While machinists conduct hands-on, blue-collar work that is often honed in the field or on-the-job, there’s more to a successful career than hard labor. Exceptional math, problem-solving and computer skills are necessary to make it through the average day.
You see, these skilled technical workers must develop or manufacture components, devices and instruments that will eventually be used by other professionals across a wide variety of industries and specialties.
Aspiring machinists — or those just starting — have the choice to train through more formal apprenticeships out in the field or even special programs offered by a local vocational or community college. But these are the more obvious forms of training and improvement. How do you continue to improve your skills if you already have a place in the industry? What are some ways to continue your growth beyond traditional education means?
Unless your employer expressly forbids it, you can collaborate and work with others in your field to learn from their experience. In some cases, they may even be able to show you a more optimized or knowledgeable way to complete tasks outside your basic training.
Some common ways to collaborate with others include shadowing fellow professionals for a short while, asking questions or for detailed guidance, or even joining a like-minded community. There are forums and social discussion boards dedicated to furthering machining knowledge and experience, believe it or not.
Take some time to learn new equipment from your fellow colleagues. A screener, for instance — also called a separator or sifter — may be ideal in a situation where a low-pressure belt filter is not, and vice versa. Understanding the difference between equipment types, and when they are best used is crucial to making an impact in the industry. You can learn a lot of this information through hands-on experience with fellow colleagues or machinists, who regularly work with such tools.
Machinists are inherently involved with technologies and hardware; platforms that are constantly evolving over time. It’s important to stay informed about new practices and methods in the industry, especially in regards to new technologies and equipment. This helps ensure that you understand the systems you’re working with, obviously, but it also helps prepare you for future roll outs and industry changes.
It can also help you grow your knowledge and experience as a manufacturer. Because the systems and processes you’re working with are constantly evolving, it’s the same for customers you might be serving. It behooves you to stay up-to-date with industry trends and changes, if only to prepare for new work that might come your way.
Don’t Limit Yourself
No one, no matter how experienced, how skilled, or how knowledgeable knows everything there is to know and you better believe that’s absolutely true in the world of machining. There are no limits or boundaries to what you can learn or retain. The sooner you come to grips with this, and the sooner you learn to chase a perpetual state of growth and improvement, the better off you’ll be.
There will always be new tasks, new equipment, new processes and new demands in the industry so it’s relatively impossible to stay on the bleeding edge for long, if at all.
Take Online Courses
CNC, metal, and manual machining courses are offered through a variety of online schools and platforms. Even if you’re an established professional with years in the field, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge every once in a while. Take an online course here or there when you have some extra time, or watch some online videos of fellow machinists in action — they do exist.
Review Your Prints
Print reading is an essential skill in the field of machining. Not only should you be able to interpret your average blueprint, you should be able to understand what a part or component is going to be used for and how that applies to your development process.
In conventional school environments you might use flashcards or quick information blurbs to study for a test. In machining you can substitute past prints — if you have access to them — for such a thing. You can also review sample or public prints online too.
It’s also a good idea to do a final review of prints after you’ve completed work in the field too. This can help identify what you did, things you might have got wrong or missed and what you should remember into the future.
Force Yourself to Adapt
Sometimes, work may become a bit stagnant if you’re constantly developing the same parts or systems. If you’re content then great! But unfortunately, you won’t grow as a professional by doing the same things over and over.
Within reason, it’s a good idea to force yourself to adapt and step outside your usual routines. If you have the opportunity to learn new equipment or new processes, take it. If you have the chance to print or develop new components, take it. Basically, always be ready to adapt and grow as part of a personal push instead of merely waiting for things to come to you.
That said, this may not be possible depending on the environment you work in; if not, just keep it in mind.
Improvement Is Possible and Should Be Pursued
Luckily, the machining field is one that fosters continuous growth and development in many ways. As you can see here, there are several opportunities available for you to improve and hone your experience and knowledge. While promising, it’s up to you to take advantage of such opportunity; see that it happens.
Article by —
Megan Ray Nichols
Freelance Science Writer
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