Machinist to management transition
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    Default Machinist to management transition

    I have been a machinist for going on 14 years now. I have been in a lead machinist position for 1 1/2 years now as well as prior supervisory experience. I handle daily management tasks such as scheduling overtime,coordinating workflow and work processing steps in the machine shop and the general shop when my boss is absent. I also still make parts. I do enjoy the satisfaction of taking material to print.I also understand to make more money generally transition to management is necessary at some point. My question is for those who have experienced the trasition. I have a fear of being a washed up machinist, a has been. We all know the type. How have you dealt with the hands off aspect? Losing the satisfaction of making awesome beautiful parts not everyone can make is kind of a bitter reality but teaching and coaching others is a beneficial reward. I am aware of the pros and cons of the job but am hung up on the has been thing. Pride maybe...

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    I think your concern about the issue is the fist indication that you will be okay. The has-been manager is the one who knew everything 20 years ago, but stopped learning technical skills the second they got into management. Part of it is atrophy, but part of it is the type of self-promotion (or possible exaggeration of talent) that lends itself to management.

    Reading, networking, and seizing any opportunities to make "hands on" technical contributions are all critical to staying sharp. To some extent though, it's unavoidable. In my experience most (if not all) good managers start to loose technical skills as they develop their leadership skills.

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    I don’t think you have anything to worry about. You’ll never lose your knowledge. The things that made you the lead machinist were probably related to taking the time to do the little things right. Helping others when they have problems, getting your hands dirty when you decide you need to and sharing your knowledge to make the people around you better will keep you plenty connected. Not making chips all day and every day may cause you to be a little slower after a while, but you’ll always be able to walk up to an empty machine and have a good part in your hands when you walk away from it.

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    Management from being in the trenches can be a difficult, but rewarding transition. If you have an affinity to teach, and mentor, it can be greatly rewarding. Also, understanding that you can run exponential more machines (albeit not with your own hands) but under your supervision, really makes you understand the need for capacity. The best type of manager, is one that has done the process before, especially in this industry. Can be a steep learning curve, if you have no formal education in that capacity, but nothing a few books wont get you up to speed on.

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    Good replies so far. I appreciate them. I am able to run any machine in the shop so there isnt an issue understanding the work. I have tried to build an inclusive atmosphere and I do believe I have succeeded. I had a hard time when I took over the lead position in gaining peoples trust and confidence being so young I guess. I know one of the things I will struggle with teaching the most is the fine details. I have a hard time getting it across now sometimes. I like soft edges and visually appealing products. I want my/our parts to stand out and not be mediocre. As a whole I couldnt ask for a finer group of gentlemen to work under me. I just need help in creating vision and seeing the job through to the last detail. I just hate to lose the satisfaction of seeing my parts ready to ship and being proud of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lx545 View Post
    I have been a machinist for going on 14 years now. I have been in a lead machinist position for 1 1/2 years now as well as prior supervisory experience. I handle daily management tasks such as scheduling overtime,coordinating workflow and work processing steps in the machine shop and the general shop when my boss is absent. I also still make parts. I do enjoy the satisfaction of taking material to print.I also understand to make more money generally transition to management is necessary at some point. My question is for those who have experienced the trasition. I have a fear of being a washed up machinist, a has been.
    I do understand your concern IX545,
    You are definitely correct in your assessment of the situation, but this is an all too common move that managers make.

    My thought is to never pull a top producer out of the shop and to never pay office personnel over that top producer pay.

    Instead of a cosy office, increase the top producer's pay by at least 20% and offer bonus pay as well.

    Office workers are a "dime-a dozen" and should be paid as such.

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    I have always heard you dont take your best people off the floor. And I do understand the logic. I am increasingly aware of it because I would be tasked with hiring/finding a suitable replacement for myself. As we all know machinists are not a dime a dozen. I do make good money and have no issues with my current pay as a machinist. However there is a ceiling typically and I feel I have pretty well reached that in this area. It seems to get over six figures a move to a white collar position is typically necessary. The flexible work schedule and the extra income would be greatly welcomed.

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    Nothing wrong with transitioning into a management role. Keep up on current practices as best you can via trade shows and such. The potential benefits to taking a good machinist off the floor depends on the roles that are given. Training, interviewing, liason between floor and engineering, input on machine purchases / process changes.
    More than once I have seen a good machinist put into a management role and fail because of the "people" issues that arise. Some may laugh, but i suggest if you want to be successful at managing people you should take a few classes on it. There are issues that will surprise you. Don't assume that because you can program a 5 axis mill or use a compound rotary table on a mill that you will have the right answers when an employee has issues at home that affect work or issues between employees that open the company and yourself up to liability problems.
    You may lose some machining skills.....replace them with REAL management skills and you wont consider yourself a has been machinist.....you will consider yourself a damn good shop manager that actually knows what it takes to get shit done.

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    Listen to some jocko podcasts about leadership and you should be good to go. He changes how I think about leadership in a big way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PegroProX440 View Post
    Listen to some jocko podcasts about leadership and you should be good to go. He changes how I think about leadership in a big way.
    Jocko is the man. Definitely second PegroPro about tuning into his podcast. He also has a book called 'Extreme Ownership' that provides great insight on leadership.

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    Great advice. Thanks for your replies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by otrlt View Post
    I do understand your concern IX545,
    You are definitely correct in your assessment of the situation, but this is an all too common move that managers make.

    My thought is to never pull a top producer out of the shop and to never pay office personnel over that top producer pay.

    Instead of a cosy office, increase the top producer's pay by at least 20% and offer bonus pay as well.

    Office workers are a "dime-a dozen" and should be paid as such.
    Spoken like someone who has been passed over for management positions in the past, and has the attitude to prove it. Believe it or not, book learnin' and shop learnin' both have their place in a work environment, and can compliment each other well.

    OP, it sounds like you are indeed a top producer and that the higher ups want to use your technical, organizational, problem solving and leadership skills to increase production and quality throughout the shop. In this role you will be far better utilized than sticking you in front of a single machine all day. A rising tide lifts all boats type of thing.

    You'll do great.

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    In all this, no mention of how you would treat the customer and increase your shop's order base. I had the misfortune to have a part machined for the first time. Not very friendly, and NO foillow-up. Have you ever tried to have a relative who knows little about the "trade" get something specific done, with no prior experience with machinists? Bet you haven't. That's where American machinists fail, and where you can shine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tburzio View Post
    In all this, no mention of how you would treat the customer and increase your shop's order base. I had the misfortune to have a part machined for the first time. Not very friendly, and NO foillow-up. Have you ever tried to have a relative who knows little about the "trade" get something specific done, with no prior experience with machinists? Bet you haven't. That's where American machinists fail, and where you can shine.
    You seem salty and just looking for an excuse to vent. He's talking about being a floor manager essentially, not sales.

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    Oh dear....the yen to tell people what to do....it's in all of us and some get to do it even if they don't really know what they are talking about.

    Coming from a working with your hands environment and going to a pencil pushing talking about it one is a leap in the dark if you've never done it before......only for those with masochistic tendencies that like to be under pressure because it feels good to sweat.

    If it comes down to plain more money for the same hours etc...…..just work more overtime and go home with a clear mind that someone else is guiding the ship and it's not your responsibility to make things work smoothly......you don't own the show, the boss does, so you should not be taking on the umbrella of thinking it will collapse if you aren't at the helm.

    As a personal example of future progress opportunities, I went from being a shop floor machinist to an office environment one doing time and motion study with a pay scale that increased over a 3 year period, the main requirement was for someone with shop floor experience to inject practical skills into the day to day working practices......I did that for the last 20 years of my working life......I never once considered my self as a has been.....more than likely a born again production engineering person.

    That's not exactly being the chief instead of just one of the Indians, but in the cold hard light of day I slept at night and week ends without worrying if the next phone call would be a crisis in the making situation caused by upper management inadequate decision making beyond my immediate control.

    In short, the king will always kill off those that he thinks are too big for their boots and don't perform as he would like......the higher the top the longer the drop.
    Ian.

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    I agree with everything that has been said.
    I had only work for my current employer for a year when they made me a team leader over a department ( talk about have to earn people’s trust). I too would run a machine and manage. And after 8 years the department was running the best in the company ( so I was told).
    Now I am in a job processing job for the entire machining side. Getting tooling order or made. Making sure the machinists have everything they need before they start to set-up. It’s hard to slow the front office and sales down, and not put the cart before the horse.
    I am using my machining background to make others jobs easier and hopefully make the company more successful.
    I agree once you have the skills, you may get rusty but you won’t forget.

    That’s my 2 cents 🤪

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    A lot of your decision should come from the shop where you work. When you get too many levels of supervision and management with a few relatives mixed in, you may end up as a whipping boy. Make sure that the real boss man will take the black eye when he tells you the wrong thing. It WILL happen eventually. Keep in mind that the distance to a job that you like is shorter than the distance to a job that you dislike for all reasons except the money.
    Yes, I have seen a lot of things in many types of shops since 1966.

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    If the "has been" portion is the only thing holding you back, don't sweat it. You may get rusty at doing some things, and forget a few others. But all in all you should be able to jump back on the horse fairly easily. I find it's helpful to peruse this site and read or at least look at machining magazines, tool rep catalogs, & even youtube to stay somewhat up on current and upcoming trends. The tough thing is when you start to realize the guys in the shop know more than you. BUT, that is a good thing. Having people you can trust on the floor that know more than you will only help things grow and you can take pleasure in knowing you helped them get there and beyond.

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    Great points gentlemen. My direct boss' last day is Monday. Things are opening up for me much quicker than I had expected. So lets get the party started soon and see how things roll. Ive had a few great conversations with the general manager and am very cautiously excited. This truly is a great opportunity in the area and for my career. I look forward to learning more about the full process and sharing my expertise daily by working with some great co-workers.

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    I would like to provide an update. I have been in the trenches now for about 5 months. I must say some things were as expected and several things weren't as expected. I have learned a weakness of mine is planning months in advance. There are so many impacts to scheduling its incredibly difficult to keep up with all of it. Most frustrating is people laying out of work. We are incredibly overcommited and it exacerbates things when people don't show up. We have had a lot of attrition up until about six months ago and have just now filled all the spots. Most of my days are spent between meetings,updating project managers and fighting fires. I have zero time really to have any hands on presence like I thought I could. I do not like this one bit. Our on time delivery is slipping monthly due to overcommitments that I'm not making which is frustrating. In short its overwhelming most days. I miss the simple days of worrying about me. Too early to backtrack and go back to the tools? Heartattack may be around the corner.

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