Original Publication Date: December 6, 2021
This past October, Hirsh Precision participated in the Manufacturing Institute’s MFG Day 2021, an annual event that both celebrates the manufacturing industry and promotes the numerous career opportunities.
According to a study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, “Manufacturers in the United States need to fill 4 million jobs by 2030,” and more than half of those jobs could remain unfilled due to a skills gap and misconceptions about modern manufacturing.
Despite what many believe, though, manufacturing is a challenging, innovative, creative, and rewarding industry. It’s full of opportunities for individuals with all types of backgrounds, experience, and career goals.
With opportunities like learning a hands-on programming language or collaborating with the most innovative industries across the globe, there’s no reason that so many job openings in the manufacturing industry should go unfilled.
Hirsh Precision’s Career Development Webinar
To celebrate MFG Day 2021 alongside thousands of other manufacturers across the company, we hosted our first-ever career development webinar. Our first panel tackled “Breaking into the Industry, and discussed transitioning in the industry, insider tips, success stories, and things they wish they had known earlier.
Below are some of the questions our first group of panelists tackled during the webinar; but first, let’s meet the panelists and learn a little bit about what a typical day in the manufacturing industry looks like for them.
Nate Clark, Estimations Support Specialist
Lots of internal and external communication with customers and working with some really amazing engineers and developers. Nate’s surrounded by idea people both inside and outside the company, and is exposed to ideas that could change the world, change a life, change how we navigate our world and off world.
Jordan Eisel, CMM Programmer
At Hirsh, we have a lot of continuous improvement, and a culture of encouraging new and fresh ideas. Any time someone implements a process change request, they buzz Jordan. She’s responsible on the quality side of things for reviewing new ideas and implementing them. Jordan also helps launch new parts, review customer’s blueprints, and collaborate on how to overcome manufacturing challenges.
Zach Mullen, 5-Axis Mill Lead
As the cell lead of one of our milling cells, Zach’s day gets started when the ideas need to be turned into a reality. Working alongside CMM programmers and the quality team, Zach is focused on part setups, running machines, and making sure our highly complex parts are in spec for our customers.
Sawyer Hayes, Automated Production Lead
As the cell lead of our automation cell, Sawyer oversees part setups, production, and inspection across three CNC machines and our Fastems Flexible Manufacturing System. With over 400 tools dedicated to the machine and parts running non-stop, Sawyer stays busy making sure we make the best parts that are inline with our quality process.
1. What are some things you wish you knew before you started out in manufacturing?
Prior to entering the industry, the extent of Nate’s knowledge about manufacturing was limited to the show “How It’s Made.” As he started learning and engaging with manufacturing, saw the incredible technology and countless techniques, he wishes that he’d been able to visit a shop 15 years ago. There’s no limit to the breadth and depth of this industry, and if you can get exposure to the industry early on, you’ll be well prepared. Nate’s advice? Call or email a nearby manufacturing shop and see if they’ll host you. In fact, contact us if you’d like a tour of Hirsh.
“ASK QUESTIONS.” According to Jordan, asking questions is the best way to learn and learn fast. This was how she navigated the beginning of her manufacturing career. Having started in our part cleaning room, moving onto being a quality technician, and transitioning into a machinist before settling into her current role as CMM programmer, she can testify that taking advantage of a seasoned person’s wealth of knowledge if critical for success and development.
The beginning of Zach’s manufacturing career was met with a relatable problem: applying what we’ve learned in school to the real world. As a graduate of Front Range Community College’s machining program, Zach had experience with CNC machines and inspection processes, but it was still a challenge transitioning into his first role at Hirsh. “We’ve all experienced having a passion for something, but when I got out of school and came to Hirsh, I was overwhelmed. There was so much going on that I never knew about, and briefly I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run with the bulls.” Zach’s advice? Don’t be afraid of learning something new; step back, open your ears to the people who have been machining for decades, and do your best.
Sawyer had just recently graduated from his machining program when he found himself not just working at Hirsh full-time, but as the lead of our new automated manufacturing system. In a situation like this, it’s common to feel what many refer to as “imposter syndrome.” But not Sawyer. Rather than letting his level of experience dictate his career, he took Fastems on without any hesitation and expertly oversees the entire automation cell.
2. What's the best way to learn?
For Nate, staying current on tooling technology is essential in his role on the estimation team, and his resource of choice are the companies who produce the tooling technology we use at Hirsh. “Machine tool companies want you to know how their product works, so they’re great sources of information.”
As a former quality technician and one of Hirsh’s CMM programmers, Jordan uses several resources to solve daily challenges at work and stay caught up on developments in the industry. She often turns to Zeiss, as the manufacturer of our three CMMs, for information, particularly their online forum. For individuals who need to learn metrology and CMMs, this is a perfect resource.
As a machinist, much of Zach’s research focuses on tooling, given that it’s the go-between for the machines and materials they’re cutting. With regards to finding tooling resources, Zach takes advantage of the algorithms used by social media. Given that he’s looked at machining resources in the past, Zach can always count on Instagram or YouTube to supply him with the latest blogs and videos about tooling technology that he consistently applies to his work.
During the pandemic, many industries and businesses had to move much of their work and events online, and manufacturing companies were no exception. For Sawyer, he’s consistently tuning into Fastems’ monthly webinar where you can ask questions live with consultants, learn about benefits of automated manufacturing, and figure out how best to put this knowledge into practice. The best part? It’s free, and anyone can join.
3. How would you guide on what NOT to do?
Many of us experience nerves and fear when we step into a new role, and Nate’s advice would be to not be afraid of failure. For him, the process of making mistakes and correcting them was how he learned so fast. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help and don’t see challenges as negative – they’re opportunities to learn. That being said, you also want to feel confident in the process. Always strive to learn and make educated decisions, rather than acting off a guess.
“Check your ego.” Jordan noted that we all take pride in our work and what we do, especially the team at Hirsh, but there’s always something new to learn. And when that happens, don’t take feedback as criticism. People can help you learn, so use them as a resource.
Learning through mistakes is unquestionably effective, but mistakes are costly for machinists, Zach wisely pointed out. While it’s good to learn from failure, it’s bad to lose hours to machining downtime and incur costs due to crashing a machine or breaking a tool. In this regard, use your team as a resource and always reach out if you have questions or have any doubt.
Manufacturing is a challenging industry with complicated work, and if you’re learning it from the ground up, you are going to make mistakes. Sawyer’s take? Mistakes are common, so be kind to yourself and don’t hide your mistakes from the team. Let them help you learn from the mistake, so you won’t make it again in the future.