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Bad luck hiring experienced employees

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
IDK 'bout the rest of y'all, but here, we have a "4 County Joint Vocational Skewl", that is .... well, what is says it is.

It opened it's doors here around 1971 ???

Machine Shop
Ag Mechanics
Diesel Mechanics
Auto Mechanics
Electrical
Carpentry

And then prolly just as many like minded courses for the gurls.

Beyond the 4 counties in our corner of the state - I have no clue what anyone else has at the high skewl level.

With that said - we have a community college right next door to our vocational skewl, and several of our seniors will take half day's out there for their senior year.

Is this not a common set-up?



------------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 

AD Design

Stainless
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Location
Tennessee USA
And a final note, too, the quality of prospective students. Again, could be a TN thing - but of the 20-22 students packed in a class with one instructor, maybe 4-5 of them have any drive or motivation. The rest goof around and distract from the instructor being able to teach anyone, as the useless kids who should have never made it out of high school try their best to get themselves killed.


-Have to agree with the above comment for SE Tn. I know an instructor at the local vocational and he's knowledgeable enough to turn out decent beginners. There were maybe 3 students out of the 20 trying to learn, the rest were set on making custom belt buckles when they got to the CNC module of class. Not that making a personal project is wrong, but there's so many other things (tooling) to make that might be useful later. The instructor set several required pieces to be made and left several optional pieces to graduate. The instructor gave a few cautionary talks about personal focus in industry post trade school but it didn't even seem to register with most of them. Hate to say this but I don't meet many from the 18-22 year old set I'm impressed with except ex-military.
 

boosted

Stainless
Joined
Jan 4, 2014
Location
Portland, OR
Not saying we should all be lineman - I don't want that job! Just pointing out that they have zero issues recruiting despite it being a demanding and difficult job. PGE shows journeyman lineman wages at around $55/hr.

No doubt our schools are a mess, but it's unreasonable to expect them to push kids into manufacturing trades that pay poverty wages.
Most good trades (plumber, electrician, elevator mechanic, etc...) have robust apprenticeship programs to train up recent grads, but those have damn near disappeared from our industry. So we expect to pay our employees peanuts and feel entitled to have somebody else train them for us...
 

Job Shopper TN

Cast Iron
Joined
May 17, 2015
Location
Southeast TN
Not saying we should all be lineman - I don't want that job! Just pointing out that they have zero issues recruiting despite it being a demanding and difficult job. PGE shows journeyman lineman wages at around $55/hr.

No doubt our schools are a mess, but it's unreasonable to expect them to push kids into manufacturing trades that pay poverty wages.
Most good trades (plumber, electrician, elevator mechanic, etc...) have robust apprenticeship programs to train up recent grads, but those have damn near disappeared from our industry. So we expect to pay our employees peanuts and feel entitled to have somebody else train them for us...

Definitely. I wonder what the answer is though? I say this as a low level manager at best so out of my wheelhouse anyway but, I just wonder if there’s an executable solution to bring machinist wages and worth up in the western world.
 

Kalispel

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Location
Ohio
Definitely. I wonder what the answer is though? I say this as a low level manager at best so out of my wheelhouse anyway but, I just wonder if there’s an executable solution to bring machinist wages and worth up in the western world.

I do not see an evolution toward wage parity between “machinists” and other “professions”. There is no standard criteria for what makes a “machinist”. The “training” I have seen is laughable compared to other trades and engineering disciplines I am familiar with. Where do I get a machining certificate that would be similar to a certified welding inspector? How do I get a professional machinist license similar to a professional engineer? I’m not a big union fan but what has happened to the apprenticeship structures that were once more prevalent (and are still critical in other trades)? Do any employers care about skills testing anyway?

My modest experience in the machining space has been an interesting learning lesson. The industry is secretive and confused by suppliers trying to create “value” by exploiting their clients’ lack of knowledge. The tools are complex and unique between brands requiring fragmented skill sets. Old curmudgeons in the industry hold trade secrets close and keep new folks tied down too long on basic tasks until their spirit dies and they are no longer interested in progressing and learning.

The learning curve is steep. In the beginning, I figured programming was the hurdle. I learned machining technique was the really hard part. Now it is back to programming to squeeze time out. Where do I go to school to learn this? I looked at a couple programs and sent our best person to a six month intensive training. His advice was do not bother. Way too slow. Way too basic. Not enough hands-on time. Eight of ten students were on government retraining and could not pass tests and did not care.

Anybody with gumption and some smarts can find a way to afford to buy the tools and strike out on their own. This further fragments the industry. This is why the industry is brutally competitive.

The opportunity I see in this industry is to use the availability technology to insource machining into production environments that have been outsourcing it for the past couple decades. The machines are cheap and the recently available automation opens a lot of opportunities for unattended operations. The benefits are greater flexibility and less variability. So far, we have implemented six stations doing this and it is a huge benefit. We do not have any “machinists”. We do have an engineer doing the CAM programming along with other tasks and a salaried technician setting the machining practices and instructing operators when they are needed.
 

wheelieking71

Diamond
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Location
Gilbert, AZ
Definitely. I wonder what the answer is though? I say this as a low level manager at best so out of my wheelhouse anyway but, I just wonder if there’s an executable solution to bring machinist wages and worth up in the western world.

Yea, there is a very simple solution. Shops should charge accordingly for their services. Then they would be able to afford to pay their employees accordingly.
I know some segments can/do charge enough. But I feel the general job-shop rates are way too low. Ex: $75/hr for a 3-X mill.
We have to deal with some of the highest operating costs there are. Yet, an auto mechanic can get away with charging significantly more than us? WTF?
I find it funny when a mechanic complains about the amount of money he has invested in his tools. I'm always like: "bitch please! You have no idea!"
 

boosted

Stainless
Joined
Jan 4, 2014
Location
Portland, OR
Yea, there is a very simple solution. Shops should charge accordingly for their services.

Only simple if you are ready to be the first martyr to that cause.

I am told pretty frequently that we are too expensive, and I only target around $100/hr for 5 axis work. If I tried to jack up pricing 25% or 50%, we'd start running out of jobs.

If we all started charging appropriately it might work out, but it also might just hasten the shift of production to China. From the top down we (and our customers) are addicted to cheap manufactured goods.
 

BluishInventor

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 7, 2020
A plumber or electrician comes to your house to perform the work. Manufacturing can happen anywhere a shop is setup and doesn't have to happen anywhere close to where the final product is used. The fact that you can outsource manufacturing work abroad is the difference.

Production style shops will usually pay peanuts because they have to compete with china or for ITAR stuff somewhere else in the country like Texas where the cost of living is cheaper than say the entire west coast. But being from the west coast, there are still plenty of shops that pay peanuts to machinists or machine operators.

Prototyping shops pay more on average because they need a machinists who are also programmers. These folks also tend to have a solid understanding of GD&T(IMO the least understood subject of our trade), G-codes, different controls, conversational and CAM, etc...

A machinist who can only adjust offsets, setup dedicated fixturing that wasn't made or designed by them, and has no clue what most of the codes in their program mean let alone can't program at all, isn't a valuable person. If shit hits the fan, can they solve the problem or do they have to raise their hand? Software engineers on the other hand HAVE to be problem solvers and the average joe can't do that job without significant experience. This is why they make 6 figures a year after college. Where as I can teach an average person to push a green button and pick apples out of a parts bin. It's not hard.

Where it starts to get difficult is when machinists actually need to understand a print and GD&T, and be able to program(whether conversationally or using CAM software) a part and understand what feeds and speeds to use and why and which order to do operations in for the best and most efficient results. Not to mention all the tricks you learn over the years to make things flat, or tweak a program for a different lot of material that cuts differently than the last(im thinking plastics here). This type of knowledge is mostly tribal and learned on the job.

Also, each machine manufacturer(or controller manufacturer) uses g-codes and controls their machines differently that one needs machine specific training to become proficient or at least to have a solid understanding of how they intended the machine to be used.

But I agree, machinists are undervalued. And programmers even more so. But how can we pay them more if we have to compete with the likes of china? Sure you can build a reputation as a shop and build a loyal customer base. But even then if you get too expensive, they might go somewhere else if they are on a tight budget.

One answer is automation. Build your CAM system to wipe your ass for you. Use robots and in machine inspection/adjusting where you can. Get your employees training to do that for you. But then what about prototyping shops that are trying new processes that have never been done before or require exclusively hands on work. Well, there is where your senior machinists come in.

It's a complex issue for sure and there are WAY more details to it than the examples i've listed.

Finding good people is hard. But where I would start is by hiring people who are excited and curious and want to nerd out on this stuff. If you hire people who just want a paycheck, then that's all you'll ever get. And when you get your nerdy and excited team members, please for the love of god, PAY THEM.

Another thing to keep in mind is don't expect lifelong employees. It's important for people to grow. If they out grow you, say thanks and help they move to a more challenging role. If you want to keep them, find new ways to expand your shops capabilities and take on the shit everyone else won't bid. Within reason of course as to not go broke. High risk/high reward.
 

wheelieking71

Diamond
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Location
Gilbert, AZ
Only simple if you are ready to be the first martyr to that cause.

I am consistently told that we are too expensive, and I only target around $100/hr for 5 axis work. If I tried to jack up pricing 25% or 50%, we'd start running out of jobs.

If we all started charging appropriately it might work out, but it also might just hasten the shift of production to China. From the top down we (and our customers) are addicted to cheap manufactured goods.

Already in process bud. I'm tired of fussing over pennies. Don't see my doors open long term right now actually.
Lots of factors contributing to this. Current state of materials supply, employees, customers being cheap, consumers being cheap, it goes on.
I do not like the trade any more. I don't like it at all. It has changed drastically (around here anyway) in the last 3 or so years.
If I stay in, it will likely be just me (no employees). I will pick/choose what I do/don't work on. And even when I do/don't work.

I've quoted a whole bunch of stuff since April, and been awarded only a few things. But, most of it went elsewhere because I was too high $$$.
The thing is, my pencil is pretty damn sharp. My overhead compared to most is pretty low. If I can't profit? Who can? If I can't profit? I'm not working.
 

mhajicek

Titanium
Joined
May 11, 2017
Location
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Only simple if you are ready to be the first martyr to that cause.

I am told pretty frequently that we are too expensive, and I only target around $100/hr for 5 axis work. If I tried to jack up pricing 25% or 50%, we'd start running out of jobs.

If we all started charging appropriately it might work out, but it also might just hasten the shift of production to China. From the top down we (and our customers) are addicted to cheap manufactured goods.

If you're competing on price, you're on the race to the bottom. Compete on quality, lead time, and the personal relationship. Yes, some of your clients won't like that and may stop using you, but you'll likely pick up other clients to take their place.
 

Arc-On

Aluminum
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Location
Holland, MI
If you're competing on price, you're on the race to the bottom. Compete on quality, lead time, and the personal relationship. Yes, some of your clients won't like that and may stop using you, but you'll likely pick up other clients to take their place.

This is the philosophy I have chosen, and while we don't win a lot of jobs, we have some loyal customers who care more about their parts being right, on time, and from a trusted vendor than being the cheapest.

I charge $100/HR for 3 axis work mill and 2 axis lathe, and we have more than we can do, looking at adding machines.

I've also found it helps a LOT to be a "one stop shop" for a lot of customers. We get a lot of work because we can do welding and fab, machining, sheet metal, whatever the customer wants. What I can't do I sub out to trusted shops. Things like laser, waterjet, large forming, etc. But the more we can do in house, the more we can control a job. Customers like that.
 

ttrager

Aluminum
Joined
Jul 23, 2015
It seems like you've already trail-run the method: Hire people and see that they are trained in-house, regardless of claimed experience. That may be unwelcome overhead and time, but gravity exists: You aren't getting (relatively) plug and play people coming in the door.

Maybe consider:

Write up a machinist interview Test. The test questions have to be matched to the skill sets and knowledge you expect people to have for your shop. The intent of the test is NOT to be an arbitrary hire/don't hire measure, but rather to bring into the open the areas where focused training for your shop is required.

The Test would show you the holes so you can judge magnitude of training needed.

Get buy-in from your existing workforce, particularly the most experienced guys, for helping to train new hires. I can't put anymore detail to that, because I'm clueless about your people and business. And a great machinist (or anything else) isn't by itself a qualifier for being a trainer. But the thought is that everyone buys into the idea "we have to train them, because we aren't getting what we need when they first walk in the door."

Don't know how else you'd handle this problem. Either 1) The Market is providing the talent straight in the door, or failing that 2) You have to make up the difference through internal training.

And the first step to #2 is to accurately gage an applicant's capabilities against your requirements with a Test prior to talking to them.
 

CarbideBob

Diamond
Joined
Jan 14, 2007
Location
Flushing/Flint, Michigan
Not me! They can have it.
What is wrong with break even?
You take a reasonable salary, employees get decent pay and bennies and it all comes out even.
If you do not want to sell the company is a 8-20 percent profit at end of year a must have?

Auto mechanics and repair a different thing despite the rates. This not an easy business to run or any sort of gold mine.
Bob
 

Booze Daily

Titanium
Joined
Sep 18, 2015
Location
Ohio
Yep. What Carbide Bob said. That’s me.

One man shop. Sometimes I’m swamped, other times not so much. I work long and hard when I have to and when things are slower, I take some random time off.

I set my own hours, my customers don’t run my shop, I do.

I make at least, if not more than I could working for the man and at the end of the year if I have more than 10% profit, the extra comes to me as a bonus. This year it will be about $12K.

Give it a try.
 

wheelieking71

Diamond
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Location
Gilbert, AZ
What is wrong with break even?

What is wrong with it? Well, break even until when? I'm dead?
I'm going to retire. I'm not going to work until I'm dead. No way a shop owner will accomplish a comfortable retirement without profit.
We are on our own. There is no retirement plan, no 401k, no nest egg, only as much money as we can get sacked away before retirement.
Without profit, that is pretty much zero. That is what is wrong with it.
 

boosted

Stainless
Joined
Jan 4, 2014
Location
Portland, OR
What is wrong with it? Well, break even until when? I'm dead?
I'm going to retire. I'm not going to work until I'm dead. No way a shop owner will accomplish a comfortable retirement without profit.
We are on our own. There is no retirement plan, no 401k, no nest egg, only as much money as we can get sacked away before retirement.
Without profit, that is pretty much zero. That is what is wrong with it.

I have a really good life insurance policy. Pretty sure the plan is for my wife to retire when I have a stroke at 50. ;)
 

boosted

Stainless
Joined
Jan 4, 2014
Location
Portland, OR
FWIW I have found the one-man-band to be practically impossible if you are going to run a "legitimate" job shop.

By the time I pay for utilities, software, insurance, rent, taxes, etc... That's over 100k/yr before I even start drawing a salary. There's a pretty significant minimum overhead, unless you are working on BobCAD out of a building zoned for agricultural use.

I can make $250k/yr by myself easy, but keeping the lights on costs so much I won't make over 100k in salary unless I have some employees to help amortize all of the costs associated with just having a machine shop of any size.
 








 
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