The Skills You Learn Working In a Custom Fabrication Shop

The skills you learn
working in a custom fabrication shop

What are the skills you learn from working in a custom fabrication shop? A better question might be, “What skills don’t you learn from working in a custom fabrication shop?” Working in a custom fabrication shop forces you to improve your communication, critical thinking and technical skills. 

THE SKILLS YOU LEARN

WORKING IN A CUSTOM FABRICATION SHOP

What are the skills you learn from working in a custom fabrication shop? A better question might be, “What skills don’t you learn from working in a custom fabrication shop?” Working in a custom fabrication shop forces you to improve your communication, critical thinking and technical skills.

Communication

  • Customer Service – When you work in a custom fabrication shop you have to understand exactly what the customer needs. It’s not as simple as, “We sell this box, at this size, for this price.” You are creating something new and there are always different variables that come into play. That’s why it is critical for both parties to understand each other at every level of the development process. 

You’ll want to establish a relationship with each customer and find out which method of communication works best for them. Some customers love to hop on the phone, while others only want to communicate through email. Not every project will require the same amount of communication or the same style. As always, with custom work, you will need to adapt and consider how to approach each customer. 

The custom industry somewhat forces you to keep in contact as different variables could potentially table more discussions. This constant contact should increase your customer relationship, which inevitably improves your level of customer service. As an employee, you will learn how to provide the best customer service to each client and the custom industry as a whole. 

  • Negotiating – Another aspect of communication that you’ll learn is the art of negotiation. Sometimes customers that come into a custom fabrication shop expecting a custom piece for the price of a mass-produced product. They may not understand the timely process of designing a product and bringing it to life. Your job is to educate them on the custom industry and illustrate the process of product development. When you are negotiating the costs you’ll have to also factor in variables such as overhead, expertise, time, equipment, etc. A good practice to get into the habit of is to not give any sort of estimate right off the cuff. It’s better to get back with a customer rather than giving them a sticker shock after you figure out the actual cost. 

  • Internally – You’ll learn very quickly that communicating with the customer is not the only opportunity you’ll have to improve your communication skills. Now that you understand what the customer needs, you need to communicate it to the rest of your team. This channel of communication is so important not only for the project at hand but the overall structure of the company. The company won’t be able to thrive if the internal team can’t…
    • Mediate Disagreements – Since you won’t be doing the same work every day you’ll have to collaborate more than you might in a typical working environment. There will be more decisions to make and you’ll have to learn to meditate when there are disagreements. 
    • Collaborate – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Two is better than one.” This little saying holds true to your internal team at your custom shop. Workers must have synergy when it comes to collaborating over processes, projects and day-to-day tasks.  
    • Listen to Each Other – You’ll learn it’s easier to communicate when you listen first. It’s easy to get caught up on your train of thought, but try to keep your ears open along with an open-mind. You’ll be surprised by the things you learn. 

Regardless of the work you do, communication is key. However, in the custom world, it can be harder to convey ideas not only because you are creating new projects, but you’ll be working with more than one industry. You’ll find yourself working on your communication on a daily basis. Over time, it will get easier and you’ll find yourself advancing in the art of communication. 

Critical Thinking Skills: 

As an employer, you don’t want to hold everyone’s hand through every project. You want them to be able to think for themselves. Anyone working in a custom fabrication shop should have the following critical skills: 

  • Problem-Solving – It’s inevitable that if you work in a custom fabrication shop, you will learn problem-solving. If you don’t, you will probably not be working there much longer, because it’s part of the daily routine. If you can problem-solve you will enhance those skills each and every day at a custom shop. Every day you’ll get better at attention to detail, evaluation and decision making. 
  • Creativity – Bouncing off from problem-solving, having a creative edge is helpful when working at a custom fabrication shop. That being said, if you haven’t flexed your creative muscles much, you will when you’re given custom after custom projects. You’ll get better at envisioning projects, making connections and predicting solutions. 
  • Risk Management – In every work environment there are risks. In custom work, some of the most common risks are opportunity risks, operational/employee risks and financial risks.
    • Opportunity Risks – There are a lot of opportunity risks when it comes to quoting. More often than not, custom work is sent out to a list of vendors. It’s not a guarantee that when you quote something, you’ll get the work. Thus, the resources spent completing the quote are risked every time a quote is done. 
    • Operational/Employee Risks – It requires a lot of experience and expertise to be a great worker in any custom field. Every day an employer takes on the risk of losing a great worker that isn’t exactly easy to replace. 
    • Financial Risks – This section could go on for a while, so let’s just focus on one of the financial risks a custom shop takes on. We’ll focus on the financial risk of rework. A lot of the time custom work involves redrawing, then testing, then redesigning, then testing again. I think you get the picture. A lot of time and materials can be lost in this rework and/or you risk the sticker shock you give your customers when they see how much custom design can cost. It’s always good to give customers a quote ahead of time before getting into this designing process. You don’t want to put a ton of time into designing until a price has been approved and possibly a deposit has been made. 

Technical Skills:

  • Your Craft – Working at a custom shop gives you the opportunity to truly master your craft. For example, let’s say machinist A has been working at Company A for over 20 years. Every day machinist A makes the same part over and over again. There may be a few adjustments here or there, but essentially it’s been the same part for 20 years. Machinist B has been working at Company B for over 20 years. Every day machinist B is presented with a new machining project. Machinist B uses different machines, processes and operations every day. Machinist B now knows how to take any machining blueprint to the final product. 

Which machinist would you say has mastered their craft? 

  • Jack of All Trades – Along with mastering your craft, working in a custom fab shop will give you the opportunity to learn other technical skills. You may not become an expert in them, but you will become familiar with the lingo and process of other trades. This may not come in handy for your specific craft, but it certainly could when talking with customers.  
  • Equipment – When working in a custom fabrication shop you will more likely deal with an array of equipment. Because every job is different, each job may require different settings, processes or equipment altogether. When working with equipment/technology at some time or another there will be break-downs, malfunctions, maintenance, etc. Not every worker will have to be included when these incidents pop up, but you still learn about the machine’s capabilities and functions when these circumstances happen. Whether that be learning what triggered a malfunction or knowing when it’s time for a part to be replaced. Having these experiences with multiple pieces of equipment will undoubtedly enhance your technical skills. 

You’ll learn very quickly that custom work is not black and white. It takes time to learn the industry and understand your customers. It can be frustrating at times, but the outcome is very rewarding. There is a lot of pride in custom work, as there should be. Custom workers offer something that not everyone can. It takes a lot of skills to be successful in this field of work. 

Working in a custom fabrication shop will give you a lot of experience in a variety of skills. From communication to critical thinking and of course, technical skills. These aren’t the only skills you’ll learn from working in a custom shop, but they are good skills to key in on. If you have worked in a custom shop, remember that you are not only gaining work experience, you’re gaining a skill set that you can take with you anywhere you go. If you haven’t worked in a custom shop, think about where you want to be 20 years from now and what kind of skill-set you want to achieve in your career. You may find that working in a custom fabrication shop is exactly what you’re looking for. 

You’ll learn very quickly that custom work is not black and white. It takes time to learn the industry and understand your customers. It can be frustrating at times, but the outcome is very rewarding. There is a lot of pride in custom work, as there should be. Custom workers offer something that not everyone can. It takes a lot of skills to be successful in this field of work.

Working in a custom fabrication shop will give you a lot of experience in a variety of skills. From communication to critical thinking and of course, technical skills. These aren’t the only skills you’ll learn from working in a custom shop, but they are good skills to key in on. If you have worked in a custom shop, remember that you are not only gaining work experience, you’re gaining a skill set that you can take with you anywhere you go. If you haven’t worked in a custom shop, think about where you want to be 20 years from now and what kind of skill-set you want to achieve in your career. You may find that working in a custom fabrication shop is exactly what you’re looking for.