Nate Zobel’s job as a CNC operations manager at Loll Designs ranges from getting dirty from machine work on the floor to strategizing with employees about improving production tasks. He notes that finding the time to do his overall tasks and to put out the daily “fires” that seem to pop up is always on the agenda.
He’s worked at Loll Designs since 2012, where he supervises a team of employees. He first earned his machine technology CNC programmer diploma and then a A.A.S. degree from Lake Superior College in 2011. He is now pursuing a bachelor of applied science (BASc), in engineering at Bemidji State University where he plans to become a process engineer.
Zobel comes from a line of tinkerers, including his dad, who was a machinist. “I admired my dad’s detailed discussions about part features. Attention to detail is a big part of machining. Whether you’re learning how to produce a part on a machine or the specifications of a drawing, knowing these details are critical for success.”
Based in Duluth, MN, Loll Designs is a designer/manufacturer of durable, all-weather, outdoor furniture and accessories made with recycled plastic – mostly from single-use milk jugs. Using thoughtful, original designs and unique materials, Loll creates innovative, fun and high-quality products crafted in the USA.
“My job allows me to enjoy working with my hands in a shop while working from an office setting. I always joke and say that when I need a break from the office work, I need to get out to the shop.”
Zobel doesn’t have a typical day but if he did, it goes something like this: he takes a quick run through the CNC shop to make sure there are no issues with equipment or the operators. Then he spends the rest of his day fixing machines, training, and doing continuous improvement projects. “I am always on my feet running around. I love the many facets of my job that keep me busy and my brain working,” he said. “I do leave time for an afternoon coffee break. My specialty is honey steamed into a milk latte.”
Zobel chose to attend LSC due to the engagement that the college has with the community.
“LSC gets involved with the community in many ways through working with high schools and regional manufacturers.” He now passes on that commitment to his field by volunteering at the FIRST Robotics competition as a judge and serving on the LSC integrated manufacturing advisory committee.
He encourages high school students and adults to consider a machining career. “Get involved early!” said Zobel. “Take the time to tour a technical college that provides machining classes and join shop class if it’s available. You get such a great feeling of success when making an entire part from a piece of material. This includes design, drawing, and producing (machining and welding) it. It’s exciting to see a part transform through the process.”