Machining and Machinery Careers Outlook
The state of the machining and machinery industry is closely tied to economic conditions. However, even when the economy improves as it did in the latter part of the 1990s, there seems to be a lag time of about one year before machine tool shipments reflect that improvement. Also, industry analysts say that uncertainty has started to affect manufacturing executives who are deciding whether to invest in new machinery. They cite several factors that are dimming prospects for increased factory capital spending. These include an emerging crunch in credit, which is shrinking the money available for capital loans that would be used to purchase new machinery.
Statistics on machine tool consumption indicate that the machine tool industry went into a slump in the early 1980s, and despite periods of increased orders, it has never completely come back. Analysts do see some bright spots, however. The automotive industry, which accounts for almost half of machine tool orders, needs to replace some of its aging equipment. Also, there has been growth in the nonelectric machinery industry, which includes food-processing equipment.
Although economic conditions did improve during the late 1990s, employment opportunities did not increase proportionately. Many companies laid off machining workers during the past decade and are hiring fewer workers than in the past. In addition, automation is affecting employment opportunities for some workers in the machining industry (although automation does create some machinist jobs in the area of machine repair, supervision, and maintenance). The manufacturing industry has been revolutionized by highly productive, computer-controlled machining and turning centers that change their own tools; transfer machines that completely machine, assemble, and test mass-produced products; and innovative metal removal and forming systems. Robots and robotic equipment are becoming more common and are being used in many areas where the work is tedious, repetitious, or dangerous. Automated inspection equipment, such as electronic sensors, cameras, X-rays, and lasers, is increasingly being used to test and inspect parts during production.
All of these factors have affected the machinery industry. The use of computers and automated equipment is resulting in fewer opportunities for machine operators and layout workers. According to Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of industrial machinery repairers and machinists is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. A decline is expected in the employment of tool and die makers and for computer numerical control (CNC) programmers due to strong foreign competition,. However, despite sluggish employment growth in the machining industry, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job opportunities for machinists will be excellent due to the increased numbers of automated production processes that require the supervision of skilled machinists and a relative lack of candidates entering training programs. Even if actual production levels fall, machinists are still needed to repair, monitor, and control expensive automated equipment. Employers value the skills that good machinists bring to manufacturing, as they are often versatile and able to handle a large number of contingencies. For this reason, skilled machine workers will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Related Career Field:
Related Career Cluster:
- Boilermakers and Mechanics
- Fluid Power Technicians
- General Maintenance Mechanics
- Industrial Designers
- Industrial Engineering Technicians
- Industrial Engineers
- Industrial Machinery Mechanics
- Industrial Radiographers
- Instrument Makers and Repairers
- Instrumentation Technicians
- Job and Die Setters
- Laser Technicians
- Layout Workers
- Machine Tool Operators
- Mechanical Engineering Technicians
- Mechanical Engineers
- Numerical Control Tool Programmers
- Precision Machinists
- Precision Metalworkers
- Stationary Engineers
For More Information:
- Association for Manufacturing Technology
- National Institute for Metalworking Skills
- National Tooling & Machining Association
- Precision Machined Products Association
- Precision Metalforming Association and Educational Foundation