BLOG ARTICAL 1 - Employee vs Contractor – CMM Programming




            In the manufacturing industry, finding qualified personnel for quality and manufacturing has been and continues to be a challenge. With the lack of schooling and the increase of skills gap between generations, operating a manufacturing company becomes increasingly difficult. The push for automation improves manufacturing inefficiencies to a degree. However, the need to program the CNC and measurement system effectively is critical.



Market Research


The global CNC market size is expected to reach USD 100.86 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 7.00% from 2019 to 2025. The increasing need for reducing operating costs and unqualified manpower has led to the growth of automation, CNC machines, and measurement systems. The CMM market is expected to grow from USD 2.8 billion in 2018 to USD 4.1 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 8.00%. Quality control and inspection applications are to hold the largest share of the CMM market. This can be attributed to the increase of new inspection techniques such as optical/probing CMM systems in automotive, aerospace and defense industries. However, high costs incurred for utilizing such technology act as a key restraining factor for the market growth.



Executive Summary


            With the expected increase in both the CNC and CMM market, it’s imperative to have qualified personnel programming/operating both CNC and CMM. The question is, how can management evaluate one’s work? On the CNC side, it’s easy, because there is a produced part that you can touch, see, etc. But on the CMM side, the results are just data. How does anyone know that the data being produced is repeatable and reproducible without any type of measurement system analysis?  You can’t. That’s why it is essential to use a 3rd party source to validate CMM programs offsite, leaving day to day production uninterrupted.   


What can Contract Programming do for Your Company?


            Contract programming can be used in any sized shop, from a job shop just buying their first CMM to a large fortune 500 OEM.  Each of these shops will have different needs, but that’s what’s great about using an outside resource. The needs of the company can be customized!


A few examples:


  • Large Company A has multiple CMMs, programmers on staff and operators to run them.  However, their CMMs are a bottle neck.  The company has a hard time finding any free time for program development, gauge studies, and even has a hard time proving out new programs.  This is a scenario where contractors can help.  With the use of their own CMM, the contractors can offload this work.  Take the programs and parts created by Company A and do the development work offsite.  This allows Company A to continue to run production, but not sacrifice continual improvement or program development. 


  • Another situation that Company A might find itself in is the argument over data.  The Quality CMM team says the part is out of tolerance based on their work and the manufacturing team finds it in tolerance with their shop floor inspection methods.  Who is right?  Instead of wasting time arguing or trying to get the answers in house, a contractor can be a quick independent 3rd party to help settle these issues.  With a proven program through GRR and correlation, the 3rd parts contractor can step in and help answer these questions. 


  • Small Company B has a CMM, but know they don’t get the best use out of it.  Most of the time it sits in the corner and the machinists use the height gauge and hand tools to accept parts.  This is where having a contractor can really help the production environment.  It can help Company B get the full value out of their CMM purchase.  Having that outside expert programing the machine will start to build trust in the technology.  This will lead to the parts being inspected quickly, efficiently, and always in the same manor.  This will lead to increased production, decreased scrap, and less stressed operators. If the operators and machinists can make a .002in move on their machine and the CMM shows them that result with their next piece inspected.  Then confidence builds and fewer parts need to be inspected.  This results in increased production since fewer adjustments are being made to the machine throughout the day and parts are just running. 


Remember hiring a contractor gives you the ability to hire a proven professional that you might not be able to afford on staff.  Contractors must be good at what they do and carry a good reputation with all of their customers or they will not be in business long. 

Contractors can be used for an individual program, to helping with all new first articles, to offloading CMM run time, as we have seen from the examples above.  But what about if you want to hire a programmer full time?  Is there a case for still using contract programmers? We believe so.



Staff Programmer vs High Level Operator and Contract Programmer:


            The case to be made for hiring a full time programmer vs contracting the work out normally, comes down to overall cost and responsiveness of support. Meaning if a company can contract the work out, and that team delivers on time and is flexible to handle their change in work schedule, the price will almost always be cheaper.  A CMM programmer that will have comparable experience and skill to a contractor will be asking for $80,000 salary and up.  This, combined with benefits, workman’s comp, etc. will cost a company over $100,000 to support these new personnel.  They will also have vacations and sick days where they will not be available for support.    


A contractor like Summit, will have multiple people on staff that can support the customer ensuring there is never a lapse in coverage.  A contractor will work with the company on cost and can customize solutions for them, depending on workload and needs.  Lots of companies only need programmers when they are developing their next generation of production parts.  This means they pay a programmer when they could have an operator running the machine for significantly less.  A contractor can work with the company to train operators to take programs that were created offline and proven out at the contractor’s location and seamlessly integrate them into production.  So even if the contractor isn’t located near the company support can still be given quickly and continuously. 


Why Summit


We are a group of quality managers/engineers, CMM programmers, and manufacturing professionals with over 50 combined years of metal/plastic removal and process experience.  We have worked for companies like Toyota, GE, Sig Sauer, and Safran Aerospace.   We focus on the quality of data from the manufactured part and then use that to make improvements to the processes. We won’t sign off on any program we create unless it has undergone an MSA (Measurement System Analysis), because even with all our years of experience you don’t know how good the program is until you test it and evaluate the data.  


By utilizing an MSA, this allows us to determine the capability of the measurement system and control the quality of the data. We do this to ensure we understand the measurement variation compared to the process variation.  It is only after this variation is understood, that the process can be controlled.  Once the measurement and process variation have been controlled, Summit takes it one step further by being able to tie the measurement data back to the manufacturing process. One of the biggest issues we see when a process and measurement variation aren’t controlled are operators adjusting offsets/comps in the CNC machine constantly throughout the day. With the implementation of an SPC package, we can collect all the CMM data and display each dimension graphically so the operator can visually identify when a shift/offset needs to be made. Going another step further, we can implement Autocomp which takes all the cmm data and offsets the CNC machine without any operator interaction. Regardless of SPC or autocomp, Summit can assist the CNC operators understand the data and make the necessary adjustments.    

This is what sets Summit apart from other contractors and programmers.  We have many years of experience utilizing CMMS to control a manufacturing process and not just inspect parts for conformance. We have a proven track record of helping operators to understand how the measurement system impact what they do and how a quality CMM program makes their jobs easier.  We can communicate this to all levels of an operation and push for effective change. The results of our services increase throughput and efficiency leading to an increased capacity, decreased scrap rates, and improved profit margin.

Below is a case study from a customer who utilized Summits contract programming service. We developed the inline inspection programs with proven MSA data to reduce the measurement and process variation that the customer didn’t even know existed. As one can see, the cost of poor quality produced parts decreased across April to July and the customer increased production on each machine. Operators weren’t adjusting their machines after each control plan check (every 10th part) because the data coming from the measurement system was repeatable. This allowed the production numbers to increase roughly by 30% without the addition of CNC equipment and operators.




















The needs of the industry for competent CMM programmers is only going to increase in the near future and there are not enough personnel out there to fill this void for all companies. Combine this with the difficulties in evaluating a CMM programmer’s work, it makes the most sense to contract this work out to groups of professionals that constantly deliver for their customers. 

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