Teaching, Troubleshooting…And Loving It!
Robert Warchol was part of the Spring 2017 Accelerated CNC Skills Training class at UMass Lowell. Though already a very skilled machinist, he always paid attention and participated in the training, even on the occasions when he knew more about the subject matter than his teachers. Even so, the instructors felt Warchol was a great asset to have in the class. He was able to assist in teaching his fellow students and helped set the bar high – letting his counterparts see what was possible. For instance, though it was not an assignment, Rob's class was the first to mill entire chess sets of brass and aluminum. His ability to do this encouraged some of his classmates to push themselves to do the same. He also made sure every student was able to take home at least a few completed pieces regardless of their skill level. His desire to help others learn and succeed was obvious.
Warchol's previous experience spanned over 25 years at several machine shops where he ran both manual and CNC machines. He figures he spent an equal amount of time at both. A plant closure at his last job landed him in a position to take the MassMEP - University of Lowell Accelerated CNC Skills training.
"I decided to take the class to familiarize myself with some of the newer technology being used in today's industry because most of the machines I had run to that point had become fairly outdated," Warchol said.
Methods Machine Tools at the Job Fair
A popular component of the Accelerated CNC Skills Training program is the job fair. Companies who are looking for CNC operators interview the candidates from the program just prior to graduation. Many job offers come from this event and Rob received several good ones, which caused a lot of conflict as he tried to decide what direction he wanted to move in. Ultimately, the position Rob selected involves working with people as much as with machines.
"Training people is something I had been involved with over the years at my past jobs," said Warchol. "Most of the guys I trained have become very good machinists and are still very good friends!"
Methods Machine Tools, Inc. is a leading supplier of precision machine tools, 3D printing solutions, automation, and accessories. They supply engineering support, installation, parts, service, and training throughout North America. They are an organization that Warchol had been following in several of the trade journals over the years.
"I had always thought it would be an interesting place to work," commented Warchol. "There were quite a few great articles about customer solutions they came up with. Methods always seemed to be on the cutting edge of emerging technologies in the industry and to me that was very appealing!"
Rob's interest in Methods Machine was reinforced when he had the opportunity to meet with them during the job fair. "I really didn't even consider Methods to be an option until they came to the job fair. Most of the positions I had seen on their web site seemed geared towards a different skill set than mine. I was really pleased to see them at the event and have the opportunity to learn more about their work!"
|Photo: Rob Warchol, second from right, accepting his certifications from Representative Jeffrey Roy. From left, Instructors John Mulligan, U Mass Lowell, and Bill Seaver, MassMEP.
Working as an Applications Engineer
Ultimately, Rob selected Methods Machine where he works as an Applications Engineer assigned to their service department. His position involves several things. He assists by training customers on machines that they purchase. Often this involves one day of familiarization with the controls or updating them on any new features that have been added. Methods also offers more in-depth classes, which can last for several days. Rob is being groomed to teach these classes in the future.
Another part of his job is setting up and training operators on using spindle probes and tool setters. These accessories are on the machines to make set-up procedures a lot easier. Spindle probes help find work coordinates much faster and more accurately than traditional edge finders and gage blocks. Tool setters can be pre-set and stored in the machine so that when tools are touched off the machine uses the stored information to determine correct tool lengths and diameters.
Rob also does troubleshooting. When a customer has an issue, like a machine has crashed, they can call Methods to send someone to determine what may have caused the crash or why the machine hasn't worked correctly since the crash.
"I've visited several customers where this has been the case," shared Warchol. "This is usually the most challenging part of my job but is also the most satisfying when you can provide solutions!"
What has it been like to be the new guy? Rob suggests that over the years he has witnessed shops where the more seasoned machinists would hesitate to offer help to new employees citing that they had been expected to figure things out on their own.
"Methods isn't like that," Warchol said. "No matter where I am, if a customer has a question I can't answer, there is someone at our office who can help and they are only a phone call away. We also have factory reps from Japan and Taiwan who work in our office and I can talk with them directly from the road. We are a team focused on customer service!"
On the rare occasion when Rob is in the office for the day and has questions about a specific machine or wants to spend some time playing with one of the controls to figure something out, Methods has many of their newer machines all set up and under power for that purpose. This gives him the opportunity to actually push buttons and spend time learning what the machine is going to do without having to worry about taking a customer's machine off line during production. "It gives me a chance to understand how a new machine operates without the stress of trying to learn in an operating shop environment," he said.
Is he happy with his choice to work for Methods Machine? "I am saying that this is the best job I have ever had, for several reasons," shared Warhol. "Working in a regular shop can become monotonous over the years. It gets to the point where you see the same parts every day. In this job I really don't get that. Over the last two weeks, for example, I've been to shops in five different states. They were each making different things and had very specific problems they needed addressed. There is always something new and interesting."
"Before I took the Accelerated CNC Skills class I was still dealing with quite a bit of anger and resentment from my previous job. The training helped me focus more on the future and less on the past. It also helped me remember how much I actually enjoy learning new facets of this industry. The machines may be different but the principals involved in making good parts doesn't change. It was also nice to be able to pass some of my knowledge along to other people in the class who were just starting out in the field." — Robert Warchol