Career and Job Search Guide


Machinists specialize in metal part manufacturing. Precision machinists specialize in the production of small quantities of unique or rare metal products. Machinists utilize their talents and special knowledge to coordinate the production of metals for machines.

Before a project begins, machinists examine blueprints. Then, they perform calculations, before determining where to cut the piece of metal and what rate to feed the metal into a machine for shaping. The piece of metal is then marked where it should be cut, project details are finalized, and the proper tools and machines are selected for the project.

Once the preparatory work is done, machinists begin the manufacturing and fabrication work by feeding the piece of metal into a machine to make the necessary cuts, monitoring the rate at which metal is fed into the machine, and they must ensure the machine is lubricated to prevent excessive heat since metals increase in size in high temperatures.

When cutting, machinists can detect problems by recognizing too much vibration or unusual sounds. If a tool is dull, it is replaced with a new one. When new, high speed machines are used, feed speeds are often adjusted because vibrations diminish cut accuracy. When the cuts have been made, machinists measure and compare the cuts to the blueprints.

Production machinists manufacture large supplies of single parts that must be processed meticulously. Machinists are now using equipment that is computer numerically controlled (CNC). Equipment with CNC technology is controlled by a computer program that performs cuts and monitors speed and dullness. Machinists often collaborate with engineers that program these machines. Machinists decide the best feed speed and cut directions for CNC machines and engineers program the machines.

Machinists are usually knowledgeable about how CNC machines operate, so some alter or design basic programs after encountering a problem. This is also known as making an offset: developing a solution to a problem while at the same time increasing efficiency. Following an offset, CNC specialists finalize the changes.

Certain computer operated machines perform work without machinists by automatically replacing warn out tools or switching a tool when a new one is needed. During the course of a day, a production machinist will monitor these machines, replace parts, and ensure the finished product is high quality. During irregular operating hours, also referred to as lights out manufacturing, just a few employees are needed to monitor the facility.

Some machinists specialize in maintenance and repairs. When a malfunctioning part is noticed, maintenance machinists review the blueprints to replace it with the proper part or they repair it. Maintenance professionals are found in most industries where products are manufactured.

Since machining technology is constantly evolving, machinists must know how to run various machines. Newer technology utilizes aqua jets, lasers, and electrically powered wire to cut metal components, so machinists must understand what types of incisions these machines can perform. As technology continues to change, machinists must take steps to learn about the new technology.

Work environment. Machine shops are usually properly ventilated and clean. Most computer operated machines are covered, preventing employees from exposure to loud noises and chemicals. Employees must also exercise caution when working with any machine by wearing earplugs, safety goggles, and other protective clothing. Likewise, machinists must be careful handling chemicals and lubricants, although most lubricants are harmless. Machinists should be in relatively good shape since they stand for long periods of time and lift heavy loads. However, most machinists use cranes or autoloaders to move heavy loads.

Machinists usually spend 40 hours a week working and often work nights and weekends so firms can use their expensive equipment to generate as much output as possible. The advent of lights out manufacturing is often negating this trend since few workers are needed, but workers usually get overtime during periods of increased sales.