Assigning sensible responsibilities to CNC people

Many shops assign one person to be totally responsible for the CNC machine/s they run. With the possible exception of creating programs – which some companies also expect – this person will do everything needed to get the machine running and keep it running. Tasks commonly include – but may not be limited to:

• Gathering components needed for setup and production runs

• Make the workholding setup

• Assign program zero

• Assemble, measure, and load cutting tools, and enter offset values for cutting tools

• Load program

• Verify program

• Run first workpiece

• Inspect first workpiece

• Complete production run, maintaining sizes and replacing dull tools

• Complete paperwork (like SPC data reporting) during and after the production run

• Preventive maintenance – cleaning machine, way lube replenishment, etc.


Suffice it to say that these tasks will keep even the best CNC people busy – especially with multiple machines to run, complicated jobs, short cycle times, and low volumes.


Look for times when your machines sit idle. If you have one person doing everything, there’s probably a lot of idle time while this person is gathering components, doing inspections, loading programs, cleaning the machine, etc. I often question the wisdom of having a highly skilled CNC person performing tasks that just about anyone can do. If you can team-up on the overall task of getting and keeping a CNC machine in production, you can often get much higher productivity out of the machine, without too much of an increase in labor cost.


Consider, for example, the task of gathering components. To me, having a highly skilled setup person gathering cutting tools, workholding devices, and gauges (while the machine sits idle) is like requiring a surgeon leave the operating room – right in the middle of a surgery – to find a scalpel. Just as the surgeon has a team of people around to ensure that they can concentrate on the job at hand, so can a CNC person benefit from having helpers to perform simpler tasks that will allow them to concentrate on getting and keeping the CNC machine running production.


Think of other times when people team up to get tasks done faster. A NASCAR team has a pit stop crew to minimize pit stop time. Fast food restaurants have a team of people in the kitchen to minimize the waiting time for their customers. In these cases, of course, there is an urgency related to getting the job done as quickly as possible. If your goals are to get the highest productivity from a given machine as possible, and to do in a timely manner, teaming up on responsibilities will ensure that your reach your goals.

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