As a manufacturing engineer for Elyria Manufacturing Corp., what are your duties?
As a manufacturing engineer my focus is in machining, quoting prices for customers, purchasing tools and tooling up for the process and then programming the CNC to manipulate the metal to exacting tolerances that we call a robust process. We run jobs with 10,000 pieces where it is necessary to invest in more tooling and we do smaller runs on the lathe of hundreds of parts where the tooling doesn’t require the same longevity, so I have to know whether a purchase is necessary based on the quality and quantity of a job. Cycle times also come into play. Here at our facility, we machine parts, but we outsource coating, heat-treating, finishing, anodizing, hard coating and other products.
What is the reason for outsourcing those steps?
We specialize in machining and we do assemblies here and sell those as a unit – the assembly work is one of our most profitable sectors of the business. We send our products out for coatings, heat-treating, finishing, or anodizing or for aluminum products because, basically, those are expensive procedures that require a large investment in equipment. Other companies specialize in those steps so it isn’t necessary for us to provide that to our customers.
What was your background or experience in metalwork and CNC?
It’s interesting. I came out of high school through a vocational electronics program and I went to work in radio as a broadcasting engineer. I got my FCC license, and while I was doing that, I continued working in the electrical field for about six years. During that time I also worked in machine shops and got interested in CNC programming. I took every weeklong class or course I could find with different colleges and training class in everything from heat-treating to metalworking. I probably completed 30 or more post secondary education courses that helped me work into a position with a company. As a matter of fact I’m signed up for another class soon to learn a new technique. One thing for sure is there is a shortage of people out there who are educated in the field. A college degree in engineering doesn’t always give a person the experience or education they need to work in this industry unless they have hands-on training. Without hands-on training they aren’t going to be very good at machining. Fieldwork gives a person the fine-tuning in real world situations to be an effective employee. In this work you need to have seen it, witnessed it, experienced it, tried it and tested it.
Some people either don’t have the resources or the interest in obtaining a four-year college degree. Is it possible to enter this field now without a degree?
I think it’s feasible and getting actual experience is a good place to start. I know for a fact that it is possible to work up to a decent salary without a college degree. If you want to enter this field and you’re working and going to school after work, it will take you eight to 10 years to get a degree in engineering, and then you’ll be paying back those loans for years afterward. What the college degree does is get you in the door with large corporations. Many of them won’t allow a man to be called an engineer without the degree. The large corporations I worked for in the past called me a technician, but they paid me an engineers’ salary because I was doing the job of an engineer. I also believe that some people are born with a nack for metalworking. Some things you know instinctively and some people, even when they are taught something, aren’t able to machine a piece of metal.
As more companies fully automate their shops or move to robotics do you think the engineer or machinist will ever become obsolete?
No. That’s something I wanted to hit on. The human factor in machining is always going to be necessary. Our company is now completely automated, but the machines can’t do what people can do. We just bought a machine from Mori Seiki that does three things at once, and although it runs on a computer program and greater strides are being made in programming computers to think like humans, doing this work still requires a human factor. The software doesn’t know how to be creative. Humans must orchestrate this process to merge three different tasks at once to make a product that is profitable as well as successful.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit emcprecision.com or call 440-365-4171.