Another important thing to remember is that you need more than one CNC operator. Otherwise you will run into trouble when your operator is sick or on vacation. Be sure to train at least two people to run that machine. A good machine operator earns his or her wages many times over. Many could feel intimidated by the prospect of running a CNC machine. It does require training and a good working knowledge of math, but common sense and a good work ethic are top priorities.
No matter where you use your workers there will be a need to at least retain the ones you have. And once your employees see they donít have to worry about job security, many of their fears will evaporate.
If you purchase your CNC system from a good, quality company, they will offer off-site and on-site training. Even before you have your CNC machine you should begin the training. You donít want your machine sitting idle after itís installed. Youíll need it running right away. This advance training will help in two areas. First, you might find the employees you selected to run the CNC arenít a good fit, which will give you time to work them back into the regular shop flow and pick another employee to give it a shot. Also, it will help the employees to know they have some time to learn to use the new equipment properly, rather than feeling the pressure to learn almost immediately after the machine is in place.
Another area to consider with the CNC is the long-term effect it has on the operator. Running a CNC may seem more interesting and glamorous than fabricating, but as the days, weeks and years progress, the operator may become disenchanted with the job. It can be very laborious at times watching the CNC machine repeat the process over and over again. I used to think that CNC operators had bad attitudes, but in reality it was the mundane aspect of the job that was getting to them. This is another situation in which having two operators comes into play in an important way. Perhaps rotating operators will help with CNC burnout. Also, at times you may need to send your operators out for more training. Changing up the routine occasionally is very helpful.
Managing a shop with a CNC machine presents certain challenges. But after having managed a shop both with and without one, I have to say that handled properly, having CNC equipment beats not having it any day.
About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at email@example.com.