Manufacturing Skills That Are Transferable

Two years ago, it seemed as if there would never be another job where I would ever make as much money as a I did in manufacturing because I didn’t have skills relevant to any other line of work.

I’m still not convinced that I can make “manufacturing money” anywhere else.

But the truth is that we’re always building skill sets and competencies while we’re at work (regardless of where we might be working at the time).

I’ve said it before, but I’ll give a little background of where I came from…

In High School I went to a vocational school to learn some auto body refinishing skills and techniques, but I didn’t do anything professionally with that knowledge (right away). I graduated, and jumped into the first paying job I could get as a barista, and I stuck with it for a couple of years to learn soft skills (customer service, handling money, working as a team, etc).

I went from that job to a super specific niche company building reproduction exhaust systems for vintage American muscle cars of the mid 1960s to late 1970s. That job was nuts because everything had to match the factory system exactly [every bend of the pipes, every letter on the head of a bolt in the kit had to be spot-on, the SAME]. I loved this job though, the company was great and passionate.

From there, I got into sheet metal manufacturing, where I honed a lot of the skills I learned from body work; I also learned assembly, and logistics/shipping competencies before moving to a managerial position where I learned customer and vendor relations and how businesses should integrate procedures and structure.


While I was in each of those jobs, I didn’t feel like I was gaining valuable skills, I was simply ‘doing my job’ while trying to earn more money and confidence as an adult in the workforce without a college education.

Here’s what I learned, and YOU can pull from you own experiences!

People are very complicated

No two people work the same, so you cannot assume every job will be done exactly the same. [That does not mean you won’t get similar results].

We may start at the same place in a race, and end at the same place, but the path might be completely different. There’s nothing wrong with that in today’s world.

Having the ability to communicate is very important, no matter where we work, or what kind of work we do. So pay attention while you’re suppose to be listening to people, because most of the time they tell you exactly what they need to hear from you.

Don’t try and develop a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula to deal with people, because it’s bound to be a flop when you put it into practice in the real world.

Don’t be fake to people either because they hate that. This next part is very important though.

Don’t be outwardly rude, or disrespectful to people.

  • Be flexible, not fake.
  • Don’t pick fights or fan the fire of an argument.
  • Let things go (don’t hold grudges).
  • Understand that we’re all going through things at times.
  • Give people slack, but keep them accountable.
  • Keep yourself accountable.
  • Have integrity.
  • Show respect.
  • Be clear in your communication.
  • Treat others how you would like to be treated.

Organization is so important

It’s crazy that I would even have to say this in the year 2020, but organize yourself!

I don’t mean that you have to label the keyboard, mouse, and have a tape outline for all of the items on your desk. I mean have some common sense.

If you work in an organized way, you’ll be efficient.

In a sheet metal shop, imagine you’re going to do a project from start to finish.

You’ll need to do the following:

  1. Obtain the order from the customer with details.
  2. Determine the design/program of the product. [Make it on a computer].
  3. Figure the amount of material you’ll need to use to make it.
  4. Order the material, and all hardware necessary to complete the project.
  5. Build out the project in an order that makes sense.
  6. Determine you have all necessary tools to do the project (all dies for press brakes, capable welders, etc).

There is a lot of value in properly organizing your work, and it transfers to every single job you’ll ever have.

Blueprint Reading!

It’s one of the most difficult parts of the job for some people who start out in manufacturing.

I know that I had never even seen a blueprint before I started working in the sheet metal fabrication shop, but I caught on after learning some valuable lessons through mistakes.

Reading a blueprint is a lot like reading directions, only they’re not broken way down to super basic instructions for production.

You basically look at the picture, and make the product look like it. The dimensions that are provided help you make the product to the appropriate scale compared to the drawing.

If you get into any other field where you’re building plan-o-grams for stores, or assembling tractors or working as a mechanic, knowing how to read blueprints will transfer into service manuals or documents that need to be followed.

Having the skills to decipher the complicated information on a blueprint is going to help grow your mechanical mind in a way that allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Evaluate your skills

Take a moment today to identify what skills you’ve obtained in your career in manufacturing, and how they may translate to a better opportunity down the road.

Maybe you’re a manager and have a lot of influence over the people that you deal with on a regular day, or you get along with people really well.

That’s going to help you become the “big boss” later on down the road, so it’s a skill that’s worth practicing even more.

Work harder on improving your strengths than you do on your weaknesses, because even if you get really good in an area that you were weak, you’re still never going to be absolutely phenomenal at it.

If you put the time into improving your strengths, you’re going to be able to dominate in that area and see the benefits down the road.

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