Vision of the Shop Of the Future- Jim Henderson

August 14th we published a post that asked the question-“What does the precision machining shop of the future look like?”

We also posted the link to several relevant groups on LinkedIn.

Jim Henderson, Continuous Improvement Consultant at Kalman Manufacturing replied to the discussion  on the American Machinist Metalworking Group on LinkedIn.

We think that you will appreciate his vision of our future. and perhaps find some actionable ideas in his post.

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His vision reframes the question to “What do the employees in our future precision machining shops look like?”

His vision of the shop of the future is not at all staffed like ours are today…

Here is Jim Henderson’s  reply:

“Interesting discussion. I see the successful shops of the future as being highly automated. Lots of multi-axis lathe/mill and FMS.

My vision of the employees of the future may not be in line with others. In fact it may infuriate some.

I see highly educated, as in engineers with B.S. degrees in industrial, mechanical engineering and other related disciplines. Quality engineers adding value through process validation and contributing to manufacturing process development, not trying to inspect quality into the parts. A collaborative relationship with all. These college graduate engineers will be the value add in the shop of the future.

The advanced equipment of the present and future requires highly educated programmers to optimize it’s utilization. They do need the talent/experience of the long term machinists for advice!!

Fortunately on the other end of the spectrum there will be a need for operators and support personnel.

The $$ generated per employee will rise considerable due to the throughput of the equipment. Thus resulting in less employees overall.

The best news is, from my experience, if a shop uses best practices in all areas of it’s business there is such a demand in the U.S. that those shops can be highly profitable. Therefore they can provide a very handsome benefit package to their employees. This can result in attracting good recruits and high employee retention. For those shop owners and employees that are willing to step up and play the game with this formula, manufacturing in the U.S. can have a true renaissance.

For those that want to continue arguing about who is to blame and why there should be more government funding for training etc. the future is indeed bleak.

We all need to get together and right the ship for our collective success.”

There you have it. A positive view of our future shops through the lens of what our future workforce might look like.

Are you actively working on workforce issues for your shop’s future?

You can bet Jim Henderson’s shop is…

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6 Responses to Vision of the Shop Of the Future- Jim Henderson

  1. Richard Clardy says:

    Henderson is just wrong. Machining is a trade that is passed along. Older experienced craftsman train the operators running the machines. The people who spend 5 years, getting an engineering degree, don’t want to operate on the shop floor, so you will always have the non degreed set-up men.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment.

      Perhaps. I know several shops where engineers are either interning on actual machines or assigned as a project/process manager. Basically, that machine is “their baby.” These are leading shops, and it is pretty close to the vision he shared.
      I was in several tier 2 machining shops in Mexico where every machine operator was degreed engineer. Since our industry has pretty much failed to “pass along” the training, most new comers are getting entry level knowledge and credentials via community college route. Community college credentials are stackable, and it is not much of a stretch to see a person earn an operator certificate, upgrade to associate degree, then pick up Bachelors level work. With the employer’s support, rather than loans.
      We appreciate your thoughtful comment.

      • Dale Klinect says:

        I think the grow your own method is probably the best way to get new skilled machinist types. The problem is many shops are just not going to make the investment required to make such a project work.

  2. Ilmar Luik says:

    Decades of experience in any skill machining or engineering has lost its value, because skills learned are now programmed into machines. Proof I just hired a 21 year old kid who had never been in machine shop before but was extremely computer savvy. I spent no more than two to three day showing him the fundamentals of G coding and how to operate FADAL CNC. Two weeks later and totally on his his own time he found on internet the recommendations for speeds and feeds and they turned out to be good.

    Shows that it is totally unnecessary to waste young peoples time on manual machines to teach the feel for speeds and feeds.

    Today, a month later, he equal to machine operator with decades of experience. Now, somebody answer the question: why to hire graduates of trade schools or old time machinists with decades of experience?

    The obvious answer used to be: a $200,000 machine is idle during set-up and if set-up is not done right the machine will produce immense amount of scrap in a very short time.

    Therefore the set-up is the most valuable person on the shop floor, especially for producing small production lots that frequent set-ups.

    The best set-up men close to retiring and no computer program (as of this day) is ready to replace them.

    I had to solve that problem about ten years ago. We got our first CNC machine FADAL and a contract to produce extremely precision SS diffuser rings for a rocket engine.

    I knew nothing about machining and my first employee knew even less, but he had good attitude wanted to learn and was computer savvy. And that was all that we needed to Mickey Mouse TV camera into the tool holder and that saved us.

    Ten years later you can see that camera in action on

    In essence the camera provides the machine with eyesight and thereby enables it to do its own set ups. Our proof of concept model proves that it can be done.

    That leads to next obvious image of future machine shop and we are already building it.

    It consists of conveyor that carries non precision flame cut Blanchard grinded flat iron plates to serve as pallets.

    First shift attaches blanks to these plates (i.e pallets).

    Carts carry the loaded plates to the machines. Machine uses its eyesight to move its coordinates to match the blanks location on the machine table and completes the machining totally unattended.

    The system is cheap enough for small and middle size machine shops and the only skills that are required besides programmers and maintenance persons are the pallet loaders and unloaders for the first shift only.

    Second and third shift are unattended.

  3. Ilmar Luik says:

    for the above post the system in action can bee seen on cncsetuphelper.com

  4. J Vizoso says:

    Hello Ilmar, is this System totally unattended? Are the blanks somewhat contrasted to the “pallets”? What precision can you achieve on the eyesight software being automated? How do the machines load and unload a low precision Pallet?

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