Making Remote Work Practical for CNC Programmers

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) digitally transforms machining.

Although it’s a significant stride forward in automating processes, it still requires skilled people to direct it. Those optimised production parameters, precision laser cuts, and tight-tolerance measurements all depend on the CNC programmer controlling the machine with software such as ESPRIT, BLMelements, and Mastercam. 

There are two trends to watch. The first is that CAM adoption is predicted to increase. Global industry analysts project the CAM market will grow to $4.6 billion at an 8.4% CAGR from 2022 to 2026. Driving that growth is increased use in specific sectors, such as automotive and aerospace, and enterprises creating intelligent, connected processes that leverage Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology. 

Second, while CAM becomes more ubiquitous, so will remote work. Research by Ladders estimates that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of this year. Furthermore, while The Great Resignation continues and manufacturers compete for talent, they need to be mindful of GoodHire research that found 68% of Americans choose remote work versus working in an office, and 85% prefer to apply for jobs that offer remote flexibility. 

The outcrop forced by these trends is that more CNC programmers and product engineers will work from home. 

Manufacturers Need a Comprehensive Work-From-Home Strategy 

Manufacturers that quickly transitioned to remote work during the pandemic found that there’s more to enabling working from home than giving a CNC programmer a VPN login. Productivity depends on enabling work as quickly at home as in the office with an internet connection with adequate bandwidth and quality of service. 

Additionally, remote employees won’t suddenly work independently. They’re still part of a team. It’s necessary to deploy solutions that facilitate teamwork, such as unified communications (UC) solutions for easy messaging, voice, and video communications and collaboration solutions like Jira or Backlog. Furthermore, manufacturers will enhance their operations with a move to cloud solutions. Transitioning from on-premises solutions to the cloud will result in greater agility, accessibility, and scalability. Managers will also benefit from greater access to data to monitor productivity and other key performance indicators (KPIs) related to their areas of responsibility. 

Building a Secure Work-From Home Strategy 

Manufacturers also need to expand their security strategies to include remote work. Remote programmers and engineers should use corporate-owned devices, configured with security software and dedicated to only work-related tasks. Manufacturers should also require multi-factor authentication (MFA) to use the device to prevent unauthorised people from unlocking it. 

In addition, although no one wants the expense of replacing a lost or stolen laptop, a business‘s IT department needs to plan for that contingency and maintain visibility and control to prevent the loss of corporate data. However, manufacturers also need a strategy that ensures costly software licences aren’t lost as well. A USB dongle server enables programmers or engineers to use copy-protected software licences over the network. With a USB dongle, the software doesn’t have to be uploaded onto laptops, but the user experience is the same as if it were. Therefore, if the laptop is lost or stolen, the software licence and data stored on it aren’t lost along with it. 

Moving Forward 

Remote work will be a reality for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers must address the work-from-home trend to stay competitive as an employer and must develop a strategy that ensures remote work is productive, effective, and secure. Optimising each facet of the work-from-home model will help ensure the same accuracy, precision and efficiency of CAM processes will continue, regardless of where the CNC programmer or engineer is working.

About the Author

Mike Majewski is CEO at SEH Technology. SEH is a manufacturer of high quality network solutions. With over 35 years of experience in printing and networks we possess broad and profound solution skills in these areas for all types of business environments. Worldwide distribution is via our US and UK subsidiaries and an extensive network of partners, distributors, and resellers. 

Featured image: ©Green-Butterfly