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Have you ever met a machinist that was better than you?

F35Machinist

Cast Iron
Joined
Nov 3, 2021
Location
California
I will admit that I have never worked in a job shop, but I did work in many companies with in-house shops before starting my own. The machinists at these companies were incredibly slow! Not one of them would even make back their own salary if they worked at a job shop. I can say without an ounce of ego that I am as productive as ten or more of these machinists.

I always assumed that the machinists in job shops were faster. I recently hired an employee as a machinist/cnc programmer. I interviewed 9 candidates who each said they had years of experience cnc programming and prototyping at several different shops. I had them program a simple test part. Many of them struggled with this. I picked the best candidate that I felt could do the job and was able to program the test part reasonably well. Now some months in and he struggles with programming the sort of parts I usually work on. He takes about 5-8x as long to program and the parts run in 2x or more the time as when I program them (I am working on solutions and not looking for advice for this in this thread). I know that employees will never be as fast and I was expecting someone to be 1/3 my output and secretly holding out hope that they would be half my output. Is that unreasonable? For a long time I actually thought I was slow and worked to get faster. Some of the guys on this forum like Marvel say they knock out 20 unique parts for Xometry in a day. I guess it depends on the complexity part, but I could do 4 or 5 in a day start to finish with some effort.

Have any of you encountered a machinist that was as fast as you but worked as an employee? Have you ever met a machinist that was even faster than you are? I am convinced at this point that I must be the Lebron James of machining.
 
I know about 8 or 10 that I've worked with in jobs shops that were better than me.
They didn't have an ego, either.
I know about 80 that think they're better than me.

As for working in my own shop, no one would have the same drive as me, so here no one would out work me.
I'll have material cutting in the saw, boring an end bell in the Bridgeport, running a profile cut on my Hurco CNC mill, and threading something in my lathe.
That's more in my pocket. I can't see anyone working that much for me paying them an hourly wage.
 
Yes. When I started in contract toolrooms there were older guys that were a lot more experienced and faster.

Someone once said to me. 90% cost you, 5% break even and 5% make you money. It's really difficult to find the diamonds especially if you don't pay accordingly.
 
I am thankful to have been able to work with machinists and others who were much more knowledgeable and wiser than I. One of the biggest challenges about having a one-man shop is there is no one to consult and continuously learn from. I worked at a shop where I was the most experienced, not the smartest, but knew the product best because of being in the shop and also doing outside sales. I left to start at the bottom at a couple of other places which allowed me to pick up the knowledge and experiences needed to eventually start my own shop.

When I am around others, I watch how they work, the ideas they form, and the quality of the end product. I try to gather ideas and inspiration from them.

This is the main reason that I joined this forum, to try to fill the void left from working alone.

Bill
 
Every single day.
So I expect the baseline to be that you will be faster than me.
In the early days of employment of course not but down the road if we compare I expect you to beat me.
You have a few things to do and do it right. I have 1000 other problems that you know nothing of.
I am mostly the teacher of things. Yes a rookie is not going to match my pace at first so one trains how to get to that speed.
After that I expect them to outrun me on a machine. I expect them to setup faster than me on stuff they run.
I expect them to see QC or process problems quicker than I would.
If they are not better and faster I have done something wrong in teaching.
50 years in and a few hundred employees over this time.
They all think it unfair that I want them faster than me at first. Later they almost all out run me.

When a guy is slower I want to find the exact reasons.
Not a blame game but an investigation into how's and why's. One has to be careful here not to step on toes or insult your guy/gal.
 
I know a few that are in the same league as me, and one or two who may be better. They all command pretty hefty salaries and have very cushy gigs. I always thought of it this way; I would not have worked for a shop like mine a decade ago, so it is unreasonable to expect to get somebody equally qualified.

My best guy is pretty solid, but it took a while to get there, and I paid him more than I paid myself last year. :o

Not everyone is motivated by money. I know some great people who would never come work for my humble shop at any price, because I can't afford all the best and shiniest toys that they want to work with.

Ultimately, nobody is going to be motivated to hustle like you are, and nobody is going to be as productive in your shop as you are. The challenge is getting things dialed so that you can still make money when things are moving along at the "slow" pace. You convinced me a while back that a huge part of making it through the growth years is finding the type of work that your employees can make money doing, instead of trying to force your employees to be profitable doing the crap work that you are good enough to squeeze a profit out of.

I've had employees for 4 years now, after 1 year of doing absolutely great by myself. It has ebbed and flowed a lot. Every time we string together a solid few months, there is a major fuckup somewhere that eats all the profit. Still trying to find the right formula. The only thing I can offer is that it does get easier as you build out processes and improve your ability to steer the ship.
 
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Also, I learn from everyone.
We had a guy named Ricky that had some addictions, and was slow and messed up a lot.
I would go by and talk to him sometimes while he was working.
He would ask me stuff, and I would tell him how ( I would do it).
He thanked me all the time for advice.
I watched Ricky and learned some things that I had ever seen before.
Different ways of indexing parts, some threading tricks, and so on.

Working by myself, I still learn new things.
Sometimes I'll run into something I've never done before.
After finishing the job, it will occur to me to do something different next time and save an hour or so.
 
Another thought - I have hired many great people who were the wrong fit over the years.

If this is still your first hire, don't let it sour you forever. It takes a long time to build a good crew, and to learn what exactly you are looking for in said crew. Expecting to hire somebody to just come in and do your job (at any level of efficiency) is extremely unlikely to work.
 
I was once told that a guy in the shop was the best machinist. The best. The best at running the same 50 parts on that Bridgeport all right. And there is some truth to that right? Pays to try and be humble, but some guys you need to move to some other type of work to get money out of them.
 
Nope. No way. Im definitely the best ever. No way anyone can compete with me because im the best ever. Everyone knows im the best so i dont get questioned ever. Its so awesome being the best because im always right and being so awesome while being the best.

I just cant figure out why no one likes me and my employees suck.

Oh well its their loss cause im so awesome!!!:nutter:
 
Worked at one place that made the rotating part of a rotary valve for the Space Shuttle Main Engines. This was the valve that would open and feed fuel to the turbo pumps, so was the valve that initiated the whole sequence

$80k for one part, made replacements every 2 years. They would start with 3 to get a good one.

There was only one machinist capable of making that part. I suspect one of the very best around. Best I've ever seen.

Monumental PITA to work with. They only kept him around to make this part. When the Space Shuttle got cancelled, so did he.
 
Oh for fucks sake...I retract my statement from your last thread. I already work with someone who thinks they are God's gift to machining...

Oh, you forgot the OT in your title 🙄
My recent posts are from a place of frustration, but I also want to know what other people are experiencing since I am currently on my own little island. I am good enough at machining to make some money at it, but clearly I have a lot to learn as a business owner. I know I come off here a an arrogant asshole, but I also wanted to draw out a response so that I can maybe understand how others are making it work. Currently I don't know how to have a successful contract machining business since everything seems to fall apart as soon as I hire just one employee! If I get an "A" for machining, I get an "F" so far as a manager and entrepreneur. This is extremely distressing to me as I need to be successful since I do this as a living. Are others making money with this? If so, how?
 
I know a few that are in the same league as me, and one or two who may be better. They all command pretty hefty salaries and have very cushy gigs. I always thought of it this way; I would not have worked for a shop like mine a decade ago, so it is unreasonable to expect to get somebody equally qualified.

My best guy is pretty solid, but it took a while to get there, and I paid him more than I paid myself last year. :o

Not everyone is motivated by money. I know some great people who would never come work for my humble shop at any price, because I can't afford all the best and shiniest toys that they want to work with.

Ultimately, nobody is going to be motivated to hustle like you are, and nobody is going to be as productive in your shop as you are. The challenge is getting things dialed so that you can still make money when things are moving along at the "slow" pace. You convinced me a while back that a huge part of making it through the growth years is finding the type of work that your employees can make money doing, instead of trying to force your employees to be profitable doing the crap work that you are good enough to squeeze a profit out of.

I've had employees for 4 years now, after 1 year of doing absolutely great by myself. It has ebbed and flowed a lot. Every time we string together a solid few months, there is a major fuckup somewhere that eats all the profit. Still trying to find the right formula. The only thing I can offer is that it does get easier as you build out processes and improve your ability to steer the ship.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and it sounds like we have had similar experiences and similar businesses. I'm glad my comments were though provoking. I've got a lot to learn about this business and that's why I've been making these posts. I want to know how others operating contract machining shops profitably. For example, I know a guy who owns a shop in Orange County with eight 90s vintage Fadals and 8 machinists. How is he still in business? Is he making money or just getting by? I will ask him next time I see him. I can make 3-500k/yr as a solo machinist working very hard. Will hiring and managing others allow me to make more money or work less, or will I be making less and working more? For years I suspected being a solo operator was a better choice but then last year I got a lot of orders at once and ended up working without breaks for months straight with customers breathing down my neck. I cracked under the pressure and decided to try hiring. I am still working on the weekends to do the work my employee didn't! It feels like the only difference is I'm paying 8k/month in salary on top. I consider this to some degree my tuition to learn, but I've got to learn fast or it will get too painful. I'm sure it sounds like I'm blaming my employee for everything, but it is actually my failure here. I want to know what I'm doing wrong.
 
Another thought - I have hired many great people who were the wrong fit over the years.

If this is still your first hire, don't let it sour you forever. It takes a long time to build a good crew, and to learn what exactly you are looking for in said crew. Expecting to hire somebody to just come in and do your job (at any level of efficiency) is extremely unlikely to work.
This is actually the second employee I have had and he is much better than the first. The first one did sour me on employees for many years and I did say in the past "I will never hire an employee again".
 
For example, I know a guy who owns a shop in Orange County with eight 90s vintage Fadals and 8 machinists. How is he still in business? Is he making money or just getting by?
My observation of some local shops that sort of fit this description: they do it by not charging for the depreciation of new machines, barely paying employees, who are barely able to do the job and keeping them all running.

Example: they bid some RFQ at $80/hour. The Fadals and work holding are all long since paid for. They buy cheap cutters and lots of them. Bid lots of these jobs and keep them cheap. Pay $30/hour and turn over the staff regularly.

Now each of those eight machines is banging $80/each or $640/hour to the bottom line. We know that can't go on forever but, it's profitable until those machines are dead. This seems to be @DanASM 's model with screw machines. It comes down to how many products can you make per day and how many spindles can you keep running?

Related but, part of personal business strategy: If I had ongoing production, I personally would not mind if a VF-5 is slower than a VF-2SS. If it has 4X the table area and can run 4X as long, unattended, the labor costs are lower.

One employee babysitting four machines that only need ten minutes of tending per hour, is more profitable than four employees humping their own Speedios. That Speedio has to go a long way to pay for the meat servo loading and unloading it.

Maybe the answer for your business isn't a machinist at all. Maybe it's a clerical person who handles cleaning, wrapping, packaging and shipping parts. Maybe it's a front office person doing all the tedium of entering the paperwork. You might be far more valuable to your business keeping the spindles turning, than you are wrapping parts in bubble wrap and brown paper.
 








 
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