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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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Manufacturing: the unseen underground economy

Posted by Bert Maes on October 7, 2011

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In 1850, a decade before the Civil War, the United States’ economy was small — it wasn’t much bigger than Italy’s. Forty years later, it was the largest economy in the world. What happened in between was (…) the rise of steel and manufacturing — and the economy was never the same,” says W. Brian Arthur, an economist and technology thinker.

Since ages manufacturing is quietly, for many people unnoticeably, transforming the economy.

Manufacturing is silent, invisible and unseen.

Much like the root system for aspen trees, Arthur observes. “For every acre of aspen trees above the ground, there’s about ten miles of roots underneath, all interconnected with one another, “communicating” with each other.”

The observable physical world of aspen trees hides an unseen underground root system.

Just like trees, CNC machine tools are creating for us — slowly, quietly, and steadily — a different world.

Think about this: the success of Steve Jobs was based on CNC manufacturing machines, based on the invisible roots undergound: Apple puts CNC Machining Front and Center.

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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.”


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.”


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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

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

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

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Skills Shortage Manufacturing: a Turn-Key Solution

Posted by Bert Maes on July 9, 2010

The New York Times reported that factory jobs return, but employers find skills shortage. Manufacturing factory owners have been adding jobs slowly, but steadily since the beginning of the year, the article states. Yet some of these employers complain that they cannot fill their openings.

Plenty of people are applying for the jobs. But hiring is not always easy.

Astro Manufacturing and Design for example (a maker of parts and devices for the aerospace, medical and military industries ) urgently needs six machinists to run what are known as computer numerical control — or CNC — machines. An outside recruiter has reviewed 50 résumés in the last month and come up empty.

Schools are not delivering the employees they need. Manufacturers have retooled the way they make products, calling for higher-skilled employees.

Makers of innovative products like advanced medical devices and wind turbines are among those growing quickly and looking to hire people.

These high end manufacturers say they are looking for two things:

  • Skills: able to operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker. But with poor ninth-grade level math skills, companies get disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs.
  • As important: aptitude – “We are trying to find people with the right mindset and intelligence,” said Thomas J. Murphy, chief executive of Ben Venue.

TEACHERS URGENTLY NEED SUPPORT to increase the supply of ready-trained, on-demand and enterprise-ready talent and skills!

A turn-key solution for school CNC departments:

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The Education and Business Lesson from India

Posted by Bert Maes on May 4, 2010

With the Indian economy predicted to grow by 7.5 percent this year, CNN reports that it could be time for Western CEOs to learn some lessons from their Indian counterparts.

Based on interviews with leaders and HR departments from 98 of India’s 150 biggest companies, Peter Cappelli identified some of the key differences between Indian and Western bosses.

One of the most important things is that Indian leaders lead with a sense of social purpose,” Cappelli told CNN.

Our Western companies usually add social accents in their missions. But, few US consumers can immediately mention a socially responsible US corporation.

In India, however, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is an integral part of the business strategies, the companies really have a social mission and it is often a source of cash.

Cappelli said every Indian leader interviewed gave a specific social purpose as being the goal of their business. Those purposes ranged from improving health care in India, to getting cell phones to people who don’t have access to communication tools, and proving to the international community that Indian companies can lead in IT.

The reason is simple: companies can only flourish if the people in the country enjoy a good quality of life and if there is permanent investment in education.

CSR may not only be vital to get government licenses, but it proves to be essential for the reputation of every company, be it Indian or American or European. 75% of all people “are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies.”

>> So isn’t it time for all manufacturing companies in the Western continents to invest in their local technical schools? To at least address the critical shortage of young people entering the industry? To save money in the long run by having a source of highly (re)trained employees, without having to hunt/steal skilled employees from other companies, at a huge inefficient wage cost?

Having and communicating a trustworthy consistent citizenship message seems to be of greater importance among consumers than product quality or value…

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4 essential solutions to bring manufacturing back

Posted by Bert Maes on April 12, 2010

About 25 manufacturing professionals and specialists are currently contributing to the LinkedIn discussion: “Can we bring the manufacturing back home? If so: how? If not: why?

What are they telling us?

Most people seem to agree that loss of our manufacturing is the single biggest threat to our economy. Service is not creating wealth. Only agriculture, mining (with oil and gas production) and manufacturing are, according to Sam Durbin.

Many contributors argue as well that we can’t fully count on government to solve our problems, as they tend to be too busy trying to figure how to win their next election. We tend to ask them to impose import duties, tariffs or taxes and even manipulate currencies. Penalizing might discourage people from buying goods outside the country and it might encourage companies to build and grow here. Or it might not…

Frank Stanbach and Sam Durbin both take an interesting broader view: history shows that the Chinese are not the problem. Jobs and industry always move to the cheapest and easiest manufacturing market.  In the 60s and 70s Japan and afterwards Korea and Taiwan started producing ‘junk’ products in large quantities, but they got better with higher quality products and the local standards of living raised, resulting in higher costs of production. Now India and China are the biggest and best at this game. But for how long?

The discussion presents some individual- and company-level solutions to strengthen our home manufacturing base:

  • As a consumer, we have to look in the mirror. We demand less expensive products. So we make our own companies suffer. At the individual level, we are responsible. If we’re going to try and turn around the manufacturing industry, we better support our ‘local’ economy and we better become more informed about the local goods and the companies we are doing business with, whether they have the same environmental, safety and labor standards.
  • We should create better innovative processes. We just have to be better, faster and cheaper than our competitors. But the costs involved in manufacturing here are holding us back. Labor laws, environmental and safety conditions, taxes and health care, all add significant costs and some costs are forcing us to turn to the world’s low cost producers.

    To drastically lower our costs we must look at all aspects of our manufacturing processes, including setup and overhead costs, timing and efficiency, modern technologies and materials, without forgetting the highest quality. It will take teamwork with inspirational leadership inside a company and collaboration in an alliance of firms to create processes that reduce costs and improve efficiency to make us more competitive and to bring back manufacturing.
  • Being more innovative means having better people. The source of better skills and better productivity is better education and better training. Our greatest resources for innovation are many young, independent, highly-skilled hands-on thinkers and creators. We can’t keep and grow our manufacturing if we can’t attract younger generations to our industry and if we keep forcing many of our schools to close their metal shops, Lowell Kenney stated.

    Key is the investment and involvement of  companies into local technical schools. We must help our young people get interested in ‘making things’, in becoming leaders in manufacturing.
  • Today’s decisions are virtually always based on costs, based on greediness, based on short term gains and profits. Instead of huge management bonuses, some people in the discussion suggest that we should turn that money back into the company based on longer term goals, through investments in new training and new technologies to improve quality, accuracy, and automation. The principle is simple: If your labor costs get too expensive, then automate…

    To be the industrial and innovative leader, we have to pay the costs of new technologies and the corresponding training, Lindsey Wack concludes.
  • More???

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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.” (
  • 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. (

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.

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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The future of Manufacturing in Europe 2015-2020: 4 SCENARIOS

Posted by Bert Maes on February 23, 2010

In 2003 the European Commission released a report on 4 scenarios on the Future of European Manufacturing in the next 2 decades.

First, I shortly describe the 4 scenarios and its implications for education.

Second, I reflect on the scenario I see Europe following today, 7 years after the release of the report.

SCENARIO 1: The European Union doesn’t get stronger, large multinationals shape international trade, consumers don’t care much about environmental impacts of production and consumption. Energy efficiency in production improves only because of strategies of company cost reduction. There are no incentives for radical changes.
>> In EDUCATION, due to the lack of government commitment, more and more private initiatives will pop up, focusing on excellence in education.

  • Reflection: The European Union is weak and will probably always be weak. The creation of the EU presidency post following the Lisbon Treaty was great. But Europe will never be unified as a transnational entity: too many cultural and historical differences, too many national minorities, all protecting their own interests. Guy Verhofstadt, president of the European Liberals ELDR recently wrote that the future of Europe doesn’t lie in the juxtaposition of national identities. “That would be a Europe that is incapable of solving problems,” Verhofstadt says,  “that would be a Europe that can’t play a significant role in the multi-polar world of the 21st century.
    >> This means that private initiatives in EDUCATION will be crucial to raise the quality and attractiveness of manufacturing education.

SCENARIO 2: Regional governments take over and determine policy priorities. Strict environmental regulations lead to a concentration of manufacturing activities in creative regional clusters that work with radical new manufacturing approaches and alternative energy systems for cleaner production. But there is little trans-regional coordination of policies.
>> In EDUCATION regional government bodies will work closely with industry and associations in training initiatives.

  • Reflection: Building regional innovative clusters is probably the right way forward. Economic growth and economic business is generated by autonomous regions, not by nations. In my view, the source of prosperity is always REGIONAL, e.g. Hong Kong/Shenzhen, Singapore/Johore/Batam, Taiwan/Fujian, South China, South India (Bangalore), Northern Mexico, North West coast of US (Silicon Valley), Eindhoven Netherlands for the ICT industry, North Rhine-Westphalia & Bavaria Germany for chips, Cambridge UK for Mechanical engineering, Northern Italy for Valves. [Related: the pledge from Mitch Free (CEO at for regional Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with reduced tax burdens, streamlined bureaucracy and administrative requirements]
    >> BUT the weakness of the whole system is EDUCATION, i.e. the supply of human resources. You can have the right ideas, work hard, take initiatives, bring together governments, professors, companies, students & financiers to make new companies happen, you can have lots of money, but without the right people with the right skills and with the right tools you will not make it. A strong economy is routed in a strong educational system.

SCENARIO 3: Global governance emerges, that promotes sustainability . The European Union defines and implements clear sustainability policies, with energy taxes, emission charges, strict regulations and financial incentives. Governments watch the designing and implementing of new technologies closely. Major technological breakthroughs result in more environmental production with renewable materials.
>> In EDUCATION governments retain the lead role, emphasizing interdisciplinary training, soft skills and problem solving capabilities. This scenario requires a highly qualified labor force with new skills to operate and manage sustainable production systems.

  • Reflection: The global governance is the ideal scenario for sustainability of our planet. But as said in Scenario 1: I doubt if Europe will ever speak with a unified voice. Moreover, the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009 has shown us how difficult it is to unlock a global collective action.
  • >> On the other hand, TRAINING in interdisciplinary skills will become more important as the manufacturing industry will be completely reinvented by online communities, asking for highly customized products and smart, creative, innovative thinkers that will set up completely new client-centered business models to better meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers. [One of my posts that is linked with this: “The Small Batch Movement“]

SCENARIO 4: Europe establishes a strong industrial policy, but there is little willingness of China and India to include environmental and social concerns in their production. There are incentives for industry to invest in sustainable manufacturing solutions, but they run along existing application trajectories.
>> In EDUCATION there will be a EU-wide training certification system, coordinating public and private training schemes focusing in excellence in education.

  • Reflection: Europe that is focused on itself is PROBABLY WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW. East Asia is a huge competitive problem. So Europe will try to push innovation in high quality technologies that use new eco-friendly materials and product designs. That will create new export opportunities for companies. But – unfortunately – I don’t expect radical shifts in European manufacturing.
    >> Although in EDUCATION a EU-wide training certification system is a very interesting track to bring together all public and private education initiatives and could set the world-wide standard for manufacturing training.

Dear READER: >> Do you think of other scenarios? Or do you have different reflections?

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Only the manufacturers with highly skilled machinists can survive: an example

Posted by Bert Maes on February 17, 2010

Detroit-area auto suppliers are differentiating and rolling in new business. At least 100 auto suppliers already have secured contracts in other industries and that at least 250 have bid for work.

The machine tool and parts company W Industries, once an exclusive supplier to the auto industry, is now:

  • Making heavy steel parts for the frames, bodies and gun mounts of Humvees and Stryker combat vehicles destined for Afghanistan and Iraq. (see CHART expected growth in defense)
  • Testing the Orion space module by simulating the violent vibrations of liftoff. The NASA Orion space program aims to send human explorers to the moon by 2020 and then to Mars and beyond. (see CHART expected growth in aerospace)
  • Finishing a steel mold that will be used to make 70-foot-long roof sections of Airbus A350 passenger jets.

Race-car engine developer McLaren Performance Technologies is now making components for thousands of SunCatcher solar dishes, and is helping to design and build the motorized units that will convert concentrated sunlight into electricity. (See CHART expected growth in energy & resources)

Dowding Industries, a tool-and-die shop for Oldsmobile in 1965, later expanded into metal auto parts, tractor and rail car parts. In 2006, the company started to develop better-performing tools for plane makers and wind turbine components, in one-fifth the time of current methods. The carbon-composite blades will be 30 percent lighter than fiberglass blades and last 20 years or longer. (See article: the challenges of manufacturing wind turbines). Dowding sees opportunities to use similar technologies for bridges, expressways and ships.

Upcoming products in Michigan include remotely piloted military aircraft, lithium-ion batteries (Johnson Controls), the next-generation wind turbines (General Electric), a Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier engineering center, solar panels and battery systems for utilities.

What makes this shift possible?

The standard of manufacturing in the automotive industry is extraordinarily high in Detroit, and that is the only place you can find such a concentration of skills, for R&D, pilot projects and early-stage production.

The main allure of the Detroit area is its ability to quickly turn designs and prototypes into real workable products, that are more efficient, less expensive and easier to mass-produce.

The region is the country’s premier precision manufacturing base, with tens of thousands of highly skilled, underemployed mechanical engineers, machinists and factory managers. “We have the best manufacturing resources on the planet here in Michigan,” says Chris Long, the founder and chief executive of Global Wind Systems. “We just need to get aligned.”

A BIG question is whether the new work will sustain Detroit’s manufacturing ecosystem if auto assembly keeps migrating elsewhere. As suppliers close, more managers and engineers could move away.

To illustrate how difficult that manufacturing talent would be to replace, Bud Kimmel, vice president for business development at W Industries, points out to 30-year-old machining whiz Jason Sobieck.

Jason is like an artist,” Mr. Kimmel says. “We built our whole program around him. Jason began work at 17 at a small Detroit welding shop. He then worked for tooling companies, where he learned to program automated systems and manage projects. “These skills really aren’t taught in school,” Mr. Sobieck says, “This is a trade you learn on the shop floor.”

That’s one reason that W Industries wants to snap up as many good machinists and engineers as it can afford.

If we don’t re-engage the automotive workers soon in major programs,” Mr. Kimmel says, “this set of skills will be lost.”

Source: Detroit Auto-Parts Suppliers Branch Out to Other Industries –

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The reasons for poorly skilled CNC machinists

Posted by Bert Maes on February 9, 2010

Forums offer great blog material. They show you many different takes and perspectives on one subject. Here is one:

In August 2008 williamshook2003 posted a message on the American Machinist Forum, title “Poorly trained machinist”.

He said that students fresh from school didn’t learn the basics there. They don’t know how to read a rule or a tape measure, how to hand-sharpen a drill, they don’t know anything about speeds and feeds, anything about basic trigonometry.

flatbeltbob wrote down the story a real-life situation in his shop:

The local high school sent me a junior to observe what goes on in a small machine shop – Just to see if that is something he might want to pursue. I tried to show him how a PI tape works:

–          Never heard of PI, no idea what I’m talking about.

–          OK , back up and lets read a tape measure.

–          How many inches in a foot ?

–          Not sure , but knows 2 feet is longer that one foot.

–          OK , lets look at one inch. If you take one inch and divide it into 8 equal parts, then how many eighths are in one inch?

–          “six?” he says.

Does this represent the future pool of machinist talent ?

Why is that the forum visitors ask themselves:

  • Because they rely too have on their computer skills and CAM software and assume that that program is making the machine cut in the best conditions, williamshook2003 answered.
  • Chuck added: young people see manual equipment as archaic and they state that shops need to get into CNC to be really productive. That is true, but without the training on manual equipment first, new machinists don’t understand what is going to happen when they push the start button on a CNC machine.
  • There are few good instructors,” Byron L. commented, “we haven’t even been taught in any basics, except the first week: using a file.”
  • Industrial Arts, metal shop and other trade related training is taken out of the High Schools. Consequently, we hurt our ability to attract, training and inspire new blood for this and other craft skills, said Eagle_view.
  • Chuck commented as well: the trend of poorly skilled machinists is not surprising as CNC machines are automating the production process, so where and why do we still need highly trained machinists?
  • Shop owner reacted on this statement, saying that we cannot blame the technology. We should blame the employers for not training their employees on the basics. Bluechipfan agrees: “There are actually some really smart talented kids but they need direction and guidance. That, folks, is where WE come in. You will be surprised but it requires great patience and perseverance.
  • Eagle_view takes a bit a broader look (as his name betrays) and says that because kids are being raised without a father figure in the home, they have no idea how to fix things, how to work with their hands and they don’t know anymore how things are made. “When we as a society decided that we were not going to produce anything except for information we kind of burt some bridges that we may need”.
  • According to PackratFXR we have to go back to the basics. The machine tool technology is changing daily, but the operator should know more than changing tools, watching coolant, and feeding raw stock. To fix problems, we need hands-on training!
  • littlebrewman could’t agree more: “I will always have a marketable skill and know that I can survive, cause I can do more than press the green button.”

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How wind turbines work and the big challenges of manufacturing them

Posted by Bert Maes on February 9, 2010

A summary of Assembly Magazine’s cover article “Assemblers Harness Wind Power“, by Austin Weber, January 27th 2010.

Wind power is the cheapest and most popular type of regenerative energy. As a result, manufacturers all over the world are scrambling to build gearboxes, generators, blades, power systems, motors, control systems and other types of electromechanical devices.

How does a wind turbine work?

Wind power works by harnessing the breeze that passes over the rotor blades of a wind turbine and rotates a hub. The hub is connected to a gearbox via low-speed and high-speed shafts that drive a generator contained within a nacelle. A generator converts the energy into electricity and then transmits it to a power grid.

The typical wind turbine is a slender structure that consists of a three-bladed rotor that extends up to 300 feet in diameter attached to the top of tall towers that soar hundreds of feet into the air. A yaw mechanism uses electrical motors to turn the nacelle with the rotor against the wind. An electronic controller senses the wind direction using a wind vane.

How is a wind turbine made?

The average wind turbine contains up to 8,000 parts that must be assembled. Towers and rotors are the largest and most basic components.

Most wind turbines are designed for a 20-year life cycle. The gearbox and drivetrain system must be strong enough to handle frequent changes in torque caused by changes in wind speed. Bearings are extremely critical. The whole system must be correctly aligned to minimize wear from vibration and any resulting noise.

One thing that differentiates wind turbine manufacturing from other industries is sheer size. All components, such as bearings, gears and generators, must be extra large and extra strong. Big parts and big plants are common in the industry. For instance, the typical gearbox weighs around 30,000 pounds.

Due to their size and weight, gearboxes are often moved through assembly steps at plants in Germany using large rail systems similar to those in automotive plants. Quality expectations in the industry are huge, because manufacturers demand reliability and low maintenance. Wind turbines don’t make money if they’re not working.

Towers typically consist of large tubular structures. Plated steel sheets are rolled into rings and joined together with submerged arc welding. The tower sections are typically fabricated into cans about 20 meter long and then bolted together through internal flanges. This is an industry that needs to build large, high-capital items in a production line manner. It may be compared to aerospace.

There is great potential for advanced robotic welding to be developed. On the other hand, rotor blade manufacturing from fiberglass and other composite materials tends to be the most innovative and highly secretive area of the wind turbine industry. Blades over 70 meters long are now being designed. To achieve low-cost mass production, automated solutions from aerospace or automotive, such as robotic tape layers, have to be used to join long lengths of blade to assure aerodynamic conformance.

What are the challenges facing manufacturing wind turbines?

Wind technology will need to evolve. Engineers need to make wind turbines larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient. Because wind turbine components undergo excessive forces and a tremendous amount of joint stresses and failures, numerous manufacturing issues must be addressed.

It looks very graceful and simple, but the aerodynamics, power characteristics, vibrations, system fatigue, acoustics of a wind turbine are harder to understand than an airplane or a helicopter.
For instance, blades, towers and casings must be able to withstand heat, cold, rain, ice and abuse from changing wind speeds. Blades must also be built with a high strength-to-weight ratio, so research into new materials is key.

Making wind energy practical is a matter of maximizing efficiency and minimizing production cost.

Reliability is critical in the wind turbine industry. The most difficult application is the gearbox, because it is important to avoid any distortion. The challenge is to maintain clamp loads for the service life of the turbine. Manufacturers are looking at weight reduction and improved assembly of threaded joints.”

Close tolerances, the ability of components to withstand operation in difficult conditions, and the availability of quality materials are all important challenges facing engineers. It is also a challenge to develop parts that are light-weight enough so that the final system can be assembled more easily, but they must also be durable enough to withstand difficult operating conditions.

And finally: the industry is struggling to build a local supply chain. The availability of a steady and sufficient supply of locally sourced components is important, as turbine companies increasingly develop production facilities away from their home base, they need to be able to have access to enough quality components to build the systems at their new location.”

Feel free to also read:

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Is struggle to find highly skilled workers most pressing issue facing manufacturing?

Posted by Bert Maes on February 1, 2010

A retake from the article “Thought Leader — Help Wanted” by Josh Cable:

With skilled job openings going unfilled, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Mark Tomlinson sees workforce development as a top priority for manufacturers.

The May 2009 survey — “People and Profitability: A Time for Change,” conducted by Deloitte, Oracle and the Manufacturing Institute — found that of 779 responding companies, 51% reported moderate to serious shortages of skilled production workers today, while 36% reported similar shortages of engineers and scientists.

As the United States slowly emerges from the depths of a recession, Mark Tomlinson, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), sees the struggle to find highly skilled workers as perhaps the most pressing issue facing manufacturers.

“The [SME] believes that in the next three to five years this will be the single biggest topic we’ll be discussing,” Tomlinson tells IndustryWeek. “Once we recover, the biggest challenge won’t be the fact that we have an unemployed workforce. It’ll be the fact that we can’t fill the job needs that are available.”

Tomlinson — who has said that the wealth-creating “twin powers of innovation and manufacturing” are the keys to returning “the U.S. economy to its former glory” — points to aerospace/defense and life sciences/medical devices as two of the brightest hopes for U.S. manufacturing in the future. However, according to the Deloitte survey, a whopping 63% of companies in each of those sectors reported moderate to serious job shortages.

The crux of the issue: The recession has spawned legions of unemployed people who “need to be retrained and redeveloped so that they can become a higher-skilled workforce to support the needs of those innovative and creative companies” that will drive the economic recovery, Tomlinson explains.

“Manufacturers are looking for employees who are the opposite of the stereotypical factory worker doing repetitive, assembly-line work,” Tomlinson says. “They are in need of 21st century workers with specialized technical training such as machinists, operators and technicians.”

Tomlinson asserts that manufacturers need to evaluate the skills of their current workers, look ahead to products and technology that are on the horizon, and help workers develop the necessary skills to “transition from one sector to another as the economy continues to shift from one industrial sector to another.”

“[Companies] need to think about agility versus longevity,” Tomlinson says.

Tomlinson believes that manufacturers need to have “a sense of urgency in regards to retraining the workforce and making it easy for workers to go out and get that training.” Professional associations such as SME can help manufacturers identify their workforce knowledge gaps and facilitate the necessary training.

However, Tomlinson adds that building a more agile, technically skilled workforce also might require manufacturers to try some “nontraditional” approaches to employee development. For example, Tomlinson suggests collaborating with other nearby manufacturers to tackle the challenge from a regional perspective.

Mark Tomlinson, Society of Manufacturing Engineers

“When things are busy, there tends to be this self-serving approach of ‘I don’t want to share with anybody because I need all my workers for this,'” Tomlinson explains. “But through collaboration, you can jointly understand what’s needed for the region.”

Another nontraditional approach to workforce development, Tomlinson explains, is using certification as a criterion for employment. “This gives you a worker who, in most cases, can transition to many different manufacturing sectors.”

Last year, SME and the Manufacturing Institute (the research and education arm of the National Association of Manufacturers) announced that they are partnering to create a new skills certification system “with the potential to help millions of U.S. workers succeed in high-quality, middle-class jobs,” according to SME. The system is designed to provide skills assessments, standardized curriculum requirements and portable credentials that validate the attainment of critical competencies required by industry.

The onus for workforce development doesn’t just fall on manufacturers, Tomlinson adds. State and local governments need to play a more active role in making job training accessible and affordable to workers, he says.

“The community colleges are promoting that they have educational training available, but you don’t hear enough about, ‘Well, did you realize that you could get that [training] for free through a tax credit, a government grant or on a loan basis where you can pay it back after you get a job?'” he says. “There needs to be a more concerted effort to make it easy for the worker to get that training.”

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Study: Cognitive Skills Completely Describe Economic Growth

Posted by Bert Maes on January 28, 2010

A new study from the OECD provides evidence of the link between educational attainment and prosperity.

Published on January 27th, the study, entitled “The high cost of low educational performance”, asks “Why do some countries succeed economically while others don’t?

Their answer is: economies with better cognitive skills in mathematics and science innovate at a higher rate, generate more ideas and new technologies and improve their productivity much faster.

The OECD continues: “Regional growth over the last four decades is completely described by differences in cognitive skills”. The math and science skills of the labor force are directly related to economic growth.

This actually says that:

  • raising cognitive skills are a crucial force in economic development;
  • improvement in the quality of schools is so very important;
  • the potential gains from improving school is truly enormous;
  • educational achievements transform economies.

An improvement of 50-point higher average in mathematics and science performance in PISA scores generates a 0.87% higher economic growth every year.

Or even a 25-point increase in PISA scores, makes the GDP in 2042 rise more than 3% higher than what would be expected without improvements in cognitive skills. This would increase to a 5.5% improvement in 2050, 14.2% in 2070, and in 2090 about 25% above the “education as usual” level.

Over many decades, the small rise in average 0,87% annual growth rates could bring a stonking $115 trillion in extra wealth for its member countries by 2090, the OECD reckons.

You can see this is a long-term perspective, but still, the report concludes “the enormous economic gains, put in terms of current GDP, far outstrip the value of short-run business-cycle management of current issues of economic recession”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has cut $1 billion in California, the British government reduces spending on higher education by $980 million, half of American states will have spent all of their stimulus money ($787 billion) for education by the end of July. Cuts will follow, says the Economist.

These actions might be necessary (which I personally doubt), but the long-run issues should not be neglected. The economic value of successful school reform far exceeds any conceivable costs of improvement.

Countries must make substantial changes in raising the quality of learning outcomes now to reap the future benefits.

>> READ FULL STUDY: The High Cost of Low Educational Performance – The Long-Run Economic Impact of Improving PISA Outcomes (OECD, January 27th, 2010)

We welcome your views.

UPDATE: an additional graphic:

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8 Recommendations for Engineering Education in Europe

Posted by Bert Maes on January 27, 2010

In the European Union, there is considerable potential in the industry for growth and employment to 2020, through higher investment and innovation in key areas.

One of the recommendations from ORGALIME, The European Engineering Industries Association, is titledImprove the EU educational and engineering base”.

According to the ORGALIME/ELECTRA report 20 Solutions for Growth and Investment to 2020 and Beyond :

Skills shortage is a major point of concern for the electrical engineering industry which relies on highly skilled staff to develop its products. The industry is finding it increasingly difficult to meet its needs for these and other skilled staff.

A pro-active policy to ensure the supply of skilled labour is therefore key to the industry’s long-term success.

The following recommendations should contribute to that:

  • Accelerate the transfer of know-how from research institutes and universities to businesses: this is today insufficient.
  • Aim at achieving that all EU countries should send at least 50% of students through tertiary education (the level following the completion of high school, secondary school, or gymnasium).
  • Aim at attracting at least 25% of tertiary education students into technical, engineering and science education.
  • Provide for the possibility for equivalence of all technical degrees across the EU; implement science and engineering bachelor and master system across all EU countries, foster scientist and student exchanges across EU countries.
  • Attract engineering talent from abroad into the EU, including by starting a call-back programme for EU engineers and scientists now working in the U.S.A. or elsewhere outside the EU.
  • Encourage engineering apprenticeships
  • Initiate regular EU excellence competitions of EU science and engineering schools based on education results (not research).
  • Create transition points between technical education and bachelors (university) education.


The report adds: There are a number of centres of excellence in different industries across Europe.

However, in order to maximize the chances of achieving real economic benefits, more collaboration and a critical mass in innovative clusters & regional specialisation is necessary.


DEAR READER, I believe the recommendations are spot on. But I’m wondering, do you know such “centres of excellence”, either in Europe or the US?

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A Framework for Revitalizing Manufacturing EDUCATION

Posted by Bert Maes on January 22, 2010

Two reports have recently been released about revitalizing the United States manufacturing industry: President Obama’s FRAMEWORK FOR REVITALIZING AMERICAN MANUFACTURING, December 16th, 2009 AND Manufacturing Resurgence – a Must for US Prosperity, Joel Popkin & Kathryn Kobe , January 21st, 2010


Ian Fraser stated in his “Economics for Business”: “The Only Sustainable Competitive Advantage is LEARNING”: Products can be copied. Processes can be copied. Services can be copied. >> So how does a company create a sustainable advantage over competitors???

Innovation Nation, John Kao

Whole industries have emerged from inventions of Edison, Bell, and the Wright Brothers. US leadership springs from the willingness of American inventors to challenge conventional wisdom,” according to John Kao.

= Know-how is the foundation for tomorrow’s innovations. So we will have to create a national culture in which individuals and enterprises LEARN MORE QUICKLY THAN ITS COMPETITORS.

Education should be THE national growth strategy, focusing on massive funding for education, to give our country the engineers and inventors to thrive in a high-tech global economy,” John Kao added.

Popkin, Kobe & Obama follow the same vision on education in their frameworks for revitalizing manufacturing:

  • Labor in our manufacturing industry is more costly than it is in other parts of the world. An important way to keep the total cost of labor competitive is to maximize the productivity of each hour of labor.
  • The essential factor to accelerate and enhance productivity, is a skilled, well-trained workforce. Building world-class products using new cleaner, more efficient, more sustainable manufacturing process technologies (such as robotics and advanced materials), demands a workforce with an increasingly advanced set of skills and competencies.

  • = A leading incentive for offshoring is ‘race for talent’. IBM has built a new research center in Shanghai, China, because of the rich pool of science and engineering talent in China, as well as the continued commitment to expand collaboration with academic institutions.
  • A skilled workforce is the lifeblood of R&D, the lifeblood of innovation and competitiveness. Only those nations that continue to invest in highly skilled and talented workforce will stay competitive in the long run.
  • The United States must meet the long-term demand for workers with math and science training, to maintain the US manufacturing industry’s ability to compete worldwide. Other countries are already making significant strides in R&D in some of these areas and are manufacturing the leading edge products.
  • We will have to improve our education quality to meet employer needs. That means building programs that:
  • encourage partnerships with businesses and other educational institutions;
  • modernize technical schools’ facilities;
  • expand high-quality online course offerings;
  • focus on technical retraining in order to smooth the transition of employees from one manufacturing industry to another;
  • promote inhouse manufacturing worker training & broaden opportunities for career advancement;
  • make college more affordable for unemployed workers to pursue educational opportunities that will lead to good jobs and career pathways;
  • improve early childhood education that nurtures math and science proficiency.

An education program that fits nicely into this framework is the “Haas Technical Education Center” concept from It is set up as a long-term partnership program between education and manufacturing industry, in which the company Haas Automation, inc. helps technical schools towards:

–      Attractiveness & getting more students;

–      Higher motivation of young people;

–      Saving teachers time via offering them proven CNC teaching materials for direct use in the classroom;

–      Supporting the quality of instruction and the performance of student learning;

–      Helping the school to build a very strong reputation and competitiveness in the field of manufacturing education (and beyond);

–      Bringing education closer to the workplace and the “real industry”;

–      Bringing the training directly into line with the needs of the local manufacturing industry, etc.

Check to get amazing offers for your CNC manufacturing classes.

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From Unemployed to Machinist to Businessman: A Training Success Story

Posted by Bert Maes on January 20, 2010

Need a machinist? So do a lot of other companies. The problem is finding available, qualified machinists.

Even under the current economic downturn, the demand for engineers, machinists and machine operators remains high. Those three professions have made Manpower Inc.’s “Annual 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill” list in each of the past four years.

But, that concern is not as acute in the Los Angeles area as a result of a series of training centers operated by the Haas Technical Education Center: National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA). Since the facilities opened in 1968, over 15,000 machinists and operators have used the centers to learn their trade.

A case study: Shawn Gorman

When Shawn Gorman was laid off from his last job, he saw it as an opportunity to reflect upon what he really wanted to do with his life. He realized he’d always liked working with his hands. He had taken classes in auto mechanics while in high school, but had always wanted to take a metalworking class.

So, finding himself with free time on his hands, Shawn enrolled in a training program at the NTMA Training Center in Fremont, California. In August, Shawn joined a class with 19 other students, and together they learned the fundamentals of machining on manual mills and lathes. After learning the basics on manual machines, Shawn was prepared for the automated controls of CNC machines. “It was a very easy transition,” he says.

In module one, we teach students with no knowledge of machining that ‘this is a mill, this is a lathe.’ When they finish all five modules – which is 725 hours – they’re well prepared to start their careers,” said Jim Ragaisis, director of training for the NTMA Training Centers’ Ontario campus.

Right from the start, we emphasize application mathematics,” says Ragaisis. “We tell students we’re going to use a lot of math and trigonometry. That scares them a little, but they can get past that. We bring it to life for them. We show them the academic math, bring it into a technical arena, then take them into the shop and demonstrate how to apply the math and make it work for them.

The training center takes people who are unemployed and, if they qualify, trains them free of charge. This makes the goal of the program simple – train people to become employable machinists.

Shawn Gorman graduated from the program in December, and in just a few months he became a full-time CNC machinist, and a part-time businessman making his own parts. He was employed by a fellow graduate of the NTMA training center. “I made 12 calls to machine shops in the area,” explains Shawn. “I went to two interviews, and at the second one, the guy hired me. He was a graduate of NTMA and he knew the kind of intensive, relevant education I had gotten there.”

Shawn wasn’t even sure what a machinist did when he discovered the training center on the Internet. “The perception I had of a machinist was kind of the one you would see in an old textbook. You open up a book and see an old guy with glasses, a long shop coat and old equipment,” says Shawn. “But when I got into the course, I realized there’s a lot of technology behind it. It’s a completely different world than I imagined. This is really high-tech stuff.

The training center offers extensive hands-on training in entry-level machining, as well as advanced courses in CNC machining, programming and inspection, using Haas Automation vertical machining centers and turning centers, and Haas CNC control simulators for classroom instruction. ”We have six simulators for students to practice programming, along with seven Haas vertical machining centers  and eight Haas CNC lathes. We wouldn’t have any CNC equipment without Haas,” said Tony Tammer, former director of training.

The NTMA training center in Fremont is also a Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC), meaning it has an official partnership with the local Haas Factory Outlet. The goal of the HTECs is for students to take theory out of the classroom and apply it in a manufacturing environment.

The NTMA training center works closely with the Haas training department to improve instructional materials, so that students are prepared to enter the workforce. “It has been great to work with Haas to make sure the students are getting the best training available,” says Tony.

We specialize in machining,” says Ragaisis. “We have no other subjects. Our instructors have many years of experience in the industry. They all come from the field and teach practical, useful knowledge and application. Some instructors have their own shops or consult for industry, and some have European experience. We bring all that experience and knowledge to our students. That’s what we do best.”

Shawn feels the training was just what he needed. “I use another brand of machine where I work now, but when I started the job, I didn’t know anything about them,” Shawn says. ”I wish I could have stayed on Haas machines, but the training prepared me for any type of CNC machine.”

Shawn now works at Omega Precision in Tracy; he loves working in a job shop. “I love being a machinist,” he says, “and it took me all of about two months to get into my own enterprise through the shop. I’m working at the shop, but I’m also designing and making my own aftermarket automotive parts.

The training center prepared Shawn to be a machinist, and from there he has been able to apply the skills to his own interests. So far, Shawn has designed five types of gearshift knobs that he machines out of 304 stainless steel.

For Shawn, the NTMA training center was the perfect fit of technology and hands-on application. With his new love for machining, he hopes to expand his own business of aftermarket auto parts. ”If things keep going the way they are,” Shawn says, “maybe someday I’ll have my own shop and Haas machines.”



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Unique program to make CNC education attractive grows unabated

Posted by Bert Maes on January 11, 2010

The company Haas Automation Europe has formed four new partnerships with technical schools to attract a new generation of young people to start careers in manufacturing technology.

The largest CNC machine-tool builder in the Western world has opened 36 Haas Technical Education Centers (HTEC) the last 2 years.

A few reactions from the four Russian schools that just joined the HTEC network:

  • Being part of the HTEC network enables us to achieve several of our missions, such as increasing student motivation, expanding our existing co-operation with enterprises in Moscow and beyond, and boosting the prestige of our school.” (Natalia Bokatuk, Polytechnic College n° 42)
  • This new step will raise our school’s appeal to students considerably and enables us to play a vital role in preparing the highly-skilled personnel that our republic urgently needs. We will develop further as an innovative centre covering all modern technologies.” (Shakurov Zumejra Munirovna, Kazan Energy College)
  • Companies around the world face great difficulties in recruiting CNC operators with the right competencies.  These HTECs show students that precision engineering is an exciting world with well-paid jobs.” (Peter Hall, Haas Automation Europe)

FULL ARTICLE: Four new HTECs Bring Total in Russian Federation to 12!

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