As automation becomes increasingly prevalent in machine shops, company leaders need to understand its effects on their employees and how to properly navigate challenging conversations with their machinists and operators. We will examine how the integration of robotics in machine shops affects your employees and automation’s impact on their job security and provide insights on how to transition to automation with the assistance of VersaBuilt. By understanding these issues comprehensively, leaders are better equipped to handle the many questions automation brings for their employees, and they can enjoy a smoother transition to automation.
How Robotics Affect Machinists and Operators
Integrating robotics in machine shops can significantly affect machinists and operators and their work processes. As automation becomes introduced, machinists must adapt how they design and develop the CNC manufacturing processes. Adaptations to the CNC manufacturing process for robots must consider the capabilities and limitations of the robot and perhaps changes to the objectives of the CNC process itself. Robots are not as flexible as people, and therefore the CNC process may need to be modified to maximize the reliability of the robot. These changes can be a significant shift for machinists who have previously relied on their experience and training in developing processes for manual operations.
Some automation solutions can make this transition easier for machinists. VersaBuilt designs automation solutions specifically for machinists. The company understands the unique needs and challenges machinists face in the machine shop and creates CNC workholding and systems that make it easier for machinists to transition to automated CNC processes. As a result, machinists can quickly adapt to VersaBuilt automation systems and incorporate them into their work processes quickly and effectively.
While integrating robotics in machine shops can be a significant transition for machinists, it is ultimately an opportunity to expand their skills and expertise. By utilizing automation solutions designed with their specific needs in mind, VersaBuilt helps machinists integrate robotics into their work processes and continue to thrive in their careers by having a greater impact on the success of their company.
The integration of automation systems in machine shops can also have a significant impact on operators. Shops task operators with learning how to work with these systems and may initially feel threatened by the perceived threat of job displacement. However, the role of an operator is complex and involves many other tasks that automation can’t cover in many cases.
Operators are often responsible for running multiple machines. Beyond this, they have other secondary tasks like transporting material and performing quality control. Juggling all this can be a challenging balance. Operators must constantly make decisions about which tasks take priority. For example, operators often face situations where a machine finishes a job while in the middle of another task. They then have to decide whether to complete their current assignment or stop what they’re doing to service another machine. This asynchronous nature of CNC machining is highly disruptive to operators’ workflows and their overall productivity. Operators face dozens to hundreds of these decisions a day. These decisions are mentally taxing and lead to production inefficiencies and frustration for management towards their operators.
While CNC robots handle machine tending, they can’t perform tasks like part inspection, material transport, tool changeovers, and machine maintenance. These tasks require the unique skills and expertise of operators. The integration of robots makes the operator’s job easier by removing the disruptive, repetitive, and labor-intensive tasks they are responsible for while allowing them to focus on tasks more suited to their unique strengths.
By allowing operators to focus on tasks requiring their unique skills and expertise, CNC robots can help operators be more proactive and plan their work more effectively. In addition, with automation, operators can align their actions more closely with the priorities of the machine shop, including high productivity, efficient production, and high levels of quality control. In this way, the integration of automation can benefit both operators and the machine shop at large.
Moreover, in this tight labor market, CNC shop owners must prioritize optimizing their CNC operators over their equipment. This is a concept explained in another article about How to Optimize your CNC operators in a tight labor market.
Do Robots Take Away Jobs in Machine Shops?
One of the major concerns for employees, when leadership introduces automation in machine shops, is the potential for job displacement. Layoffs are often front of mind for employees when management begins exploring robotics. Undoubtedly, automation will reduce the amount of labor required for a given production level. However, VersaBuilt has observed that most machine shops add automation over time. The reduction in direct labor in the machine shop is typically offset by elevating the operator’s roles, increasing production, or natural attrition of the workforce. In reality, CNC operators enjoy a more rewarding job experience thanks to CNC robots.
Ultimately, employment decisions are up to machine shop management and depend on many factors.
It’s essential to recognize that automation can benefit both operators and the machine shop as a whole. By allowing operators to focus on tasks that require their unique skills and expertise, automation can help them to be more productive and efficient. At the same time, machine shops can use automation to improve their overall productivity and competitiveness in the marketplace.
While the integration of automation does have the potential to impact the job roles and responsibilities of machinists and operators, it is not necessarily a threat to their employment. On the contrary, machinists and operators can continue to thrive in their careers by working together and adapting to the changing manufacturing landscape. For example, VersaBuilt recently helped an American bicycle brand automate its machine shop to double its output. Their employees, while initially skeptical, now speak glowingly about how VersaBuilt’s Mill Automation system has impacted their work experience.
How VersaBuilt Helps Machine Shops Transition to Automation
As machine shops navigate the transition to automation, it can be helpful to have resources and support to guide them through the process. This is where VersaBuilt can be especially valuable. VersaBuilt has a range of resources to help machine shops transition to automation, including training on how employees’ jobs will change and what to expect.
Additionally, VersaBuilt is available on an ongoing basis to support machinists and operators as they adapt to the new systems and processes. This support can be especially valuable in the early stages of the transition, when machinists and operators may be learning new skills and adapting to new ways of working.
VersaBuilt is committed to helping machine shops smoothly transition to automation and ensuring that machinists and operators have the resources and support they need to thrive in their roles. So if you’re a manager, owner, or in leadership at a machine shop considering automation, contact us today to get started with machine shop automation.