Essential skills for success as a machinist

Machinists use essential skills to complete trade-related tasks. Use this fact sheet to:

  • learn how essential skills are used on the job;
  • find out the skills you need to succeed in your trade; and
  • help prepare yourself for your career.


  • Read shift notes and log book entries about work in progress.
  • Read memos and bulletins about industry-wide news.
  • Read supplier catalogues to find information on new tools.
  • Read instructions on work orders.
  • Read manuals to learn how to carry out work.

Document use

  • Complete checklists and other forms to document work completed, place requests and identify problems.
  • Scan work orders to find assigned tasks, materials required, shipping dates, order numbers and client names.
  • Review graphs to identify trends in production cycles.
  • Review photographs and sketches of parts to estimate measurements.
  • Interpret scale drawings.


  • Take length, height and weight measurements of raw materials.
  • Compare measurements of machined parts to measurements on scale drawings to ensure parts are produced within specified tolerances.
  • Estimate the duration of machining jobs.
  • Estimate the amount of material required to carry out machining jobs.
  • Calculate the difference between raw and finished dimensions.
  • Review quality control data to examine trends in machine performance.
  • Calculate all finished product dimensions of a part before starting a job.
  • Adjust daily work schedules to accommodate rush jobs or jobs that take longer than expected.
  • Use formula to calculate the placement of holes, sprocket teeth and shaft threads.


  • Write brief notes to record procedures for setting up or carrying out jobs.
  • Write requests for equipment repairs and tool replacements.
  • Write reports describing problems encountered on the job, corrective actions taken and recommendations for improvements.

Oral communication

  • Talk to co-workers about work completed at shift changeovers.
  • Share opinions with co-workers, such as how to complete unfamiliar machining tasks.
  • Coordinate work plans with other machinists to complete large orders.
  • Clarify work instructions with supervisors when scale drawings or work orders are unclear or incomplete.
  • Talk to customers on the phone or in person to confirm orders.
  • Discuss features and compare specifications of new tooling products with suppliers.
  • Discuss machining jobs during team meetings.

Working with others

  • Work with other machinists to carry out new or complex tasks or to solve problems.
  • Work in pairs or small groups when carrying out work on larger jobs.
  • Work with engineering staff to ensure documentation is complete and accurate.
  • Participate in formal discussions about work processes or product improvement.
  • Inform and demonstrate how to perform tasks to other workers.
  • Orient new employees.


  • Adjust the machining process to accommodate minor defects in materials.
  • Use manuals to look up formulae, tolerances and other key information when interpreting job specifications.
  • Decide when parts must be replaced.
  • Substitute materials or adjust work schedules when parts or materials needed for a job are not available.
  • Decide which equipment, tools and measuring instruments are most appropriate for a specific job.
  • Consult co-workers and supervisors to gather information missing from scale drawings.
  • Perform routine troubleshooting to determine the cause of equipment failures.
  • Determine the suitability of tools and equipment for machining jobs.
  • Plan the sequence of tasks for machining particular parts.
  • Interpret sketches when information is vague or missing.

Computer use

  • Use databases to access documents.
  • Use email to communicate with supervisors, customers and suppliers.
  • Use the Internet to search product catalogues and other supplier information.
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining software.

Continuous learning

  • Read trade magazines, industry journals, manuals and supplier catalogues to keep up-to-date on changes and new products.
  • Learn on the job and through discussions with co-workers and supervisors.
  • Participate in workplace training.
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