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CNC and Manual Machine shops Have More Commonalities than Differences

The narrative around digital CNC machines and manual, conventional machines is mostly in terms of differences. At some point, it gives an impression that CNC machines are the best way forward and manual machine shops are a story of the past. That may not be completely true. Both types of machining have their advantages and disadvantages. What may be surprising to some is CNC and manual machine shops have more commonalities than differences. This is important to understand for first-time  owners, or those thinking of moving from manual to digital machines, as understanding both similarities and differences provides a complete picture.


These five key similarities can help you be at the top of the competition with either type of shop.


Both Need to Be Regularly Maintained

It is a myth that the more versatile and digital CNC machines do not require maintenance. Just because they can work autonomously and have screens on their face should not lead us to think that they will continue to function forever. The fact is both CNC machines and manual machines are in essence “machines”. They involve moving parts and, therefore, wear-and-tear, misalignment, and drying up are common in both. It would be disastrous to leave a CNC machine to run for weeks and months, thinking it will be free of problems. New advances in machine development may make this possible in the future, but right now even CNC machines live at the mercy of machinists. 


Routine checkups are equally important for both manual and CNC machine shops. It is recommended to spend a full day at routine intervals for full shutdown to analyze all your machines and perform routine maintenance. This will not only increase productivity but also increase the lifetime of machines and save you much higher repair costs in the future. 


Both Require Expert Machinists 

Another myth is CNC machines are the only ones that require expert machinists. CNC machines indeed work with software, and computer programmers are required to control and supervise these digital devices. However, conventional machines cannot be handled without a skilled machinist either. Manufacturing, especially precision manufacturing, is a highly specialized field. The complex process of analyzing the blueprint, configuring the workflow and using several machines to manufacture the final part requires expertise. Expert machinists are the backbone of a machine shop, whether digital or conventional. It is important to invest in qualified staff as much as quality equipment. 

Organization and Safety Protocols 

One thing that you would find common in great CNC machine shops and manual machine shops is the way they operate. Manufacturing companies that deliver high-quality output and always meet their deadlines have not only good, reliable machines and trained machinists, but  boast efficient organization and safety protocols. If a machine shop is not well-organized in layout and workflow, it is not only unsafe for  workers, but  hinders efficiency in locating parts and tools. Staff training in these protocols means more productive employees, which translates into higher outputs and ultimately volume and profit.. 


Ingenious Workflow 

Workflow is also independent of the types of machines used in a machine shop. Whether you are using CNC machines or conventional ones, efficient workflows will guarantee faster production cycles and higher productivity. It is therefore important to spend focused time designing workflows and constantly evaluating them to make sure they are efficient. (See our blog XXX for more on machine shop efficiency. )This becomes especially important when you introduce new machines, employ new staff, or are starting a complex production cycle. CNC machines cannot counter the effects of an inefficient workflow; machines follow orders and if those orders are not well planned, they simply will not generate the desired output. 


Mindset and Goals: Higher Output and Timely Deliveries

The desire to perform well, deliver quality, and maximize profit eclipse the types of machines one owns. In precision tooling the slow but steady tortoise defeats the arrogant hare. It is important to see that CNC and manual machine shops have more commonalities than differences.  Your attitude towards your business and customer satisfaction is the key factor for success. It would be a mistake to imagine that just because you own a CNC machine, you will be ahead of all the competition. Your mindset and team collaboration are of paramount importance and the primary deciding factors in the race.