance, computers and software, exotic materials, cut tools, quality assurance and all the processes that go along with it. 

Below are a few potential careers or advancement paths you have as a CNC operator:

·         Machine Set Up

·         Computer programming

·         Quality Assurance

·         Machinery repair and maintenance

·         Engineering

·         Design

·         Technical sales

Once you are on a career path you can begin to see what you enjoy doing on a daily basis, as well as where your work skills and abilities truly lie. Starting as a CNC machine operator doesn’t mean that’s where your career will end. Be inquisitive and keep your eyes open. Where you go with your skills is up to you!   



Specialty Machining Career Paths

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Machined mechanical components

There are many different paths a machinist can take in their career. From just starting out in a apprenticeship to leading a machining department, its diversity in opportunities are immense. An example of this is a opportunity that was offered to me several years ago, after completing a tool and die making apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman. My career goal at the time was to make coining dies for the US mint in Denver Colorado. It turned out that I was offered the position but I had to decline for certain reasons.

While I thought that making dies that make coins was a great career opportunity, I was busy at the time programming and running machines at a medical manufacturer. These machines were very complex and posed their own challenges. Operating a machine with 7-11 axis is a challenge in itself. The ability to make parts complete in one setup is the future of manufacturing and requires great skill.

A great and growing career path in machining is swiss or sliding headstock lathe machining. These machines have the ability to make small and long parts complete in one setup, from turning, milling, drilling, gear hobbing, and broaching. The machines capabilities allow for parts to be made very quickly. In the picture above these mechanical watch movement parts that could be made complete in these machines.

Other great machining career paths are 5-axis milling and mill/turn machining. A 5 axis mill allows for a reduction in the number of machining setups and also allows for complex parts to be machined. In mill/ turn lathe machining the machines can also allow for setup reductions and some machines can also do full five axis machining as well.

Another great skill to have and career path of a machinist is specializing in hard turning and hard milling. In hard machining, typically the workpiece is up to 60 R/C. The machinists that can effectively hard cut are highly skilled at their jobs as well. These career opportunities are typically available in tool and die shops.

Becoming a Career Machinist

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Machining is by far more interesting than what most people know. From the challenges of implementing new complex equipment in the shop, to CNC programming, or even making complex parts in one setup. It is definitely a career choice that most don’t know how advanced it can be, especially the machining of today. Now, we can make parts in one setup that were once made in many setups on multiple pieces of equipment over a long time frame. My career is a success story in manufacturing technology as I have embraced the technology of today.

I started my career in metalworking when I was in high school after I enrolled in the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program. It is a program that is a partnership between the school, state, and industry. I learned all about machining from both high school shop classes and while working in a machine shop. It proved to be an excellent foundation for my career. The shop that I worked at turned out to be an excellent learning environment. The mentors were great, they encouraged me to go on in my career and do great things.

After high school I enrolled in the Tool & Die Making Program at my local technical college. While attending school full time during the day, I worked at a tool & die shop during the night. At that time, the shop was responsible for the making of die cast dies for an American motorcycle company. After technical college graduation, I was signed on as an Apprentice Tool & Die Maker. The apprenticeship was for a term of 5 years, which equals 10,400 hours. With all of the time I put in, I finished the apprenticeship in 2 years and 4 months. During my employment there, I was able to learn almost every aspect of the shop. From die fitting and assembly, to CNC machining and CNC programming; they kept me busy. The highlight of my eight years at that tool & die shop had to be the high speed machining that I helped implement. Imagine going from cutting on a mill at 30 to 50 inches per minute to 2,300 inches per minute with the new technology.

Here are a few steps to career success that I encourage you to consider as part of your machining career:

Get a Technical Degree – A solid educational foundation is a critical building block, you will make a lot more money in your career if you follow through with a Technical College education.

  1. Serve a State Sponsored Apprenticeship – This is an excellent way to learn the skills of the trade and climb the pay scale also. It also will ensure that you are viewed as a professional in your career. By finishing an apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman, you will be put in a position to make a good wage for the rest of your career.

  2. Never Stop Learning – Enroll in at least two specialized classes per year. It is an excellent way to build a great resume also, as it shows future employers that you are a dedicated career professional.

  3. Become Proficient in Working with Others – This is the most important factor of the six steps. You will have more opportunities presented to you if you have the ability to work with everyone effectively.

  4. Gain the Ability to Turn Manufacturing Issues into Career Opportunities - Some may look away from the major issues that hinder the shop. These are the challenges that build a great resume, so ask your boss how you can help fix the major issues they encounter throughout the shop.

Steps to Career Sucess in Machining

THE STEPS TO CAREER SUCCESS IN MACHINING

  1. Get a Technical Degree – A solid educational foundation is a critical building block, you will make a lot more money in your career if you follow through with a Technical College education.

  2. Serve a State Sponsored Apprenticeship – This is an excellent way to learn the skills of the trade and climb the pay scale also. It also will ensure that you are viewed as a professional in your career. By finishing an apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman, you will be put in a position to make a good wage for the rest of your career.

  3. Never Stop Learning – Enroll in at least two specialized classes per year. It is an excellent way to build a great resume also, as it shows future employers that you are a dedicated career professional.

  4. Become Proficient in Working with Others – This is the most important factor of the six steps. You will have more opportunities presented to you if you have the ability to work with everyone effectively.

  5. Gain the Ability to Turn Manufacturing Issues into Career Opportunities - Some may look away from the major issues that hinder the shop. These are the challenges that build a great resume, so ask your boss how you can help fix the major issues they encounter throughout the shop.

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Drilling a Precision Hole

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There are three main concerns when drilling a hole. They are the hole size, the hole depth, and the hole quality. The type of hole is generally either a through hole or a blind hole. A through hole enters and exits the part, but a blind hole doesn’t exit the part.

When drilling a hole, the tool choice is often affected by the hole type and the precision of the hole in the part. Typically the hole is spotted or center drilled before the drill is used on the part. If the hole requires a precision tolerance on its size or location, it will often have a operation to follow up the drilling operation with other operations, which may include reaming the hole to a specific size.

Growing The Lathe Department

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While spending much of my career working in the medical machining industry, it was an education into complex part machining. What is being done today in the machining industry is exceptional. Now a highly engineered part can be made compete in one setup in a machine that can turn, mill, drill, hob, broach, thread whirl, and gun drill parts. I have implemented lathes from 5-axis models up to 11-axis models.  Here is a breakdown of what it might take to implement advanced lathes.

The most important part of the consideration into complex machining is having a skilled workforce that can implement and fully utilize the machines capabilities. What I recommend to shops that want to implement Swiss machining is start off with a lathe that has a Y axis for milling and a sub spindle for one setup part processing. Once this machine is mastered, then adding a machine with a sliding headstock is much easier to implement. It’s the one setup part processing strategy that you need to train your workforce in developing. 

The other consideration is the CNC controller brand. Try to implement controller continuity between machines. Stay with one controller brand throughout the CNC department. This makes training and operation by employees much easier. A key consideration is also the bar feeder controller brand. Stay with what your employees know how to use.

Another aspect into complex machining is programming documentation into setup sheets for ease of setup and operation. This must be done in a way where the setup person knows exactly what the programmer did when programming the part. In Swiss machining there are many tool positions and tool orientation possibilities. A well thought out setup and operation document can greatly aid in reducing setup time in complex machining. Some CNC programming software’s have highly detailed setup sheets that are customizable for your needs. You may also want to consider the possibility of exporting the data from the programming file and using it to produce your own custom setup sheet documents. The setup sheets should have all the operator’s questions answered on the document. Things to also consider is having a list of the order of program operation to guide the operator through the program. Also, a program revision log is useful to keep track of what improvements have been done already to the CNC program and its process. Here are other key items to have on a setup sheet document: Setup Sheet Considerations

  • Tool number and Tool offset number

  • Tool brand description and product number

  • Tool orientation / cutting direction / live tool or a fixed stationary tool

  • Tool length and diameter

  • Tool location, example (turret, front gang slide, back gang slide, back tool post)

  • Tool speed and feed rates

  • Tool cut time

  • Cutting strategy used on operation and tool

  • Part orientation

  • Part number and description

  • Part overall length

  • Part diameter max

  • Part material

  • Part revision number  

Also, a main consideration is developing a setup document and checklist for setting up the complex machine. Pictures are helpful in the setup document to guide the operator through the setup. The checklist helps prevent error in the setup process, and it helps ensure everyone is doing the setup the same way. I recommend to people looking into implementing complex machines to maximize the time that you have with the machine tool’s Applications Engineer during the initial machine setup. Have a person in the training team that takes notes specifically for creating a setup process document.

For the type of machine that you select there are a few considerations. Mill / Turn machining is a way to process a part complete in one setup and it is basically a hybrid lathe. A lathe that typically has a tool changer and a B axis head. Some machines have turrets with live tools. What the machine doesn’t have is a sliding headstock, and those machines are commonly called Swiss lathes.

What “Swiss” is in machining is that the machine has a sliding headstock and a guide bushing that works in-conjunction with a lathe chuck. The bar stock is clamped in the chuck and it is fed through the guide bushing. This allows the machinist to work with bar stock that is supported always, and the goal is to machine as close to the guide bushing as possible. 

Complex machining on complex equipment can be as simple or as multifaceted as you might make it. However, a skilled workforce and an organized department can make all the difference in making it into a success.