BERT MAES

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

Posts Tagged ‘Haas Automation’

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.”

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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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How to Support Teachers

Posted by Bert Maes on May 4, 2011


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Below is an infographic illustrating what teachers feel is most important toward improving instruction.

Absolutely essential or very important:

(1) 96% Supportive Leadership

(2) 90% Access to High-Quality Curriculum and Teaching Resources

(3) 89% Time for Teachers to Collaborate

(4) 89% Clean and Safe Building Conditions

(5) 86% a Collegial Work Environment

(6) 85% Professional Development that is relevant to Personal and School Goals

(7) 81% Higher Salaries

(8) 43% Opportunities for Alternate Careers

(9) 25% Pay Tied to Performance

We are supporting CNC Manufacturing Teachers with elements (2), (4) and (6) for effective and engaging technical education.

Source:  Jason Flom (@Eco_of_Ed) from the multi-author blog: Ecology of Education.

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What Skills are Manufacturers Looking For?

Posted by Bert Maes on May 2, 2011


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If it were even possible to sum up change to the real world of today’s manufacturing in one sentence, it would be: “Fewer employees on more teams, using more technology to make crucial decisions more quickly.

Most production operations no longer require legions of employees who simply push buttons and follow an only occasionally varying routine. The modern factory is no longer a just giant building filled with hundreds of interchangeable low-skill, low-wage full-time employees.

Many growing manufacturing organizations report a greater need for workers with teamwork, decision making, technology, communication, and customer service skills.

Which key traits are most important to the immediate present as well as the future of manufacturing?

Changes in the required skills and traits for manufacturing personnel

To read the full article, click here.

Another article titled “The Future of Learning” reports on a 2020 forecast that outlines five surprisingly similar  learning priorities:

  1. Ability to verify information, recognize patterns, analyze data sets, and synthesize.
  2. Understanding of free enterprise and personal finance; appreciation of and ability to produce quality work products
  3. Success in making and critiquing an argument, participating on a diverse team, and dealing with paradox
  4. Ability to communicate in a variety of media, to participate in networks, and to navigate distributed organizations.
  5. Track record of personal management and initiative demonstrating independent work and judgment

This shows that the need for CNC machining specialists will grow in the next decade(s) and play a significant role in the future of manufacturing.

Most importantly, young people will need to bring high-tech skills and the ability to create more efficient manufacturing and supply chain processes and evolve in automated systems specialists and manufacturing process experts.


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Finland Gets Its First Haas Technical Education Center

Posted by Bert Maes on April 11, 2011


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Finland is one of the world’s strongest nations for manufacturing and education. But often the link is missing between schools and the local CNC enterprises. Haas Automation now partnered with the North Karelia College of Technology  and Culture in Joensuu to build those connections towards the best professional training.

As well as being the most northerly, this is also the first Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) in Finland,” says Bert Maes, HTEC coordinator for Haas Automation Europe. “The OECD acknowledges that the country is one of the world’s strongest nations for manufacturing and the quality of its education. We’re delighted to support the next phase of excellence: building long-term collaboration between technical schools and CNC firms.

Jyrki Turunen, school principal said: “Our vision for the students and for industry in North Karelia is focused on one, very important goal: to create a modern learning environment that will enable us to encourage and nurture ‘super technicians’ who will go farther in their education and careers than they or anyone else can currently imagine. We want to make CNC so interesting that it absorbs them during the daytime, and so fascinating that when they go home they dream about it at night.”

In 2004 and 2008 North Karelia College earned the Quality Award for Vocational Education and Training from the Ministry of Education. Last year it came second. Ara Hayrabedian, international coordinator at the college believes that being part of the HTEC programme will help the school secure the number one spot again. “The partnership with Haas Automation and its Finnish representative Grönblom brings a new way of thinking. Their support is helping us to develop new methods of teaching, to increase the motivation and to improve the skills of the young people who study here. We will also benefit from the international connections that the HTEC program brings, when we establish links with other HTECs across Europe.

Representing the local Haas distributor Oy Grönblom Ab, Petteri Heinonen voiced the view of all those actively engaged in supplying and using manufacturing technology. “Technical education should closely follow industry’s development and needs,” he said. “In the future manufacturing will be more and more technology-driven. Students at the North Karelia College will get the best opportunities and companies will get the skills they need thanks to the professional training and the Haas CNC machine tools the college is now providing.

Students at the North Karelia College of Technology and Culture, Joensuu, Finland (Pohjois-Karjalan Ammattiopisto), will be instructed on three Haas CNC machine tools (a TL-1 Toolroom Lathe, a TM-1 Toolroom Mill, and an SL-20 CNC turning centre) and a range of state-of-the-art production equipment supplied by the HTEC industry partners.

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Building long-term collaboration between education and manufacturing: Madeira, Portugal

Posted by Bert Maes on March 24, 2011


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A few weeks ago I established a new partnership with a school on the Island of Madeira. That is a most rewarding collaboration. See the story below.

Haas Automation Europe (HAE) is delighted to announce the Grand Opening of the first Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) on Madeira, Portugal.

The new facility was opened in Funchal on March 7th and forms part of the city’s Professional Skills Qualification Centre (Direcção Regional de Qualificação Profissional – DRQP). The Madeira archipelago is off the coast of North Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean, which makes this the most westerly of Europe’s 46 Haas Technical Education Centers (HTECs); almost 5000km by air from the most easterly facility.

As well as being covered by state TV, the HTEC Grand Opening event was attended by senior government official Sr. Francisco Fernandes, Regional Secretary of Education and Culture, and directors of DRQP Sra. Sara Relvas and Sra. Elda Pedro. After speeches and the presentation of the HTEC plaque, Sr. Fernandes told press and visitors why he thought the new workshop is important.

The DRQP now belongs to a network of engineering excellence,” he said, “giving students on the island access to strong international resources.” Sr. Relvas reiterated his comments, and added: “Because Haas Automation CNC machine tools are present at so many of the best international manufacturing companies, this HTEC will help our youth prepare themselves for opportunities in the rest of the European and international labour markets”.

The Funchal HTEC is in collaboration with the Portugal Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) – a division of After Sales, S. A. The director and owner of After Sales, Carlos Vilas-Boas, was instrumental in setting-up the new facility, and the other 4 on the Portugal mainland. “As with all HTECs,” he said, “this new laboratory and workshop houses the latest CNC metal cutting and precision engineering technology. We see that having access to these facilities inspires and engages the students and their teachers, which makes us very proud and committed to continue working with the DRQP.”

Madeira is the second richest Portuguese region after Lisbon and boasts a per capita GDP higher than the EU average. However, the island generates much of its income from tourism, and food and wine production, which means youngsters who want to pursue a career in manufacturing have, traditionally, had few options but to travel.

Many of Madeira’s young people will leave the island and work on mainland Portugal, in Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands,” says Haas Europe HTEC coordinator, Mr. Bert Maes. “We’re sure that the high-tech Haas CNC machine tools, the clean learning environment and belonging to our network of international HTEC centers will greatly contribute to the motivation, satisfaction and international career possibilities of these students.

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Where is the well oiled education system?

Posted by Bert Maes on March 1, 2011


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Manufacturing strengthens the financing balance of a country. The countries that have a strong manufacturing base have a healthier financial situation. Loss of manufacturing contributes to debts and impoverishment. Manufacturing clearly is a must to keep the rest of the economy going. Over time, leadership in manufacturing determines the economic winners and losers.

But manufacturing, invention and innovation depend for a very large part on the highly skilled employees. The most important thing to grow the industry is the quality and availability of the labor force.

We fail to motivate young people to work in manufacturing.

We’ve got an entire generation of kids who are ready to make their mark in the world, and we’ve got them sitting at desks in schools and in cubicles in companies. Many young people do not desire to sit in a cubicle. They want to have their brain fully engaged in a safe, clean environment.

A good example of a manufacturing company that understood this is Sewtec Automation. The enterprise has 9 multi-skilled programmers working directly on the shop floor using the machines directly.  They all feel actively involved in producing the final product. Young people brought the computer skills that are essential to the modern factory. They made it possible with the performance of 5 new Haas CNC machine tools to increase the productive hours by 850%. “We’ve made Sewtec an attractive place to work.

This type of company and this type of work, Mike Boyer writes, “requires a work force with above average mental strength -“IQ”- and a well oiled education system”.

And then technical vocational and trade courses are being reduced to deal with the budget battles.

How do the youth get trained for the jobs that exist today and will grow tomorrow when our aging workforce retires?Bob Trojan says. “Someone, somehow, somewhere, has to train our future manufacturing workforce.” Someone has to invest in technical schools to enhance resources and infrastructure. How do we otherwise put young creative hands-on people in position to work in a leading edge company?

To ensure future prosperity it is best to invest in those future earners.

With the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) program CNC machine tool builder Haas Automation is offering professional support to create motivating and inspiring learning environments with better CNC machining equipment, a facility infrastructure improvement concept and support in international relations.

We cannot save the world. But we can support with the technology part. For sure that is good for industry and for schools. And we just see it motivates students. Just that aspect is a great support for teachers. Educators need every bit of support possible!

Isn’t that so?

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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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High-tech machines greatly improve student motivation

Posted by Bert Maes on January 21, 2011


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  • “The aim in life is self-development; that is what each of us is here for.” (Oscar Wilde)
  • “Constant development is the law of life.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
  • “The human condition is growing without interruption, fulfilling a process that started in the female womb.” (Franco Ferrucci)

Are we motivating our students to develop? Are we helping our students to learn? Are we engaging students? Are we energizing them to develop every minute of class time?

Or are we too focused on reading and math standards, and forgot that learning and self-development actually seems to work via motivation?

The more I experience, read and reflect on education, manufacturing and my own job at Haas Automation, the more I am convinced that what we are doing is a right approach. I am in charge of implementing an innovation project in CNC manufacturing education, i.e. the Haas Technical Education Center program.

What we actually do is supporting students to learn. For that purpose we partner with technical schools using a framework of modern manufacturing technologies, classroom support materials and international student exchange opportunities.

There is a lot of controversy about the impact of ICTs on student achievement measured with standardized tests. The impact on student scores seems to be very limited. BUT about one thing there is general consensus: both teachers and students feel that access to and use of high-tech machines GREATLY contribute to student motivation for learning.

Exactly that is in my view the mission of teaching: maximizing motivation and supporting students to learn via – in the words of Dr. Jeffrey H. Toneycreating classroom environments for students that can enhance their learning experiences and motivation.”

Engagement (either in a school, either in an enterprise) is the key to innovation and competitiveness, says Human Resources Magazine.

So: for manufacturing innovation and overall economic competitiveness, we need to increase the number of schools that offer technology-rich learning environments staffed by teachers who are ready to translate those opportunities into fascinating real-world life-saving manufactured applications.

Without motivated and inspired CNC manufacturing teachers and students, every country simply risks losing its future economic vitality. In the next decade the most essential occupations for our society will require a lot of technology and manufacturing skills, says Linda Rosen. THAT makes us invest constantly in education.

www.HTECnetwork.eu

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Machine tool manufacturing and 15-billion years of cosmic evolution

Posted by Bert Maes on November 18, 2010


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Story by Matt Bailey

If you are machine tool manufacturing specialist or a student considering a long-term career as a CNC technologist, the following might spur you on and add a little inspiration to your day.

MATT BAILEY - Technology marketing communications and PR professional

In 1979, American astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan co-wrote and presented an epic, 13-part TV documentary called Cosmos, in which the Cornell professor contemplated the origins and the immensity of the universe, the wonders of the solar system and the possibility and likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. The show was a huge success, on both sides of the Atlantic, due in no small part to its host’s ability to communicate complex and fascinating concepts.

In the very first episode Sagan used the familiar Roman calendar to illustrate the enormity of time since the universe was formed, during what astrophysicists refer to as the ‘Big Bang’, 15-billion years ago. He asked his audience to imagine that each month, from January to December was equivalent to one-and-a-quarter-billion-years. Each day using this scale is ‘worth’ approx 40-million years and each second, 500 years.

Sagan went on to explain that if we imagine the Cosmos began on January 1st, it was in May that the Milky Way was born and September when our Sun and Earth were formed. Early life, he explained, began soon after, but the first humans only appeared on the cosmic scene sometime around the penultimate day of the year. It wasn’t until December 31st 11:59 and 20 seconds, however, that humans applied their ability to make and use tools, organised themselves into societies and built cites. ‘We humans, appear on the cosmic calendar so recently,’ said Sagan, ‘that our recorded history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of December 31st.

The first, primitive tools were found in Tanzania, on the African continent, and have been dated at around 2 million years. Using Sagan’s scale, CNC machine tools, and all of the modern accoutrements and conveniences that we create with them, including aircraft, motor vehicles, domestic appliances, computers, medical devices, space craft and satellites – we’ve engineered and manufactured in the last seconds, just before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, where we live now.

We owe our standard of living to tools and their evolution and our future depends on how we choose to use them. When Sagan recorded Cosmos the world had a stockpile of 50,000 nuclear warheads, also made using numerically controlled machine tools, capable of destroying every city on the planet several times over. Thankfully, the world’s nuclear arsenal has been reduced dramatically and the global arms race is, we hope, forever behind us. But, unless we find new and better ways to engineer and make the things we take for granted; ways that do less damage to the environment and use less of our irreplaceable resources, we still run the risk of what came to be known in the Cold War as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

We are the legacy of 15-billion years of cosmic evolution,’ said Sagan. ‘We have a choice: we can enhance life and come to know the Universe that made us, or we can squander our 15-billion year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first few seconds of the next cosmic year depends on what we do in the last few seconds of this one.

CNC machine tools, and the people who operate them, will play a vital role.


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Some publicity for my own projects: Haas Continues To Support Schools for a New Generation of Young CNC Top Talent

Posted by Bert Maes on November 12, 2010


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European Commission Endorses First European HTEC Student Exchange

The groundbreaking Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) CNC training programme recently received a resounding endorsement from the European Commission, which has agreed to sponsor and support the first international HTEC student exchange, in Spring 2011.

Between March 27th and April 9th, ten students and two teachers from the Belgian HTEC VTI St-Lucas Oudenaarde will travel to Sweden where they will work and study at host facility HTEC-Bäckadalsgymnasiet, in Jönköping. This exciting exchange is being staged and managed by Haas Automation Europe and five partner organisations, including the 2 HTECs, the Swedish Haas Factory Outlet (a division of Edströms) and two Swedish manufacturing companies, Linto and Fagerhult.

This is a very exciting development for the two pioneer schools and its students,” says Haas Europe HTEC coordinator, Mr. Bert Maes. “The HTEC network is the ideal platform for connecting schools, CNC teachers and students at an international level. Any school that commits to the HTEC program can benefit from international exchanges, and with the backing of the European Commission, HTEC students have wonderful opportunities to travel and learn.

This exchange program will allow teachers from the Belgian HTEC to cooperate with their Swedish colleagues and exchange ideas and best-practice for training young people as CNC machine tool specialists. At the state-of-the-art Swedish HTEC, the Belgian students will be further familiarised with the latest Haas CNC machine tools, as well as with new techniques in CAD/CAM, automatic welding, industrial design, 3D scanning and vacuum modeling.

The Swedish companies Linto and Fagerhult have agreed to mentor students during the ten days, with each student spending five days at each company. During their time at tool manufacturer Linto, the students will experience how the company’s 14 Haas CNC machines are employed and optimised in a demanding production environment. At Fagerhult, the students will study the manufacture of lighting systems, from raw material through to finished product, with a special focus on energy saving solutions and techniques.

Mr. Maes concludes: “From its investigation, the European Commission has ascertained that this HTEC student exchange is significant for European industry. The students will not only be exposed to innovative technologies, but they will also practice their skills in problem solving and working in teams, as well as learning how to adapt to different work cultures. We believe that companies who eventually hire these young specialists will benefit tremendously from their experience and international outlook.

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.

http://www.HTECnetwork.eu

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A video highlighting manufacturing career opportunities

Posted by Bert Maes on October 11, 2010


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Manufacturing is dead. Long live manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on September 16, 2010


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CNC machinists have got difficult times. Although they are in general paid relatively generously (close to $20/hour), there are fewer job openings available for those whose formal education stopped after high school.

It’s not that jobs aren’t being created in manufacturing – they are. But they are fewer in number. Landing such work need certification after rigorous and lengthy course work.

Those manufacturers that are hiring again, demand advanced technical skills, linked with lean manufacturing techniques and labor-saving technology. The employers complain that they can’t find enough qualified workers, although the unemployed often want to find work.

Consider, for instance, the job of a machinist. The basic job function hasn’t changed: machinists produce precision metal parts. But the drills, lathes and mills and other tools they use on the modern factory floor are almost always computer numerically controlled — CNC for short — and only as precise as the instructions provided by their operators.

As a result, machinists today not only need to be able to write basic computer programs — they’re expected to be able to troubleshoot those programs, and rewrite them if necessary, if they encounter problems during production. They’re massively better educated, massively better trained and massively more productive today than they were back in the old days.

When you spend millions of dollars on a machine that does four things, and improves your productivity and accuracy, you can’t just hire somebody out of high school who can’t even do the computations to do the setup. You want someone highly skilled, very technical, very knowledgeable.” (Reuters)

To help bridge that cap, groups like the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, the National Association of Manufacturers and America’s largest machine tool manufacturer Haas Automation are working with schools around the world to develop programs to give workers the skills and certifications employers want today.

The Lorain County Community College for example offers an intensive, four-month program called “Transformations” that gives laid-off workers the core technology skills they need to find a job quickly. This program has been having a lot of success with laid-off workers like Mark Lute, a 48-year-old electrician who lost his job, after 22 years. Lute is now enrolled in a two-year program, where he’s learning wind turbine maintenance and automation robotics.

A second example: CNC machine tool builder Haas Automation has long been aware of the need for skilled CNC machining specialists, and the looming skills gap resulting from the decline of manufacturing training programs. As part of its service offering, Haas invests in strategic partnerships with all types of learning institutions to offer students a way of gaining production floor experience before entering the real world. Worldwide, more than 1500 high schools, colleges and universities participate in the so-called “Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC)” network.

Targeting inspiring schools with dedicated teachers searching for innovative technologies and the most effective way to teach, the HTEC program not only helps train skilled workers for modern industry, but also supports in developing the future owners and supervisors of operations with the right self-management skills, teamwork skills and -with frequent international student and teacher exchanges- international cultural awareness is covered as well.

From my experience in working with principals, teachers and students the past half decade, I know it is very difficult to get kids motivated into wanting to have careers in manufacturing given the fact that in every family there’s probably been some brother, sister, uncle, father, mother who has experienced a job loss and doesn’t speak kindly of the industry.

But think about it: can you build stuff as creative as you want, in those new jobs below $15/hour in service industries like retail sales, food preparation, waste removal, or health care?

Main source: James B. Kelleher (September 2010) SPECIAL REPORT- Blue-collar, unemployed and seeing red. http://link.reuters.com/heg83p

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Four strategies to unlock manufacturing innovation today

Posted by Bert Maes on September 14, 2010


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Both the U.S. and the EU will have difficulties to compete on large-scale manufacturing again, but it can still continue to unlock value in its capacity to innovate.

Instead of a forest dominated by a few large trees, it will be nurturing a garden with many small flowers”: crowdsourcing and web-based collaboration, virtual micro-factories, small batch businesses, high-mix/low-volume parts, cloud manufacturing, 3-D printing technology to revamp the hands-on production industry.

What would be needed to unleash our creativity? A competitive strategy for any country should have four tall tent poles, according to Andrea Belz, specialist in strategies that transform innovation into profits:

1. Fund research, education and innovation programs.

2. Educate for competitiveness: “We must aggressively train our students” with better and affordable equipment and better long-term support for teachers.

3. Tax incentives for small companies to purchase new technologies and other capital goods.

4. Retain foreign talent.

“The risk is not that large-scale manufacturing will leave us,” Andrea Belz says, but “this is the last chance to stop the innovation train from departing as well.”

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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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Forecast + List: The Most Durable Jobs of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on August 3, 2010


We do expect continued growth in manufacturing of a fairly modest 5% or so this year and next year — which is stronger than the overall economy. I guess there are a couple of things driving that: One is exports have done well and we expect to continue to see growth in exports. Second, there is some recovery in investment in capital goods. It’s mostly metals inventory rebuilding and replenishing factories for equipment that has gone beyond its useful life. It’s not really adding to productive capacity; it is productivity improvement and simply replacement. Investment in equipment and software is growing, but still far below 2007/2008 levels. The only way to get faster growth in manufacturing is to bump up the export share.

I BELIEVE THIS SHOWS THAT THE MOST DURABLE JOBS OF THE FUTURE INCLUDE:

Energy-Efficient Automobiles
Computer Software Engineer jobs
Electrical Engineer jobs
Engineering Technician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Computer-Controlled Machine Operator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Operations Manager jobs

Building Retrofitting
Electrician jobs
Heating/Air Conditioning Installer jobs
Carpenter jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Roofer jobs
Insulation Installer jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Construction Manager jobs
Building Inspector jobs

Mass Transit
Civil Engineer jobs
Railroad jobs
Electrician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Bus Driver jobs
Transportation Supervisor jobs
Dispatcher jobs


Wind Power
Environmental Engineer jobs
Iron and Steel Worker jobs
Millwright jobs
Sheet Metal Worker jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Production Manager jobs
Production Supervisor jobs


Solar Power
Electrical Engineer jobs
Electrician jobs
Machinery Mechanic jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Installation Technician jobs
Laborer jobs
Construction Manager jobs

Of course this all depends on
(1)
increased confidence of companies and consumers to invest,
(2)
healthier demand from exports markets,
(3)
streamlined permitting processes to start up exports,
(4)
a permanent favorable government business tax & fiscal policy in R&D, new technology, product development, increased efficiency etc,
(5)
easier access to low cost credit finance conditions,
and (6)
heavy & smart investments in technology-based education and export training.

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First HTEC in France: From Small Acorns…

Posted by Bert Maes on July 19, 2010


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.

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…

———————————————————-

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.

www.HTECnetwork.eu


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What would be the best realistic manufacturing policy?

Posted by Bert Maes on July 12, 2010


The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is now promoting its priorities and policy recommendations of its June 2010 “Manufacturing Strategy – For Jobs and a Competitive America”. The Business Roundtable has released a similar report: List Obstacles to Growth.

The message of all experts: government should take a greater role in making manufacturing (the foundation of the economy) more competitive and more productive. The NAM report says that all foreign countries use all the tools of their governments to support industry and as a result they outgun the United States.

Both NAM and the Business Roundtable rally against:

  • The high corporate taxes, especially the high tax rates for small businesses, as they are responsible for the bulk of the new jobs, and the best jobs;
  • The rigid labor regulations, wages and benefits, making flexible work arrangements impossible;
  • The tough environmental regulations without a global approach will impose additional expenses, create uncertainty and will damage the ability of manufacturers in the US to compete;
  • The non-existent R&D tax provisions that could stimulate investment, recovery, significant rise of GDP and strong job creation;
  • The insufficient focus on Intellectual Property and increased immigration (access qualified, highly skilled professionals around the glob e), which should both be fixed to remain competitive;
  • The unfair (tariff) trade barriers China, India, Brazil, Europe, South America, Canada and Australia are constructing to protect and promote their own domestic manufacturing companies;
  • The underfunded tools to help small and mid-sized manufacturing export such as trade fairs, marketing assistance and the export-import bank;
  • The energy dependence without sufficient domestic supply of energy, coal, hydropower, gas, nuclear, renewable and alternative fuels:
  • The poor infrastructure in transportation and high-speed communications;
  • The uncertainty and danger of the ever increasing employer mandates and business costs of the health care reform;
  • The disappointing quality of education as the majority of manufacturers in America face a serious shortage of qualified employees, and cannot be given the certainty that they are hiring a skilled technical workforce when recruiting from schools.

Or in other words “SHOW US THE MONEY!” And then I ask myself the eternal question:

  • Government spending with lasting corporate tax cuts to boost economy and thus increase export earnings (“the only way to get us out of the recession”), but first lending more billions from mainly China (The current US debt to China is $2 trillion or $2 000 000 000 000) and threatening the nation’s future stability (potential new financial crises), security and independence. Additionally, the current levels of debt will crowd out private capital. If less capital is available for corporate borrowers, it will retard future growth and investment, and, eventually, reduce consumer spending power.

Difficult choice, isn’t it?

Decision making is all about prioritizing your opportunities. And it should be a genuine mix of policies that pay quickly and policies that bring long-term strategic opportunities.

I see the US working hard on the latter ‘secondary‘ areas that support long term export opportunities, such as health-care, education, immigration and energy policies.

I also see the government is not taking away immediate fear. There are intentions to raise taxes on business.

That is probably the biggest challenge we all face during crisis, whether it’s a personal crisis or a global one: FEAR.

Governments all over the world will have to figure out how they are going to communicate the stability of their countries in a way that the citizens will understand and believe it. Government should show enough detail of the state financials so that firms and consumers know, beyond all doubt, that the country isn’t in ‘free fall’ and that customer spending is a safe bet. A president’s personal guarantee won’t be enough.

The job is to lift people’s heads, with policies that decrease the number of business failures and increase their odds of success. The job is to lessen the people’s fear. This is not the time for messages of high risk that emphasize inspiration, empowerment and innovation.  It’s the time for messages of low risk like protection, security and stability.

If governments show how they will protect jobs and reduce structural unemployment… they’re 90 percent on the way to further recovery.

What would be the best realistic manufacturing policy?

I am thinking about:

  • Lower corporate taxes and force banks to restore small business credit quickly to trigger investments in efficient manufacturing technology.
  • But keep the environmental and labor regulations to ensure the health, safety and quality of life of the people. I can live with the government intentions to award  federal contracts to companies that provide living wage, health care, retirement and paid sick leave and have fewer violations in labor and employment, tax, environment and antitrust.
  • “Develop a system of financial incentives: levy an extra tax on the product of off-shored labor [personal note: and on heavily polluting off-shored production?]. Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations.” (Andrew Grove, co-founder and senior adviser to Intel Corp)
  • Bring better qualified, higher-skilled professionals inside manufacturing by restructuring immigration and starting to reform manufacturing education. The success of top-performing states – a Chamber of Commerce report points out – depends on their “ability to execute successful initiatives” in amongst others: basic education; “delivering adequate funding for initiatives; (…) enterprise-friendly tax and regulation systems; and vigorous collaboration between business, government and education.”

I believe a lot more is not possible under the current financial constraints and in the given four-year terms. The education reform will already take 10 to 15 years…

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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: www.HTECnetwork.eu.

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