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CNC Programming: Blue Collar vs. White Collar Tasks

By Mit Vyas

With the rise of the digital revolution, many elements of traditional manufacturing professions can be separated from the operator and performed more effectively elsewhere. During this article, I will explore how automation applies to both blue collar and white collar roles in CNC Manufacturing. 

Step 1: The Great Separation

Many jobs previously involved a blue collar labor component in addition to a white collar documentation component. The digital revolution is creating a clear separation between these two types of tasks. 

Let’s take a look at the profession of CNC machinists. Traditionally, a CNC machinist was required to create code and run the machine. Now with the rise of digital tools, there are many tasks related to running a CNC machine that someone else can do more effectively than the machine operator. CNC machinists can focus on operating the machine and other tasks that require their physical presence.

For an example of this separation, consider the Uber ridesharing platform. Before Uber, taxi drivers had to invest time and effort into finding areas of high demand, and they didn’t always succeed. Now, the Uber algorithm connects drivers with nearby riders, and drivers can just focus on driving. 

Step 2: The Great Consolidation

Due to the rise of the internet, companies can find the most skilled digital contractors to help with their projects. Instead of just selecting from their limited local pool of workers, companies can work with the most qualified people for the job with the best set of tools at their disposal. 

Now, manufacturing work is consolidated and performed by a few of the most qualified people. A programmer that is very skilled in CNC Swiss machines, for example, can provide the G-code to many different CNC Swiss machines around the world without having to be physically present at any of them.

Step 3: The Great Execution 

Not every aspect of manufacturing can be done remotely, though. While G-code can be created from anywhere, an operator must still validate G-code in person on the production floor. Luckily, there are many virtual conferencing tools and simulators that can be used to facilitate the validation of G-code by a remote programmer. 

The following are steps for a hybrid approach to onsite and offsite G-code validation:

  • First, an onsite operator performs a dry run to see if any tools crash, or if there are errors in the G-code. This process can easily be videotaped and validated offsite by the programmer. 
  • Second, the operator performs a physical run on scrap parts. They can take pictures of the part quality and send them to the programmer virtually to validate that the geometry is correct. 
  • Finally, the operator cuts a production part to validate that it is up to customer requirements. Part quality can be validated by the programmer offsite through photos or 3D scanning software.

Conclusion

The world of manufacturing will look different in the next few years. Digital manufacturing creates a network effect where problem-solving can occur at one site, and solutions can spread globally. For an industry known for sharing its best practices at trade shows, this is a drastic change in thinking. Companies that can take advantage of the global manufacturing network will have a major advantage in the future.