BERT MAES

The Future of CNC Manufacturing Education – CNC Manufacturing, Education Reform & Change Management News.

Posts Tagged ‘Shortage’

A weak manufacturing sector is like having a weak immune system

Posted by Bert Maes on April 5, 2012


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Every lost manufacturing job means the loss of around 2.3 other jobs in the economy (e.g. in research and design). Manufacturing’s decline slows economic growth. While manufacturing represents 10% of the jobs in the economy, job loss in manufacturing hits nearly 30% of the economy.

There is a structural weakness in our manufacturing. Our manufacturing is not competitive. Invasion of import competition from China was responsible for between one‐quarter to more than one‐half of the lost manufacturing jobs in the 2000s.

A new report – published by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation – states that “the loss of manufacturing is due to underinvestment in manufacturing technology support policies (…), among others.

Underinvestment in medium- and high-technology is causing a structural decline of our economy. To be able to use those technologies, we of course need high-tech skills.

So the future of manufacturing begins with education, and with the resulting high-skilled top talent.

The current situation of manufacturing is like having a weakened immune system.

Without the right system of cells you will never keep the integrity of the body intact.

The body has soldiers, members of the immune system army:  the B-cell and the T-cell. The dutiful soldiers get into action the moment any foreign substance or agent enters our body. B-cells circulate all around the body in the bloodstream, and eventually bind to the agent. T-cells circulate in the bloodstream and lymph and kill the agent. The blood and lymph systems are responsible for transporting the soldiers of the immune system.

  • The blood stream is our education system.
  • The B-cells are our high-level technologies.
  • The T-cells are our highly-skilled workers.

They are our protective shields to combat infections. If our cells are not strong enough, viruses are attacking our vital organs.

Germany, Korea and Japan have transformed to high-skilled manufacturing. They have a significantly higher share of their manufacturing output in high-tech and medium-high-tech industries than the United States; they have transformed their manufacturing industries toward more complex, higher-value-added production. They face less competition, so they increase their manufacturing employment.

More and stronger cells, a better blood stream, a stronger immune system that shows higher productivity is required for strong health.

More students, more advanced technology, better education is required for economic success.

With a strong manufacturing immune system, the economy would be much healthier.

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Spanish and Portuguese Students: A Five-Axis Manufacturing Future

Posted by Bert Maes on July 28, 2011


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School principal Mr. José António Gomes feels that that investing in the Haas VF-2 isn’t just right, but is also risk-free. “First of all,” he says, “it’s risk free because of the quality of the Haas machines, but also because of the well-known service capabilities of After Sales. But, maybe more importantly, even when the economy is down, the best investment is in knowledge. With knowledge, there is no risk of devaluation or depreciation. Giving our young people the ability to make things with 5-axis technology will never be a waste of money.”

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As most readers know, Haas Automation’s European HTEC (Haas Technical Education Centre) programme continues to go from strength-to-strength, as more and more schools on the Continent invest in the latest Haas machine tool technology to create state-of-the-art CNC teaching facilities.

However, not every school that invests in Haas machines chooses to be an HTEC. Some have more specific requirements. In the case of two, recently opened teaching-workshops in Spain and Portugal, that requirement was for low-cost, high capability 5-axis machine tools.

The Centro de Formação Profissional of Águeda, Portugal, opened on July 7th, 2011, and the IES Politécnico de Vigo, Spain, opened on July 8th. Each school has invested in a Haas VF-2 CNC machining centre equipped with a Haas TRT160 – a tilting 160 mm, 2-axis CNC rotary table, giving 5, simultaneous cutting axes. Both machines are supplied and supported by the local Haas Factory Outlet, a division of Portugal-based After Sales, SA.

Águeda’s economy has a strong, metal processing sector. “Two things are keeping this region healthy,” says mayor, Mr. Gil Nadais: “agriculture and metal manufacturing. We need to increase our turnover in these key export sectors and investing in innovative technology is essential for the future of this region.” School principal Mr. José António Gomes feels that that investing in the Haas VF-2 isn’t just right, but is also risk-free.

“First of all,” he says, “it’s risk free because of the quality of the Haas machines, but also because of the well-known service capabilities of After Sales. But, maybe more importantly, even when the economy is down, the best investment is in knowledge. With knowledge, there is no risk of devaluation or depreciation. Giving our young people the ability to make things with 5-axis technology will never be a waste of money.”

The economy in Vigo, Spain, Galicia’s economic powerhouse, relies heavily on local automotive manufacturing.  Mr. Antonio Estévez is headmaster at IES Politéchnico de Vigo. “Our priority is ensuring the car industry can find people skilled in mechanical engineering and maintenance,” he says. “Each year we invest in the latest equipment to ensure our students have the most up to date and practical preparation possible. The five axis Haas VF-2 is the right investment to develop skills that Galician companies need.

Several Haas industry partner companies – including Mastercam, Sandvik, Chick and Cimcool, also supported the grand openings of the two new teaching workshops. Managing Director of After Sales SA, Mr. Carlos Vilas-Boas feels that the role of his HFO is, in many instances, one of facilitator. “We take service and support very seriously,” he says, “and we believe it includes connecting students, teachers, employers, technology companies and politicians. These two events are good examples of how, when we all work together, the benefits are better training and, ultimately, greater productivity and stronger economies.”

Haas Europe HTEC coordinator Mr. Bert Maes also attended the grand openings. “These two schools have forward-looking managers and top-quality, industry-experienced teachers,” he says. “Combined with the easy-to-use Haas 5th axis technology, the result is highly skilled and motivated students with the technical ability to build complex projects like the ones I’ve seen today: from small wind-powered generators to fully-functioning customised, computer mice. I am convinced that many companies in Portugal and Galicia will benefit from the time and energy After Sales is investing in these important schools.”

www.HTECnetwork.eu

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German manufacturers recruit professionals from Spain and Bulgaria

Posted by Bert Maes on July 25, 2011


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The German manufacturers lack skilled workers. So they are urgently looking for young engineers and experts in crisis-torn Spain. Initial negotiations are successful.

But kids in technical education have to know foreign languages!

High unemployment in Spain encouraged workers to emigrate

In Baden-Wuerttemberg alone, several thousand posts are vacant. We are now looking to the neighboring EU countries to acquire staff. The time seems favorable, because Spain experiences a very high level of unemployment, especially among young people. In Spain, many young engineers are unemployed,” said Dr. Beate Raabe of the Central Placement and Placement Services of the Employment Agency.

Since the beginning, the authorities have encouraged recruitment on the Iberian Peninsula. This pleases Ulrich P. Hermani, Managing Director of VDMA Baden-Wuerttemberg. “We strongly support the initiative and pushed to have this,” says Schwabe, who has personally appealed to the Regional Directorate of the Agency’s work.

Its member companies are hoping for well-trained professionals from the Spanish automotive industry. The mechanical and technical ability of the Spaniards are more than ever in demand between Friedrichshafen and Mannheim. And the Iberians seem ready for Teutonic challenges.

Wittenstein has already placed job advertisements in Spain

Wittenstein AG doesn’t have Spaniards yet, but they have placed job offers on site. Important for the company is that they know spoken and written German. German courses are available for Spanish experts.

The departure of the sun, paella and bullfighting is sweetened by a safe workplace and a long-term perspective, according to VDMA. “It is known throughout Europe, that Germany has come well out of the crisis and is looking for professionals,” the employment agency writes.

But Hermani, Association Manager, doesn’t expect a big rush. “We must not give ourselves the illusion that this will solve the skills shortage. There is not enough influx from abroad, and I mean all foreign countries,” Dr. Hannes Hesse adds, Executive Director of the VDMA, Frankfurt. He is counting on the students. “We think especially the foreign students are perfect immigrants. After the end of their studies, they should remain in Germany”.

Bulgaria also interesting for professionals recruitment

Nevertheless: his colleague Hermani looks to Eastern Europe and especially to Bulgaria, having a long tradition of mechanical engineering. In neighboring Hungary, many experts acknowledge, no specialists are available. A scenario for Spain? “With the recruitment of unemployed candidates, we relieve the Spanish labor market locally,” says Raabe of the employment agency.

But is it morally legitimate and economically sensible to make use of an ailing partner country and its expertise, and in retrospect support him with millions of euros, economists ask themselves.

Who is helping the Spaniards, to take advantage of economic misery in the absence of young professionals?

Source: MaschinenMarkt – Robert Weber

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The more we develop the manufacturing skills of our youth, the more manufacturing will come back

Posted by Bert Maes on May 19, 2011


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Things should not always be made in the country with the lowest wages. And there is a simple reason:

Chinese graduates lack the level of skills that global manufacturers expect, even when they produce thousands of those graduates, Deloitte reports. Firms face problems in finding people with adequate leadership skills, team work, English skills, problem-solving abilities, and managerial skills.

The Chinese education system simply does not inculcate independent critical thinking, which is a pre-requisite for working in today’s manufacturing environment.

Manufacturing is a multidimensional world that is not only about cost-driven decisions anymore. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) lists several examples of companies that have already brought plants and jobs back to America. And that is not only because of the rising labor costs in China (pay for factory workers in China soared by 69% between 2005 and 2010) but even more because of the shortage of skilled workers in China.

Caterpillar, a maker of vehicles that dig, pull or plough; Sauder, an American furniture-maker; NCR producing cash machines; and the Frisbee and Hula Hoop manufacturer Wham-O are restoring their production from China to the West.

This clearly shows that the more we develop the manufacturing skills of the youth of our nation, the more manufacturing is expected to return to us. The HTEC program has significant value to build the skills necessary for modern factories. Manufacturing workforce shortage continues, unless large manufacturing companies commit to invest in these advanced training and skills.

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The Ideal Teacher and the Real Manufacturing Opportunities

Posted by Bert Maes on February 4, 2011


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Just yesterday I have been in France at what is called the WorldSkills France competition finals (Olympiades des Métiers), a big feast honoring young skilled craftsmen in industrial trades, including the trade of advanced manufacturing machining.

The hundreds of young students I have seen competing there were working so hard, so motivated, so energized and they were so proud of what they were creating. We actually made a video on the event that I will post later on when editing is done.

I was especially honored to also meet a machining teacher with 20 years of turning and milling practice and 24 years of teaching experience. For me he seems to be the ideal CNC teacher:

  • He doesn’t have a binder under his arm: he detests the teachers that focus all resources into book theory and do not offer a real hands-on degree.
  • He takes the time and has the kindness and patience to teach the practical basics in blueprint reading, engineering, design, metallurgy, materials, speeds and feeds, cutting tools, programming, math, safety, and communication. His students receive the breadth training that is required to sculpt a well-rounded, versatile machining specialist… far more than a button pusher, parts changer or a trained monkey at a CNC machine.
  • He battles constantly to always have access to the latest machining equipment. The world is changing at a dramatic pace and today’s young people are used to constant change and challenges. In order to attract them, the machining school department must continually develop to offer the tools and practices that show a future.
  • He lets students develop their own metal artwork for their final exams. He requires his students to be creative and to make anything they want to. Together they develop great projects. They never experience boredom.
  • He takes them outside the school to see metal pieces perform in the real world: planes, cars, medical devices, musical instruments, jewelery, all kinds of sports, and so on. That builds self-confidence and passion.

This guy makes schooling and the trade very interesting. Then, there is no end to the students’ engagement. He plants seeds for cultivating those young people to advance in the machining trade. His students even cried when he announced to leave his previous school. This teacher makes advanced machining manufacturing a fascinating career choice. All of his students were hired quickly.

This story is only successful because of the hard work of this teacher, school management, parents, and students. I hear many people say that young people do not want to work hard in school anymore: they take the route of least resistance; they want to make money with limited effort in no time. In this age obtaining information, communication, merchandise, food and practically anything is effortless at the touch of a button. So it should be the same for money, they think.

True, probably money can be made much faster by not pursuing a manufacturing career. But… who are the heroes of our economy? The talented, rough and intelligent individuals that start a manufacturing business in their garage and turn out amazing products. Computerized equipment, CNC machines, CAD/CAM, lean processes and the internet have greatly enhanced manufacturing job satisfaction, while reaching an audience they never could have 10 or 15 years ago.

An inspiring example is the story of Mike who started his own manufacturing company at the age of 15.

The opportunities to work, make money and grow in the metal manufacturing field are real.

  • Metals were one of the few durable goods where manufacturing increased in 2010. Employment in fabricated metal products manufacturing increased by 4.6%.

But those manufacturing companies have difficulties in recruiting the talented young machining experts having the right skills for their high-level job openings. All over France, school machining departments are being closed as they don’t get sufficient enrollment.

Considering that millions of people are actively seeking work and still cannot obtain employment and considering that in twenty years 90% of the current machinists are retiring, it is now more important than ever to do start better teaching with better equipment and better marketing for CNC manufacturing!

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Future manufacturing depends on young talent with advanced analytical skills

Posted by Bert Maes on December 2, 2010


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We don’t know how the manufacturing industry will look like in 15 years. But Accenture gives it a try in “A perspective on tomorrow’s high-performance manufacturing firms: what’s your plan for 2025?

The management consulting company touches concepts such as hyper-customization & crowdsourcing, respond more quickly and accurately to customer needs, and tightly align with suppliers.

But they admit that all these strategic activities and new models hinges on having young people with the right skills on the shop floor.

A first-order challenge in this regard will be getting enough people with the right “thinking” skills (beyond operator skills or pure technical skills), coaching and management skills to regions where operations are expanding or being put in place. Advanced analytical skills will be in especially high demand, says Accenture.

The challenge today is to teach young people the skills to interpret quantitative methods from data in customer behavior, the supply chain, product development, and production lines, and then use those insights to shape business decisions and, ultimately, to improve outcomes.

Manufacturers seems to have loads of shop floor data, but many struggle to make sense of it all. The goal is to use real-time data from shop-floor systems to quickly anticipate problems in cost, quality, productivity, or customer service so that staff can make immediate course corrections.

But, shortfalls of skilled labor are projected for the fastest-growing markets. India faces a potential shortage of 2.45 million engineers by 2020, and China’s gap in skilled professionals could reach 5.9 million by 2015. This raises serious questions about whether education systems, societies and individuals understand the demand issue correctly. The younger generation does not step up its technical, maths and business management skills.

And a lack of quality training and education also contributes to the shortages. Given the increasing complexity of technology, people will need more quality education, not less. And this needs to be done on the most modern equipment. None of the young talents will want to learn old systems.

A great approach is the Stepping Up To Algebra program, designed for 7th grade students who struggle in math. Xavier testifies “I never liked math, I always got bad grades, until I got into Stepping Up To Algebra. My teacher made me feel like I could be successful in math and that I was good enough to go to college. The field trip to San Jose State and the engineering department was great, and made me start thinking about college. Now I want to be an engineer.

But even if the quality of education improves, there appears to be a cultural aversion among youngsters to enter the STEM disciplines. Parents must encourage their children to enter these disciplines. Parent engagement is the cornerstone of academic achievement. And studying in technical fields is absolutely worth it.

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Manufacturing Machinist: 1 of the 7 Jobs Companies are Desperate to Fill

Posted by Bert Maes on September 6, 2010


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Source:  Gee, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to close all those shop classes after all? By Ryan Pohl on his blog “Change the Perception – Devoted to Building a New Respect For Manufacturing“.

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The Future of Modern Manufacturing Explained in 12 Tweets

Posted by Bert Maes on August 12, 2010


by Peter Zelinski ~ mmsonline.com

1. Technology is pushing in two directions—bigger and smaller. Manufacturers will continue to find fresh fields by meeting the demands for workpieces that are significantly different in scale from mid-sized parts with mid-sized tolerances. (see article: Going to Extremes)

2. The cost of manufacturing overseas is rising, but the cost of manufacturing in lower-cost areas of the U.S. is holding firm. The smart choice is proving to be not outsourcing internationally, but outsourcing from one U.S. region to another. Pennsylvania for example is less expensive than Chicago or Detroit. (also see article: “In tough times, many companies turn to outsourcing, yet that strategy may doom their products“)

3. As material prices increase the cost of stock, and as technologies such as 3D printing improve, manufacturers will increasingly employ additive part-making as an additional option alongside CNC machining(also read: “In the manufacturing industry of the future, sophisticated 3D automation and robots will play the key roles.”)

4. Even though manufacturing facilities have reduced their staff, demographics still predict an industry-challenging lack of technical and engineering talent. Young people are not entering manufacturing at a rate that is anywhere near fast enough to replace those who will retire.  (Check: US Report Skills Shortage and EU Report Skills Shortage)

5. On the other hand, population trends also bode well for U.S. manufacturers. A surge in new consumers is coming: the Millenials. This upcoming generation’s expectation of variety will favor short production runs. This in turn will favor an increased reliance on manufacturing in the United States.  (also view: beat offshoring by having a local ready stock and producing faster than firms with foreign factories.)

6. Manufacturing enterprises are much more diverse than what the government and media seem to be able to imagine. Much of our national conversation about manufacturing still focuses almost solely on “factory” production. (see article: The “factory” is one way we organize people and capital to produce real and useful things – but team of mechanically-minded people who come together is just enough)

7. The skills and other attributes needed in modern manufacturing are getting more difficult to define, particularly for small and lean facilities. The people who can best recognize these attributes are likely to be the ones who already have them. A manufacturer’s current employees are probably its best link to new employees. (find out: The 7 skills we should teach in technical education.)

8. Traditionally, the start-up shop was a job shop. Tomorrow, it might just as well be a captive shop. Cheaper, smaller and easier manufacturing equipment will produce a new sector: “basement manufacturing” of niche or custom products. (see articles: (1) machine tools used in non-shop locations and (2) the small batch movement, an example of the current Third Industrial Revolution in manufacturing)

9. Tool steel? Try tool aluminum. As product lives shrink, steel won’t automatically be the moldmaking material of choice. Increasingly, what was once called “soft” tooling will be seen as full production tooling.

10. Similar to what occurred in the aircraft industry some time ago, the medical device industry will be colonized by regulators. Processes will face new validation requirements, and the pace of innovation will slow. The requirements will also create barriers to competition, resulting in small and nimble manufacturers becoming large and established ones.

11. Any manufacturer today should look out across the production floor and ask: What would my process look like if it was more automated? Then ask: What steps can I take today to move in that direction? (also read: Automation protects the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.)

12. The United States is the world leader in terms of global manufacturing market share. U.S. manufacturing also has become significantly leaner, cleaner, more efficient and more responsive in just the last few years. To be sure, there are challenges. However, the idea that the United States is turning away from manufacturing is dramatically overstated. U.S. manufacturing will remain a leading economic force in the world for a long time to come.

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“Automation Education Is Ever More Critical”

Posted by Bert Maes on August 9, 2010


By Steve Dyer

As a new school year quickly approaches, it’s time for both students and educators to evaluate where the jobs are and where they will be in the years to come.

And it’s the job of us manufacturers to show them.

By 2018, the American manufacturing workforce is projected to decline by 9 percent, an estimated 1.2 million fewer workers, according to the United States Department of Labor. That leaves a lot of holes to fill.

American manufacturers can make up some of this gap by increasing efficiency, extending the trend of productivity gains we’ve been achieving over the last decade. Technological advancements continue to drive efficiency and output across the nation.

However, with our shrinking manufacturing workforce, the question remains: who will carry on this recent success, and that of the industry as a whole, into the future? To prepare, leaders in manufacturing must put significant effort toward the technical education of the next generation in association with regional schools.

Even now, with unemployment at 9.5 percent, manufacturers are having a difficult time finding and retaining qualified people. That’s why we’re taking action through forming partnerships with many schools in Southeastern Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Madison – and accessing an enormous pool of talent in the process.

One of our closest partners is Waukesha County Technical College. We’re working with them to help shape the curriculum toward real-world industry advancements, so that educators can better identify the skill sets that are important to employers and ensure they’re supporting them throughout their programs.

For example, as manufacturers struggle to meet increasing demands with a decreasing workforce, automation education is ever more crucial. The workforce of the future must be fluent in programming workspace automation to maintain production levels when even fewer workers are available.

Members of the Manufacturers Alliance are also working to change public perception about manufacturing careers by getting school administrators and guidance counselors into our facilities. We need to show them that factories aren’t the gloomy, mundane places they imagine, but instead are bright, automated hubs of innovation and technology.

If more manufacturers band together like this to support and promote technical education, we can change the image of manufacturing careers and, while doing so, continue to emphasize the importance of the science and math skills pertinent to the industry.

I encourage all manufacturers to get involved in your schools and dedicate resources toward education. You, your company, the industry and the future of the country will be better off for it.

Steve Dyer is the president and CEO of Dickten Masch Plastics
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Lots of highly skilled people will be needed to program and operate robots

Posted by Bert Maes on August 6, 2010


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Nigel Platt, Sales & Marketing Manager for ABB Limited’s UK robotics, firmly believes that manufacturing presents a massive opportunity for achieving a more balanced and prosperous economy. But the challenge now is to make sure that the growth that has been achieved continues to be sustained and built on. That is why robots should be a key part of our industrial future.

Over the past 20 years, robot capabilities have evolved massively. Especially in the areas of precision, repeatability, flexibility, simplicity and affordability there has been vast improvements.

The interesting thing is that robots and other automation technology don’t necessarily threat manual labour. “Robots may have video guidance and intelligent path control, and might perform better than the most skilled manual workers, but they still require lots of highly-skilled people to program and operate them,” says Platt. With the high level of deskilling in recent years, the vanishing of traditional manual engineering roles (resulting in a shortage of skilled operators), there are not a lot of other ways than robots and automation to protect the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.

Also with our high costs for raw materials and energy in particular, it’s vitally important for manufacturing companies to get products right first time while doing things better, more quickly and for less cost in order to outperform the next best company.

Whether it’s reducing breakages in a food packaging line or cutting and finishing metal products, robots can deliver precise and consistent performance at a much higher speed, enabling companies to increase yield and reduce overall production times whilst typically enhancing product quality. Even the smallest operations can now benefit just as much from robotic technology as a large automotive company. Introducing even just one robot to the factory floor resulted in benefits, ranging from reduced production costs even through to reduced energy consumption by turning off lighting and heating in the area where the robots are installed.

For manufacturing enterprises, technology start-ups or technical educational establishments there are ‘10 good reasons to invest in robots’:

1. Reduced operating costs
2. Improved product quality and consistency
3. Improved quality of work for employees
4. Increased production output rates
5. Increased product manufacturing flexibility
6. Reduced material waste and increased yield
7. Compliance with safety rules and improved workplace health and safety
8. Reduced labour turnover
9. Reduced capital costs
10. Optimising space in high-value manufacturing areas

Where training is concerned, ABB is actively fostering partnerships with technical colleges throughout the UK to help equip the next generation of engineers with the skills to operate, program and integrate robotic equipment into industrial applications. An example is our work with the New Engineering Foundation (NEF), where we run master classes in robotics for lecturers from technical colleges demonstrating the application of robotic technology, which they can then teach to their own students.

We also have the largest, dedicated industrial robot training school in the UK, based in Milton Keynes, which has recently invested £100,000 in new robots for some of its 10 cells, along with classroom materials. This school is open to representatives from any company wanting to get a better perspective on what robots can do.

With the right education and with the right technology investments we will be able to have a sustainable manufacturing base, producing innovative goods at competitive costs on home turf.

>> READ the full story: How robots could help sustain the UK’s manufacturing growth

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PS… Wouldn’t it be cool if you could program a robot to play a musical symphony?

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The Inspiring Story of Mike Starting His Own Manufacturing Company at 15 Years Old

Posted by Bert Maes on August 4, 2010


Story and Photos by Richard Berry

At 15 years old, Mike Goetz ran his first successful CNC machine job  shop – after school and on weekends – from his parent’s garage.

Goetz Industries, of Lombard, Illinois, is now an “insanely busy,” four-man specialty shop producing high precision aerospace and electronics-industry parts for an enviable troop of Fortune 500 clients. And now, owner/operator/director/programmer/machinist Mike Goetz is a seasoned veteran . . . of 19.

His story is one of natural ability and desire, driven by endless fascination with “what machines can be persuaded to do.

Mike started out as a curious kid. He liked mechanical things, especially bicycles, and “the idea of making stuff.” When the opportunity to sign up for a middle-school shop class came along in 6th-grade, he jumped at it – and was immediately disappointed.

It was a really sorry class,” he smiles. “The first thing the shop teacher stressed was that we couldn’t use anything ‘dangerous,’ like a saw. So all we got to do was make little balsa wood cars with files, and stuff like that.Bored and curious, Mike wandered off into a back room one day and discovered what looked like a machine of some sort draped with a big, heavy tarp. “I lifted up a corner, and there it was – something I’d never even imagined.”

Under the cloth was an old-as-the-hills, crank-handle knee mill. It was left over from years before, when the building was home to a vocational high school. “There were still chips on it, and tooling lying around,” Mike remembers. “So I stared, put two and two together, and realized: You can cut sideways with this thing! I understood how it worked, and that this was the basis for machining metal.

Not surprisingly, the cautious shop teacher would never let Mike use it, “. . . even when I offered to come in after school,” he says. But just the sight of the mill was a turning point. Mike began studying everything he could find on the subject of machining. “Before, I hadn’t a clue how things like my bicycle parts were made. But then it dawned on me – with a mill and a lathe, you could make anything!

That epiphany started the ball rolling. With his parents’ help, Mike bought a manual hobby machine and set up shop in his basement to learn – and to make his own custom bicycle parts. Completely self-taught, he wore out tooling catalogs, learning what did what, and absorbed machining information off the Internet every night. “I learned there were few hard-and-fast rules for making parts, and I began to realize you can make anything if you have the right equipment.”

This led directly to his discovery of CNC, when he excitedly realized he could control equipment with computers. The idea intrigued him so much that he worked to get a little desktop CNC machine – then worked to master it. When people at a local bicycle shop (where the new teenager had taken a Saturday job) liked what they saw and offered to buy any extra copies of the “cool” parts, Mike found himself in business. With the help of his parents he got a Haas Mini Mill, and set up in the garage.

After a year and a half, feeling the need for more room and more independence, he moved into his present shop space and began adding machines.

We now do a lot of 3rd- and 4th-axis work,” says Mike. “I have Haas HA5C rotaries on two machines, and that really helps out. We’re doing a ton of 3-D for the cell-phone industry, and a lot of fun, but really challenging, aerospace parts.” Part of the workload is subcontracted – full-4th-axis work other area shops won’t tackle in-house. “It’s really not that hard,” says the confident self-learner. “You just have to sit there and figure it out. The next thing for us will be going full-5th on some parts. I’d like to get a Haas trunnion for one of our machines.”

(…)

One thing I want to do is get more young people into the industry – but I see problems,” explains Mike Goetz, speaking from first-hand experience. “Most of the tech schools around here are still on manual equipment. I know you have to learn that basic stuff: there’s no way you can run one of these modern machines well without first spinning the wheels on an old knee mill. Otherwise, you don’t know what cutting pressures are involved, and you don’t really learn what a mill can do.

“But, they’re missing it by not hooking kids with cool projects and neat machines. They’re having them just mill blocks and drill holes. I think a lot of young people would be a lot more interested if they learned what they could make with modern CNC machines,” says Mike. “A lot of kids have no idea where things come from. I try to explain what I do, and they don’t get it. I tell them, ‘Almost everything starts on a machining center – whether it’s a mold, a prototype or the final product. It’s machined. You start off with a solid block, and you remove material to get what you want!’ But they can’t see it through; it’s just not being taught.

I’m afraid we’re going to have a serious problem in a few years when all the older people start to retire,” he laments. “There’s going to be a real shortage of people who know what they’re doing. Manufacturing has a lot to do with the way this country is – we’ve got to get more people coming into the industry.

As seen in CNC Magazine Issue 38 Volume 11, Summer 2007. Click to download eBook of complete publication.

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[VIDEO] Right on! The Problems and Solutions in Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on July 28, 2010


Outsourcing is not sustainable, it is not a business strategy.


To overcome the cost difference with low wage countries, businesses can be competitive by investing in technology, training and new manufacturing methods to raise productivity.

Innovation, high productivity, quality and more skilled workers are critical for keeping businesses competitive internationally.”

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First HTEC in France: From Small Acorns…

Posted by Bert Maes on July 19, 2010


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On June 10th, managers from Haas Automation Europe (HAE) joined the staff and students at L’Institut Universitaire de Technologie A de Lille in the city of Villeneuve d’Ascq, to celebrate the opening of the very first Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) in France.

The new HTEC consists of a Haas VF-1 vertical machining centre with full 4th axis capability, and an SL-20 Haas turning centre. The state-of-the-art facility is part of the university’s Génie Mécanique et Productique department where, over a 2-year period, graduates (of all ages) will utilise the Haas machines to become experts in production techniques, quality control, purchase, production organization and R&D. Other students at the school will use the HTEC in their studies for a master’s degree in engineering.

It is an honour for Haas Europe to join forces with IUT-A de Lille,” said Mr. Bert Maes, HTEC coordinator at HAE. “This is an inspiring school with dedicated teachers always searching for innovative technology and the most effective way to teach; it’s the perfect place for our first French HTEC!

Outlining his plans for the HTEC, Mr. Moulay-Driss Benchiboun, director of IUT-A de Lille said: “We have two objectives: We have to make young people in France more aware of the central role that technology takes in our modern way of life. We are also doing everything possible to make sure our students are qualified for a successful professional development throughout their careers. Our university aims to be a showcase for modern industry and our new HTEC will make a valuable contribution towards doing so.”

The IUT-A de Lille HTEC was realized with the help and support of local Haas Factory Outlet – A Division of Realmeca.

We have worked with Realmeca for many years,” says Jean-Marc Gardin, IUT-A de Lille’s coordinator for the new HTEC and professor in the GMP department, “and we have seen over the years that we have made the right choice. We are very happy with the support we have received and with the Haas machines.

The number of people studying CNC in France is declining, but our student registrations in the GMP department are stabilising. As a member of the European HTEC network we can now profit fully from the programme’s technologies and teaching materials.”

Realmeca sales director Mr. Jean-Baptiste Médot, was equally enthusiastic about the new HTEC, adding. “Today is the start of a dynamic, sustainable partnership with the aim of improving the quality of CNC training available and to attract more students to the exciting world of manufacturing.”

HAE director of marketing, Katja Mader was also present during the grand opening of the Lille HTEC.  “We expect the HTEC programme to be just as successful in France as it is in the other European countries,” she said. “We started small in Germany, Austria and elsewhere, and now we have some of the world’s biggest HTECs in those countries. We feel confident that France will follow suit and that French students will enjoy the tremendous benefits. As they say, from small acorns great oaks grow.

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Press Release in French: Premier HTEC en France : petit poisson…

Press Release in German: Erstes HTEC in Frankreich: aus kleinen Anfängen…

Press Release in Italian: Il primo centro HTEC in Francia: i piccoli ruscelli…

Press Release in Spanish: Primer centro HTEC en Francia: De una nuez chica…

Press Release in Dutch: Eerste HTEC-centrum in Frankrijk: een verhaal van kleine boompjes…

Press Release in Romanian: Primul HTEC din Franța: Din ghinde mici…

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HTEC – The Concept

The HTEC initiative is a partnership between European educational establishments, Haas Automation Europe (HAE), its distributor-owned HFOs (Haas Factory Outlets) and an alliance of industry leading, CNC technology partners.  HAE launched the HTEC programme in 2007 to counter what it regards as one of the greatest threats to the continent’s sustainable economic development: Namely, a shortage of talented and motivated young people entering the precision engineering industry with CNC machining skills.

The programme provides Haas CNC machine tools to educational establishments in Europe, so enabling HTEC students to become familiar with the latest CNC machining technology.  This hands-on experience ensures students graduate with transferable skills and better employment opportunities.  Haas Technical Education Centres also benefit local and national engineering companies by increasing the supply of well-educated apprentices.

Since launch, the HTEC initiative has expanded rapidly across Europe.  Governments – from Sweden to Romania and from Portugal to Russia – have enthusiastically backed the programme and recognise the need to build a stronger manufacturing infrastructure.

The HTEC Industry Partners are some of the best-known names in precision manufacturing technologies and have demonstrated a strong, ongoing commitment to the HTEC objectives, backing them with the investment of time and resources.  Currently, the

HTEC Industry Partner network comprises KELLER, MasterCam, Esprit, Renishaw, Sandvik Coromant, Schunk, Blaser, Urma, Chick, Air Turbine Technology, Hainbuch, and CIMCOOL.

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www.HTECnetwork.eu

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[Video] Commitment to Manufacturing in Austria

Posted by Bert Maes on June 23, 2010


ÜAZ Metall Vorarlberg in Austria joined the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) program; THE partnership concept and international network for advanced, industry-relevant, inspiring CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufacturing education across Europe.

Script in English:

This is the ÜAZ technical training establishment, in Vorarlberg, in the western-most region of Austria. On May 7th the school held a celebration to mark its fifth anniversary and the official opening of its Haas Technical Education Centre, which was set-up with the help and support of the Austrian Haas Factory Outlet – a division of Wematech.  The new, benchmark facility is part of the ÜAZ Metall department and boasts 28 Haas CNC machine tools, making it one of the three largest HTECs in the world.  Haas Automation launched the HTEC programme in 2007 to counter the shortage of young people with CNC machining skills who were entering the precision engineering sector. ÜAZ Metall offers practical training to youths who are socially or economically disadvantaged. “Our goal,” says Manfred Gollob “is to provide a top-quality technical education for youngsters who have fewer opportunities than others. We try to give the best technical education to students who are unfamiliar with the metalworking sector. We’re grateful to Haas for their help and support and we hope our collaboration continues for a long time to come.” The ÜAZ Metall HTEC will give 100 students a year the hands-on experience they need to make better lives and successful careers as CNC technologists.

Script in German:

Das ist das überbetriebliche Ausbildungszentrum (ÜAZ) in Vorarlberg in der westlichsten Region von Österreich.  Am 07. Mai beging die Schule feierlich den 5. Jahrestag ihrer Gründung und die offizielle Eröffnung ihres HTECs, das mit Hilfe und Unterstützung durch das österreichische Haas Factory Outlet (HFO), einer Sparte von Wematech, eingerichtet wurde.  Diese neue, Maßstäbe setzende Einrichtung ist Bestandteil des ÜAZ-Metall und gehört mit 28 CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen von Haas zu den drei größten HTECs weltweit. Haas Automation hat sein HTEC-Programm im Jahr 2007 ins Leben gerufen, um mehr Auszubildende für die Arbeit an CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen in der Präzisionsfertigung zu interessieren und so dem Mangel in diesem Bereich zu begegnen. Das ÜAZ-Metall bietet sozial oder wirtschaftlich benachteiligten Jugendlichen eine praktische Ausbildung an. „Unser Ziel besteht darin“, erklärt Manfred Gollob, „den Jugendlichen, die bisher weniger Chancen hatten als andere, eine technische Spitzenausbildung zur Verfügung zu stellen. Wir versuchen den Auszubildenden, die ansonsten keine Berührungspunkte mit der metallverarbeitenden Industrie haben, das bestmögliche technische Wissen vermitteln. Wir bedanken uns bei Haas für die Hilfe und Unterstützung und hoffen, dass unsere Zusammenarbeit noch lange andauern wird.“ Jedes Jahr werden in dem HTEC des ÜAZ-Metall 100 Auszubildende genau die Erfahrungen sammeln, die sie für eine erfolgreiche Laufbahn als CNC-Spezialist und ein besseres Leben benötigen.

Script in French:

Le centre est implanté à l’établissement de formation technique ÜAZ, basé à Vorarlberg, dans l’extrême ouest de l’Autriche. Le 7 mai dernier, à l’occasion de son cinquième anniversaire, l’école en a profité pour inaugurer son centre de formation technique Haas, mis en place avec l’aide et le soutien du HFO (Haas Factory Outlet) autrichien, une division de Wematech. Ce nouveau site étalon fait partie du département Metall de l’établissement ÜAZ et compte 28 machines CNC Haas, faisant de lui l’un des trois plus grands centres HTEC du monde. Haas Automation a lancé le programme HTEC en 2007 afin d’endiguer la pénurie de jeunes gens dotés de compétences d’usinage CNC dans l’industrie de la mécanique de précision. ÜAZ Metall propose une formation technique aux jeunes socialement ou économiquement défavorisés. « Notre objectif est d’offrir une formation technique de haute qualité aux jeunes jouissant de moins d’opportunités que les autres, » explique Manfred Gollob. « Nous visons à inculquer à des étudiants étrangers au secteur du travail des métaux la meilleure formation technique possible. Nous sommes reconnaissants à Haas pour son aide et son soutien et espérons que notre collaboration durera encore très longtemps. » Chaque année, le centre HTEC ÜAZ Metall permettra ainsi à 100 étudiants d’acquérir l’expérience pratique dont ils ont besoin pour parvenir à une vie meilleure et embrasser des carrières florissantes en tant que technologues CNC.

Script in Italian:

Si tratta dello stabilimento di formazione tecnica ÜAZ a Voralberg, nella regione occidentale dell’Austria.  Il 7 maggio la scuola ha festeggiato il suo 5º anniversario e l’inaugurazione ufficiale del suo centro HTEC che è stato allestito con l’aiuto e il supporto dell’Haas Factory Outlet austriaco, una divisione di Wematech. Il nuovo impianto di riferimento fa parte del dipartimento ÜAZ Metall e vanta 28 macchine utensili CNC Haas, il che lo rende uno dei tre più grandi centri HTEC al mondo. Haas Automation ha lanciato il programma HTEC nel 2007 per contrastare la carenza di giovani con competenze di lavorazione CNC che accedevano il settore dell’ingegneria di precisione. ÜAZ Metall offre corsi di formazione pratica ai giovani provenienti da ambienti socialmente o economicamente svantaggiati. “Il nostro obiettivo”, spiega Manfred Gollob, “è offrire un’istruzione tecnica della massima qualità ai giovani che dispongono di meno opportunità degli altri. Cerchiamo di offrire la migliore istruzione tecnica agli studenti che non hanno dimestichezza con il settore della lavorazione dei metalli. Siamo grati ad Haas per il suo aiuto e per il suo supporto e speriamo che la nostra collaborazione possa proseguire a lungo in futuro”. Il centro HTEC ÜAZ Metall offrirà a 100 studenti l’esperienza pratica di cui hanno bisogno per migliorare la loro qualità di vita e crearsi una carriera come tecnici CNC.

Script in Russian:

Это техническое учебное заведение ÜAZ в Форарльберге, на самом западе Австрии. 7 мая в данном учебном заведении проходил праздник пятой годовщины с момента его открытия и официального открытия Центра технического обучения Haas, который был создан благодаря помощи и поддержке официального представительства Haas в Австрии – отделения Wematech. Новый эталонный центр образования является частью факультета ÜAZ Metall и обладает более чем 28 станками Haas с ЧПУ, делая его одним из трех самых крупных HTEC в мире. Компания Haas начала реализацию программы HTEC в 2007 году с целью противостоять нехватке молодых людей в точном машиностроении, обладающих навыками работы на станках с ЧПУ. ÜAZ Metall предлагает практическое обучение для молодежи из малоимущих семей или социально неблагополучной среды. «Наша цель, – рассказывает Манфред Голлоб (Manfred Gollob), – обеспечить высшее качество технического образования для молодых людей с меньшими возможностями, чем у других». Мы хотим предоставить лучшее техническое обучение студентам, незнакомым с сектором металлообработки. Мы благодарны Haas за помощь и поддержку и надеемся на достаточно продолжительное сотрудничество». ÜAZ Metall HTEC предоставит 100 студентам год практического обучения для улучшения их жизни и построения успешной карьеры в качестве технологов ЧПУ.

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[Video] CNN Showcases the True Face of Modern Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on April 20, 2010


AT LAST! Major media is finally portraying today’s manufacturing careers correctly!

CNN’s Tony Harris reports on the new high-tech jobs taking the place of old-style manufacturing. He has seen the company ADEX Machining Technologies in South Carolina USA from the inside, making metal parts for the aerospace and energy industries, via CNC programming and CNC machining.

The employees here, the video shows, spend as much time in the office as on the shop floor. They don’t just push the buttons of the machines, they also program the machines using CAM computer systems. Each worker is a highly competent programmer, machinist ànd quality control engineer. What typically was three different jobs, is now wrapped into one… That is what is called “lean manufacturing“.

And exactly THAT is extremely satisfying and empowering for the workers: “We take what is on paper and we can bring it to life“.

Using their computers to tell the machine where to drill holes in the piece of metal, going to the factory floor and actually making it happen, while still stimulating their brains… that is what the workers love about their modern high-tech manufacturing job.

This “New Face of Blue Collar Workers” is commonplace for the people who know today’s manufacturing companies.

But I’m 100% sure that the CNN video is  highly revealing to the general public and goes a long way in dispelling the old stereotype of manufacturing.

>> CLICK HERE TO SEE THE  CNN VIDEO FOR YOURSELF <<

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Press Release: New high-tech manufacturing training center in Austria

Posted by Bert Maes on April 5, 2010


By Matt Bailey

It’s appropriate that one of Europe’s most prosperous and industrious areas should also have the biggest and, perhaps, the most impressive Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) facilities.

On May 7th, 2010, the Überbetriebliches Ausbildungszentrum (ÜAZ) technical training establishment, in Vorarlberg, in the western-most region of Austria will officially open an HTEC boasting no fewer than 27 Haas CNC machines. The new, benchmark facility is part of the ÜAZ Metall department and will be located in Rankweil, in the beautiful Rhine Valley. It will be the 4th HTEC in Austria – the country also has the second and third biggest HTECs – and the 40th in Europe.

We are very excited about the grand opening of the ÜAZ Metall HTEC,” says Mr. Bert Maes, HTEC coordinator at Haas Europe, “not only because of the number of Haas machines it will employ, but also because it is such a good example how industry and education can work together to change the lives of young people for the better.

ÜAZ Metall offers practical training to youths who are socially or economically disadvantaged. The HTEC will give 100 students a year the hands-on experience they need to make better lives and successful careers as CNC technologists.

In economic terms, Vorarlberg is one of the best-performing regions of Western Europe, with flourishing textile, clothing, electronics, machinery and packaging sectors. Those who follow courses at HTEC ÜAZ Metall will be very well trained and well-prepared for careers in Austrian metal working companies or others further afield.

Our goal is to provide a top-quality technical education for youngsters who have fewer opportunities than others,” says general manager of ÜAZ Metall, Mr. Manfred Gollob. “We try to give the best possible, real-industry know-how to students otherwise unfamiliar with the metalworking sector. Being part of the HTEC network with its support, technology and public relations benefits will help tremendously; I think we have definitely found the right partner in Haas.”

The HTEC program was launched in Europe to counter what Haas Automation regards as one of the greatest threats to sustainable economic development on the continent: the shortage of talented and motivated young people entering precision manufacturing industries with CNC machining skills.

ÜAZ Metall is a highly dedicated partner,” concludes Mr. Maes, “and we are committed to offering our full support to the teachers and staff; to inspire young people to study manufacturing technology, to help build their confidence and to start long and successful careers as CNC specialists.


HTEC – The Concept

The HTEC initiative is a partnership between European educational establishments, Haas Automation Europe (HAE), its distributor-owned HFOs (Haas Factory Outlets) and an alliance of industry leading, CNC technology partners. HAE launched the HTEC programme in 2007 to counter what it regards as one of the greatest threats to the continent’s sustainable economic development: Namely, a shortage of talented and motivated young people entering the precision engineering industry with CNC machining skills.

The programme provides Haas CNC machine tools to educational establishments in Europe, so enabling HTEC students to become familiar with the latest CNC machining technology. This hands-on experience ensures students graduate with transferable skills and better employment opportunities. Haas Technical Education Centres also benefit local and national engineering companies by increasing the supply of well-educated apprentices.

Since launch, the HTEC initiative has expanded rapidly across Europe. Governments – from Sweden to Romania and from Portugal to Russia – have enthusiastically backed the programme and recognise the need to build a stronger manufacturing infrastructure.

The HTEC Industry Partners are some of the best-known names in precision manufacturing technologies and have demonstrated a strong, ongoing commitment to the HTEC objectives, backing them with the investment of time and resources. Currently, the HTEC Industry Partner network comprises KELLER, MasterCam, Esprit, Renishaw, Sandvik Coromant, Schunk, Blaser, Urma, Chick, Air Turbine Technology, Hainbuch, and CIMCOOL.

Dedicated website for technical education institutions: www.HTECnetwork.eu

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3 integrated solutions for the threatening manufacturing skills shortage

Posted by Bert Maes on April 2, 2010


Manufacturers all over the globe can’t find the right people with the right skills to fill manufacturer’s talent need (and to keep our manufacturing competitive)

See my statistics on US, Europe and China.

IndustryWeek has pointed to the evidence that appropriate training to meet current and forthcoming talent gaps remains elusive.

It’s not a simple problem, reports IndustryWeek. Some explanation for the challenges:

  • “Advances in technology,”  says Chuck Parke, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  “What was considered adequate 15 years ago would be nowhere near adequate today in certain machining applications.” (There is a similar quote in my blog post: why we’re failing math and science in engineering)
  • Outsourcing of low-skilled jobs to low-labor-cost countries. “The remaining jobs require a much higher skill level, and the average has gone up in terms of the amount of training needed per employee,” says Parke.
  • The high turnover rate of the workforce, due to layoffs, early buyouts of experienced workers
  • The mindset of many younger workers who don’t come to a manufacturing company and stay.
  • Training frequently is among the first things cut when business is difficult.
  • Thomas A. Kochan, professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says the basic problem is that U.S. manufacturing never has developed a close community of private industry and technical schools in any systematic way, although pockets of success exist.

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Three integrated solutions:

  • Government should take a greater role “as a coordinating mechanism” to help develop a robust coordinated (non-disseminated) nationwide training program for manufacturing. [See my blog post: the future of manufacturing in Europe 2020]
  • Companies have to make ‘partnering with local educational institutions’ an integral part of their company’s strategic plan to support and obtain training and the best possible workforce. Nearly two-thirds of IndustryWeek’s Best Plants winners and finalists over the past five years have implemented that strategy. There could be a causal relation. [See my blog post: companies should get their hands dirty]
  • Educational establishment should extensively research the local business needs, which probably include good math skills, blueprint reading, robotics, programmable logic control and circuitry. Schools must establish close connections with the local industry community, to make sure the manufacturing curriculum’s content is relevant to what manufacturers need. [See my blog post: a business-driven model for technical education]

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Related blog posts:

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The Formula to Keep the Aviation Industry Strong

Posted by Bert Maes on April 1, 2010


Boeing is in the news. The aviation industry definitely seems the branch to watch. But the challenge we face is significant.

The global powerhouse of aviation manufacturing is (believe it or not): Kansas, USA.

50% (!) of the world’s general aviation is manufactured in Kansas. Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft and Spirit Aerosystems plants are all located over there. The region offers the largest aviation supplier base in the world. Boeing is one of those many manufacturing icons still made in the USA.

So, clearly, the aviation industry powers the wide economy. Manufacturing is the leading industry for Kansas. Aviation manufacturing is still the # 1 net export in the United States, with 60% of the world’s aerospace sales. So there is an impressive potential as the industry grows.

Currently, there are 36,500 aerospace manufacturing jobs in Kansas, and another 142,350 jobs are supported by aviation directly or indirectly.  The business is booming, BUT… Boeing already reported that by 2015, 40% of the aircraft maker’s workers reach retirement age.That’s some 60,000 employees eligible to retire in five years. We just don’t see the recruitment pipeline meeting our needs”.

Peter Gustaf confirms that 27% of the Kansas aviation manufacturing workforce is eligible for retirement, 40% over the next 5 years. Over 1,000 workers are needed in 2010, with an additional 1,000 expected each year for the next 10 years. 12,000 people alone are needed for retirement replacement. This suggests that we need 25,000 skilled workers

The formula for aviation’s continued success is clear, according to Peter Gustaf:

  • Strong aviation companies and suppliers

  • World leader in aviation research (via the Wichita State University’s National Institute of Aviation Research(NIAR))
  • Strong work ethic
  • Access to potential workforce

So the top strategic priority in Kansas is now: technical training to ensure a skilled workforce and competitive skills.

That is the reason why The National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) has been developed, offering:

  • Training programs to meet the changing needs of employers, learners and families in the region;
  • Training in a real-world environment that prepares them for high-tech work in general aviation manufacturing, and aircraft and power plant mechanics;
  • Training in a world-class training facility with cutting edge technology to meet industry needs, as new technologies require new skills and extensive re-training;
  • Training as a one-stop solution for flexible and customized education to meet business needs to the best aviation maintenance technicians, composites technicians, aerostructures technicians and machine technology specialists,…to name a few.

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Initiatives like this, using a “business-driven” model of technical training, will be key to keep our economic drivers going and to maintain and enhance quality of life. Don’t you think so??

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The biggest 2010 manufacturing challenge in Australia

Posted by Bert Maes on March 3, 2010


- By Heather Ridout, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group

As we turn the corner on what’s been a tough and testing 18 months for manufacturing, we enter 2010 with challenges still ahead.

Last year, manufacturers have focused on:

  • further integration into global supply chains
  • new products and markets
  • skills development and training
  • reduce operational costs.

However, one of  longer-term challenges in the manufacturing sector needs to remain at the top of the policy agenda: addressing the productivity challenge as our population ages.

In this regard, we need to look at our education and training levels, we need to look at how healthy we are, we need to be able to remain in the workforce for longer.

We need to encourage women who are having children to get back into the workforce including through better childcare and more flexible work arrangements. We need to invest in infrastructure so that when we work we get more bang for our dollar. We need to invest in better technology, which of course in the nineties was a key source of productivity growth. Finally, we need to make sure we have flexible labour markets. This is an old mantra of employers but it has shown to be extremely effective in the past.

A key issue for business in both the near and long-term is the availability of skilled staff.  There are roles for both business and government in addressing this.

Many manufacturers have made a major effort to keep skilled workers and maintain training budgets during the downturn. These businesses will benefit from this foresight as the improved job outlook for 2010 and renewed demand for skilled people is expected to see shortages emerging in the near future.

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China’s manufacturing industry becoming less competitive

Posted by Bert Maes on February 28, 2010


Have you read my article: How Manufacturers Can Compete With Low Wage Countries?

Last Friday New York Times, elaborated on one of the crucial aspects: workforce education.

My point of investing in education for more skilled workers (as a crucial competitive advantage as our high labor costs are directly linked with insufficient focus on manufacturing education) is being supported:

China is facing an increasingly acute labor shortage. The country is running out of fresh laborers for its factories. A government survey three years ago of 2,749 villages in 17 provinces found that in 74 percent of them, there was no one left behind who was fit to go work in city factories — the labor pool was dry.

Some manufacturers, already weeks behind schedule because they can’t find enough workers, are closing down production lines and considering raising prices.

Unskilled factory workers in China’s industrial heartland are being offered signing bonuses. Factory wages have risen as much as 20 percent in recent months, giving Chinese families more spending power (probably manufacturing industry wages could double in the next five years).

However, rising wages could lead to greater inflation in China, eroding some of China’s formidable advantage in export markets. The prospect of rising wages suggests that companies with high labor costs could experience margin pressure. Such increases would most likely drive up the prices for all sorts of Chinese-made goods, to import in the United States and the European Union.

This reality of Chinese talent shortage a.o. will re-shore manufacturing back to the western world, according to Mike Collins, Author, Saving American Manufacturing:

  • Chinese manufacturers have trouble in guaranteeing their US and European customers accurate delivery dates because of unforeseen delays in the supply chain;
  • Chinese manufacturers will have more difficulties to make quick changes in the manufacturing process – Without a strong workforce, it will be harder for them to quickly customize products.
  • The risks involved with a supplier in China get bigger. Western manufacturers have begun to pull their supply chains back closer to their markets, closer to their customers – which are asking for custom-made solutions and just in time delivery.
  • Harry Moser, chairman emeritus at Agie Charmilles points to the “costs of regulatory compliance, potential intellectual property loss, visits to overseas vendors, potential product quality problems, high foreign wage inflation and carrying extra inventory as cushion against late or damaged shipments.” (industryweek.com)
  • Challenges in manufacturing offshore are legion, Brian Bethune – a chief U.S. financial economist – said. Infrastructure can be undependable, including frequent electrical brownouts in some regions of China. Manufacturing is often plagued by quality problems, rendering products unfit to sell in more sophisticated markets. Language and cultural barriers pose difficulties. Negotiating governmental expectations and hurdles, especially in China, is a huge issue. (Tennessean.com)

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China might be less competitive in the coming years; however, and that doesn’t surprise me at all: the Chinese government is rapidly reacting, with expanded postsecondary education. Universities and other institutions of higher learning enrolled 6.4 million new students last year, compared to 5.7 million in 2007 and just 2.2 million in 2000.

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This reality of Chinese talent shortage will re-shore manufacturing back to the western world:

· Chinese manufacturers have trouble in guaranteeing their US and European customers accurate delivery dates because of unforeseen delays in the supply chain;

· Chinese manufacturers will have more difficulties to make quick changes in the manufacturing process – It will be harder for them to quickly customize products, without a strong workforce.

· The risks involved with a supplier in China get bigger. Western manufacturers have begun to pull their supply chains back closer to their markets, closer to their customers – which are asking for custom designed solutions and just in time delivery.

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