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Hiring a CNC Tech - need advice5/8
We find ourselves in need of a technician to run our Thermwood CS 45. I have a young guy doing it now, and he is so good that we are moving him into the office to do all of the Mastercam work. Hopefully, he will be sending out very high quality code to the machine.
We make a very high end product (custom conference tables) and the CNC tech needs to recognize when things are going wrong and when things are going right, and keep the machine tuned up.
I have never hired a CNC operator before. Our previous operators started as a bench cabinetmakers and ended up running the machine. Here are my questions:
1) When hiring a woodworker, we have a a short test that give to every applicant - quickly weeds out the bozos. Does anyone have a test like this that they are willing to share?
2) If no one has one, what would you put onto a short test for applicants? Say 10 questions that we could give to applicants when they walk in to see if they have actual technical knowledge. Would prefer not to let them near my machine to find out what they know.
3) If the only way to find out if an operator knows anything is at the machine, what simple set of procedures would you start with?
4) Do you like to hire inexperienced and train, or hire experienced?
5) We are in the Northeast. We offer a good working environment, flex time, paid vacation, health insurance, and profit sharing. Given that, what is a reasonable starting wage? What could a top flight operator expect to earn per hour?
6) What have I missed? Any further comments would be greatly appreciated.
Paul, if your programming in office, your operator only has some basic tasks left to do at machine. Of the top of my head, they would be.
If you are hiring a programmer, then Cad degree would be the best bet. Our CNC manufacturer offered operator and programming classes. It is something to consider. We promoted from within because CULTURE was very important in our eyes. The drive to build and grow the business was there. A strong # 1 and # 2 employees is the best bet. Sometimes one of them seek other employment , do not get left holding the bag. We had 2 programmers / operators train together.
I'm in the middle of the same predicament. We just purchased a new Weeke Vantech, and I went to school for the programming and operation ends. My plan is to take someone from the shop floor and train them thouroughly. (A new to us employee, that has proven his learning ability and attention to detail)
So far, this is working well. I believe the training could last 2-3 weeks before I'm comfortable just leaving him to run the machine.
Do you have anyone on the shop floor that would be interested in running it currently? I know of the type of work you do, and realize that not every woodworker owning a crank neck chisel is going to want to do this, but it's worth a shot.
That said, if I was looking for someone to operate it, I'd be looking for someone who has operated that brand of machine before. Weeke has a Woodwop interface, Biesse = Biesseworks, etc. This would him get off the ground running. I would check references, and have your programmer quiz him a bit. I think you have a good handle on what other characteristics make a great employee.
Paul, I have read alot of your posts and appreciate them. 90% of my income is generated from my cnc router, that is my thing and I have been around them quite a bit.
Do they know any basic vacuum principles, and how to achieve best results for part holding? Can they spot the filter on the vac pump and know how to change/check it?
I would ask a candidate that has experience to set up a tool in a holder, it will give you a good idea of their care level for your tools and how they handle themselves.
This is a hard position to ask for because in my opinion unless the plant is large enough to run true production the operator is going to overlap and duplicate many of the characteristics of the programmer. You are lucky in fact that your programmer came up from running your machine, too many places get a programmer in that honestly doesn't know the machine or processes well enough to do a Really good job.
The catch 22 with hiring outside is that on one hand you get a person that has different experiences that might add to your processes and make it better. But, this person will take longer to get on board with your methods. A person from inside will just have to learn the machine and related jobs but may not have any new ideas. And you will have to hire from outside to replace that person anyway.
Routers are a staple of plastic machining as well as wood so don't pass over a qualified person with a plastics background. You might even go looking in that area to see what/who is available.
I hired a guy to run our router, his only knowledge in the past was running a Weeke ptp, with 2 routers and drill block. Once he got the hang of banging out our cabinets and learned to run our bander, I let him loose. Wish I would have let him loose sooner. The guy runs the router, bands everything that comes off of it, cuts scrap, pockets nailers and bores decks, tops and bottoms. So damned fast, I just bought an automated doweler. Case clamp is next.
Feeding this guy from the office is a real chore. It's tough keeping up with this guy. This is the chicken and the egg thing. A good drafts person and cnc operator are imperative.