MCAM Northwest

Encouraging your CNC programmers to share new ideas may be radical, but it’s great for your bottom line. 

By Callie Morgan

November 1st, 2021, 4:00 PM PDT

“I don’t understand the new methods. Just do what works and get the part out the door.”

Here’s the scenario: You are a programmer, fresh from schooling, who finds a job where there’s a team of older programmers that have been using the same methods for years, and they are quite confident in those techniques. But you know of a modern approach to programming a part that would require far less steps and use much less machining time than theirs.

Would you choose to be a rebel and try to persuade management, and your coworkers, that your method is more efficient, or would you choose the path of least resistance by sticking with the tried-and-true methods the other programmers have been using for years?

MCAM Applications Engineer Geoff Phoenix was faced with that situation at his first programming job after completing his Mastercam education. When Geoff arrived at his new job, he used solid chaining and dynamic toolpaths in the current Mastercam release, while the senior programmers were using a mixture of older Mastercam versions and their classic methods. 

“While these methods of manufacturing had been around for years, it clashed with the older methods of 2D chaining wireframe and simple toolpaths,” said Phoenix. “Programmers would sometimes neglect or ignore jobs of the newer processes, which may need revision changes or updates, or even start over from scratch, even program an entirely different file using their methods. This invariably just made more work for us down the line because we had to modify legacy programs.”

Although establishing a routine produces reliable results, getting too complacent in your methods can be detrimental to your shop’s efficiency and ability to attract skilled workers.

It’s easy for working programmers to gravitate towards working solo, rather than attempt to coordinate with their fellow programmers. In his experience, MCAM Northwest founder Tim Rowley has witnessed more individualistic shops go as far as to permit each of their programmers to use different software and different software versions. 

“This encourages a competitive rather than collaborative environment,” says Rowley. “Not only does this inhibit sharing of files and ideas between programmers, but what if one of those programmers gets hit by a bus? No one knows their methods or, on some occasions, how to use their machine.”


How Can We Encourage Collaboration, Not Competition?

Being competitive to bring knowledge to their team is far more productive than programmers being competitive for their own benefit. Each individual brings their diverse experiences and skill sets to the shop floor and programmers should be encouraged to share their different viewpoints to stay profitable. 

Rowley encourages programmers to meet up and share their methods at least every other week to encourage a collaborative working environment. When new ideas are suggested, you can test the new methods side-by-side with the old ones in a time study then roll out the method that ends up being the fastest, most efficient for the machine. To encourage new ideas that improve efficiency, it also doesn’t hurt to incentivize your programmers to do so.

“Recognition always happens at Entek when something is improved,” says Mastercam programmer Arturo Schlechte for global energy storage manufacturer, Entek. “We have daily meetings on lean principles and always go over shop improvements. Usually if the improvements are good enough, the whole shop is rewarded with lunch.”

It’s easy to slow down and get complacent, sticking with tried-and-true, but antiquated, methods, rather than constantly adjusting your routines. But, considering how competitive and fast-paced manufacturing is, we suggest that you encourage your programmers to share and explore new programming techniques on a regular basis. Also, to best utilize your Mastercam Maintenance dollars, remember that you can schedule group Mastercam training sessions with us to stay fresh on new Mastercam features and workflows. 

To learn how to use the latest Mastercam features and techniques any time they need it, consider the Team account option on our Mastercam training site for your programming team. The site also has a series of Presentations and lesson groups dedicated to explaining the new features added to the 3 most current Mastercam releases called the “What’s New” series. These lesson groups and presentations are ideal to get everyone up to speed on the new version.


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