Are Machines Taking Over?

Working in manufacturing I often hear the following remarks “It’s a shame that machines are taking over” or “how do people feel about their jobs with the increased usage of machinery?” when I speak about our new CNC machine.

Initially, CNC machines were expensive and only large companies were able to afford them. They were relatively simple requiring little technical skill to operate. Fast forward to today and things are very different.

Yes, the machines are still quite expensive, but they are now within the reach of small to medium sized businesses and the specifications are much improved.  Take our CNC machine for example, it has a 5-axis head, a bed which takes 10 ft by 5ft material and an independent drill block as well as being not much bigger than a single garage.

So, what does this mean for all the skilled cabinetmakers currently working for us? The machine can produce more components much faster and more accurately as well as tackling many tedious time-consuming tasks.  This allows the skilled cabinetmakers to focus on more interesting tasks and produce finished projects more quickly. Since the purchase of the machine more skilled staff have been recruited to cope with the increased throughput.

As a business, we still require people to veneer the panels before they are machined and it takes a skilled person to pick, prepare and apply the veneer. We need skilled finishers for spraying, extra fitters, office staff and infrastructure to deal with the increased throughput. To ensure the machine works properly you need someone to program the machine and someone to run it, these are now highly technical tasks.  The ever-increasing sophistication of modern woodworking machinery has generated a new requirement for highly skilled engineers to maintain and service them.

So, in my opinion and experience, mechanisation within the industry is not taking away people’s job, but providing interesting and challenging career opportunities for skilled professionals.