Andrew Jones is a machine operator at a manufacturing company in Bradford that makes chipboard drawers for the furniture industry. He operates a wide range of wood cutting machinery.
What do you do?
I work on the beam saw, cutting chipboard. I use a forklift truck to load and unload material onto the saw, and then I set up the computer to determine cutting patterns.
How do you operate the machinery?
The beam saw is a huge piece of machinery – 15 metres long and enclosed with wire mesh. First I set the measurements for the blade. Then I load packs of chipboard onto large rollers, which feed eight sheets at a time into the saw. When this had been cut, I lift off the cut board at the end and take it to the next part of the manufacturing process.
Is there much variety in your work?
Some of my tasks are routine, for instance I have to clean down the machine and change the saw blade every day. However, because we produce drawers to customer specifications, the patterns and material change daily. I might be making drawers for cabinets, beds, or office furniture. I have to be able to prioritise the orders and cutting patterns to keep on top of the work.
What was your route to becoming a furniture manufacturer?
I started as a general assistant through the Government agency, Atwork, two years ago. I originally started on the foil slitter, but then applied to be trained on the beam saw, as it was a more complicated machine and hence more interesting.
What training have you had?
I've had full training on all aspects of maintenance and operation. The training is very important, as I need to operate the machinery safely. Nobody is allowed to work on a machine until they have completed their training record.
Do you work regular hours?
The shifts are from 7.00 am to 3.30 pm and from 3.30 pm to midnight, Monday to Friday.
What do you like best about your furniture manufacturer job?
It's a responsible job - I'm kept involved in the planning and I have to make sure that I've cut sufficient material to keep the main factory in operation.
Do you need a lot of technical skills for this work?
Some technical ability is important. Computer skills are useful too and I am currently studying to improve my IT skills. A proactive approach is really important – being able to spot problems and rectify them quickly.
Andrew's route to becoming a furniture manufacturer
- BTEC First National in Electrical & Electronics.
- City & Guilds Micro Computers, Level 2 in Unix Admin.
- Study to gain as high a qualification as you can.
- You have to be reliable and hard working.
- Set yourself targets.
Furniture manufacturer related jobs
- Cabinet maker
- Engineering craft/CNC machinist
- Engineering operative
- Paper manufacturing operative
- Turner/miller Wood machinist
Salary of a furniture manufacturer
- Salaries start at £13,000 a year, rising to £18,000 for experienced staff.
- Overtime and shift allowances may also be payable.
How to become a furniture manufacturer
- Furniture manufacturing operatives don't usually need formal qualifications, although basic maths helps for calculating measurements.
- Apprenticeships may be available. Entry requirements vary, but most employers expect GCSEs/S grades (A-E/1-5) in maths, English and science, or equivalent.
- As well as general manufacturing Apprenticeships and qualifications, there are qualifications particularly relevant for people working in furniture manufacturing – City & Guilds Progression Award in Wood Machining/Furniture, NVQ/SVQ Wood Machining Levels 2 and 3, and NVQ/SVQ Furniture Production Levels 1, 2 and 3.
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