The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
When you are looking to craft duplicatable and meticulously standardized parts for a project, such as rebuilding a classic engine or creating a new piece of equipment, it is essential to measure twice and cut once. Metal machining is a highly specialized and very regulated industry for a reason–ever since Henry Ford brought the assembly line to America in the early 1920s, it has revolutionized how necessary components are produced.
But how are these components crafted so carefully by skilled machinists? Through the use of CNC (computerized numeric control) manufacturing processes. These meticulously designed algorithms tell specialized industrial robotics exactly when and where to cut, press, stamp, or rivet to ensure that the same measurements are produced in great volume without a significant degree of error. CNC manufacturing is used in automobile manufacturing, the aviation sciences, and other fabrication-based industries to keep projects running at predictable costs and to prevent waste and lack of interchangeable parts. After all, if you cannot replace the spark plugs off the rack in a new engine? What good is it to perform the maintenance on your car?
CNC manufacturing first made its appearance in American industry during the war effort. When automotive assembly lines in Detroit were commandeered by the US government to rapidly churn out fighter planes, bombers, and ground vehicles, the industry responded with fervor and pride. Today’s CNC has advanced drastically from its humble roots in the Motown Rust Belt, and now incorporates milling machines, lathes, 3D printing, routers, and plasma cutting options depending on the type of parts/equipment being manufactured. Each type of machine requires a different course to learn how to operate successfully, so unlike the parts they create, operators are not interchangeable.
In order to operate a CNC machine, there is a significant amount of training required. Because of its heavy emphasis on STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics) coursework, technical schools offer various levels of CNC training, ranging from an entry-level 1-year certificate to a more extensive Baccalaureate degree track requiring 4 years to complete. Students are expected to master computer programming, coding, and complex mathematical calculations to ensure each command given to the robot is precisely what is intended.
The base salary for a CNC credentialed operator is around $35,000 annually, depending upon the level of experience in the field and geographic region in the US. With the trends towards an increase in domestic manufacturing following the 2020 pandemic event, a CNC career is sure to offer some long-term job security to employees looking for a skilled labor placement in the industrial machining fields.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a non-traditional 9 to 5 alternative? Consider a career in CNC machining. Not only will you become part of a proud tradition of domestic manufacturing, but you will also secure a place in a long-term position only going to experience demand for your services as technology races to catch up with societal needs and trends.