CNC Lathe Machinist Job Description

CNC lathe machinists fabricate plastic and metal parts using computer numerical control (CNC) machines. The companies they work for typically serve clients in various fields, ranging from the aerospace industry to the medical industry. This is a skilled position that requires previous experience and relevant certifications and degrees. Working hours for CNC lathe machinists can vary depending on the project and workload. They typically report to shift leaders or project managers.


CNC Lathe Machinists Duties and Responsibilities

No two CNC lathe machinists are exactly alike, as specific skills vary from employer to employer. However, after analyzing online job postings, we identified several core duties and responsibilities common to the job:

Set Up Machines to Fabricate Parts

The main responsibility of CNC lathe machinists is setting up machines to fabricate specific parts that clients need. This setup process typically involves programming CNC machines with instructions, offsets, reference points, and other calculations to create the parts.

Review Blueprints

Before programming the CNC lathes, the CNC lathe machinist studies and reviews blueprints to understand the part being fabricated. This also includes interpreting overall engineering plans, surface locations, and machining parameters in order to correctly program the machines.

Inspect Finished Parts

Once parts have been fabricated, CNC lathe machinists are responsible for inspecting them for quality and blueprint accuracy. If parts don’t pass inspection, lathe machinists are responsible for identifying and reporting the problem to the appropriate supervisors or project managers.

Maintain Inventory

CNC lathe machinists are responsible for tracking and maintaining the stock of raw materials used to fabricate ordered parts. Once stock gets low, the CNC lathe machinist places an order for more or reports the low stock levels to the appropriate inventory managers.

Oversee Machine Maintenance

CNC machines need regular maintenance, and CNC lathe machinists are responsible for this upkeep. They constantly monitor the machines’ performance and identify areas that are lacking. Once problems are identified, the CNC lathe machinist schedules the needed maintenance and supervises it to make sure it is completed in a timely manner.


CNC Lathe Machinist Skills and Qualifications

CNC lathe machinists are technically minded, with good hand-eye coordination and an obsession with details. Successful CNC lathe machinists have at least a high school diploma or GED, along with any additional certifications required by the employer. CNC lathe machinists with at least three to five years of experience are usually more successful at gaining employment than candidates with less experience. Successful candidates also have the following skills:

  • Hand-eye coordination – operating industrial machinery requires increased hand-eye coordination; CNC lathe machinists react quickly to situations that happen instantaneously
  • Familiarity with industrial machinery – operating CNC machines requires a level of skill that can only come from working directly with them, so successful CNC lathe machinists have prior experience working with industrial machinery
  • Inventory management – CNC lathe machinists are skilled at managing inventory, which includes tracking stock and ordering it in the most efficient and cost-effective ways
  • Attention to detail – manufacturing parts requires an obsessive level of attention to detail, as many of these parts require precise and accurate measurements in order to work correctly
  • Safety-oriented – the safe use of CNC lathes and other machines is crucial for both efficient manufacturing and the well-being of all the employees


Tools of the Trade

CNC lathe machinists should be familiar with the following tools, which they may use on a daily basis:

  • CNC lathes
  • Measuring tools (calipers, micrometers, height and depth gauges)
  • Shop floor control software (IQMS MES, TrakSYS, E2 Shop System)
  • CAD software (AutoCAD, SketchUp, SolidWorks)


CNC Lathe Machinist Education and Training

CNC lathe machinists should have at least a high school diploma or GED when it comes to education. However, most employers look to hire candidates who have participated in an apprenticeship program or have additional certifications in metalworking or manufacturing, such as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certification.


CNC Lathe Machinist Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the median annual salary of CNC lathe machinists – categorized as machinists and tool and die makers – at $41,700. Machinists in the top 10 percent earn as much as $62,000 per year, while those in the lowest 10 percent make as little as $25,900 per year. CNC lathe machinists typically receive standard benefits packages from their employers that include health coverage and paid time off. They may also receive performance-based bonuses that depend on the machinist’s ability to meet production goals.

The BLS reports that CNC lathe machinists will experience an employment growth of about 2 percent through 2026. This lower than average job growth is due to increased automation and technological advancements with CNC machines.


Helpful Resources

Check out the following helpful resources to learn more about CNC lathe machinists and the overall machining industry:

American Machinist Metalworking Network – this LinkedIn group is comprised of metalworking professionals across the country. You can use it to connect to these working professionals, learn more about the industry, and improve your own skills

Practical Machinist – this website is dedicated to anything and everything that has to do with machining and metalworking. Here you can connect with the “largest manufacturing technology community on the web,” talk to people on the forum, or read through the eZine to learn more about the industry and the skills you need

Machinery’s Handbook – published more than 100 years ago and widely considered the most popular reference book for machinists all over the world, this reference tool covers a huge variety of topics specific to machining and metalworking

Blueprint Reading for the Machine Trades – this book starts with the bare basics of reading and interpreting blueprints before diving into visualization and multiview drawings, among other topics, to help you get up to speed on essential skills


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