Continuous Improvement Strategies for CNC Machine Shops

Purpose Statement of the Job Shop Blog

Continuous Improvement Strategies for the CNC Machining Industry

We do so much in this industry because that's how it has always been done. We take ourselves so seriously. We are all-too-often absolute in what we know to be true. 


It is my way or the highway. Can that saying possibly have originated anywhere but in a machine shop?


My own favorite saying and one that I've used frequently over the years is, "we're not putting men on the moon."


In my life and in my work, I've known many brilliant and talented people. I've seen people that can change the dynamics of a room by walking into it. I've seen the proverbial "E.F. Hutton" people in real life. I know people that can put a man on the moon. 


Whether they are machinists and experts in CNC Machining, scientists, engineers, statisticians, salesmen, accountants, bankers, doctors, lawyers or politicians I know and have known what I consider to be the best and the brightest. I've learned from them all.


Among the most important things I've learned over the years are a keen awareness of my own limits and an unshakable belief that we make things much too hard for ourselves.


No matter their size, all CNC machine shops have the same basic processes. Sales, Quoting, Purchasing, Programming, Set up and run, Quality, Shipping and Administrative. Within these basic processes, all shops train people, maintain their equipment and manage their internal processes. The smaller CNC machine shop has a small number of people wearing multiple hats. The larger CNC machine shop has managers for specific departments and staff to support them. The same technology that drives their CNC machining capacity and has the capability to manage their scheduling for it is equally available to all.


The smaller CNC machine shop has barriers to growth that include QMS certifications like ISO 9001: 2015 or AS9100 to gain access to the larger Customers. Even after getting those certs, they may be limited by CNC machining capacity. Larger shops have the certifications, CNC machining capacity and the access to big Customers but they can’t find the people to move the work. These shops can be the answer to each other’s problems. The people that larger shop needs to hire are working for themselves on a smaller scale. In order to hire them you need to hire their company. Not only can they do what you need to be done, but they bring their own CNC machining capacity with them. 


It doesn’t have to be hard.


A rare few people are able to break new ground in this world. The rest of us have a choice to either delude ourselves into thinking we are "special" and spend a lifetime trying to prove it, happily live our lives without giving any of it a second thought, or embrace the fact that we are just normal people and simply apply the lessons learned from the ground breakers to make our lives and the lives around us better.


I'm in the last group. Nothing on these pages will break new ground. Instead, these pages will try to put ground already broken into a perspective that can be used to create Continuous Improvement strategies for our CNC Machine Shops that will make them more efficient and less stressful places to work in, manage and own.


Comments, suggestions and questions can be sent to aws@jobshopblog.com.

CNC milled into a block of aluminum

CNC milled into a block of aluminum