BERT MAES

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

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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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.HTECnetwork.eu

''

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German manufacturers recruit professionals from Spain and Bulgaria

Posted by Bert Maes on July 25, 2011


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

But kids in technical education have to know foreign languages!

High unemployment in Spain encouraged workers to emigrate

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

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

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

Wittenstein has already placed job advertisements in Spain

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

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

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

Bulgaria also interesting for professionals recruitment

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

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

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

Source: MaschinenMarkt – Robert Weber

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[VIDEO] Why Manufacturing is so Important to Each of Our Lives

Posted by Bert Maes on June 8, 2011


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Manufacturing Should Be Called: The Art of Import Replacement (and The Art of Saving Our Economy)

Posted by Bert Maes on May 3, 2011


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Jane Jacobs

So many times people are asking me: “We are living in a service-based economy. Manufacturing is not viable anymore. So what the **** are you doing there?

Well, my answer typically is:

Yes, we are living in a service-based economy: in high-income countries 75%-87% of the economic growth is generated by services. 13%-25% comes from goods-producing industries.

But the problem is: this is not creating wealth — it actually fuels our national debts.

We cannot live from services alone. Poor regions and nations typically import more than they can afford OR they fail to produce a wide, diverse, creative range of physical products and export them. Economic success is simply the result of a process of constant, new & differentiated exports.

What we should be doing is follow a very old concept invented by Jane Jacobs: the import-replacement theory. That would make us earn money… Today, we stay behind with importing stuff, losing money, governments that have to loan, and in the end can’t pay for the interest anymore, bringing us close to bankruptcy.

Also the banks still haven’t learned anything: they still have the luxury to play around with other people’s money. When they screw up, and lose millions, they don’t care. The government doesn’t mind. A manufacturing business instead gets the raw material in, and makes a finished product. “When you screw up, you pay from your own pocket,” says Franc CoenenThe economy is at risk when you count on companies that just sell ‘air’ and don’t add value.

An economy based more on making things and less on debt-fueling services would help to avoid domestic financial bubbles and add balance to the global economy,” Tom Saler adds. Only by restoring manufacturing can historic trade imbalances and high unemployment levels be expeditiously reduced and economic growth expanded to generate sufficient tax revenues to help ultimately balance the budget deficit.”

Is there a reason why we cannot be the best in the art of ‘import-replacing’ again?

The Chinese are not the problem. Jobs and industry always move to the cheapest and easiest manufacturing market.

In the 60s and 70s it was Japan, then South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong took the manufacturing lead in producing ‘junk’ products in large quantities. Those countries got better in higher quality products, the people grew richer, workers demanded higher wages and benefits and the local standards of living were raised, resulting in higher costs of production.

Now India and China are the biggest and best at this game. “But recently rising labor costs have pushed some Chinese manufacturing to places like Vietnam,” Tom Saler reports.

In her 2004 book Dark Age Ahead Jane Jacobs argued that our civilization shows signs of spiral of decline comparable to the collapse of the Roman empire. We depend on 5 pillars to stand firm, she says: family and community, education, science, representational government and taxes, and corporate and professional accountability.

So to be the industrial and innovative leader, we have to pay the costs of new technologies and the corresponding training. Being more innovative means having better people. The source of better skills and better productivity is better education and better training in science.

Our greatest resources for innovation are many young, independent, highly-skilled hands-on thinkers and creators. We can’t grow our economy if we can’t attract younger generations to our industry and if we keep forcing many of our schools to close their metal shops.

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, in saving our economy.

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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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[VIDEO] Craig Barrett: “To be able to go forward, you need knowledge of Engineering”

Posted by Bert Maes on April 21, 2011


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If you have a few minutes of time, please listen to Craig R. Barrett, former CEO of Intel Corporation about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) – or read his main thoughts below:

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is the foundation of what the 21st century has to hold in terms of economic development. It is the foundation of the future.
  • Every industry you can think about that is really key for the 21st century is founded in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are required to go forward. The economy’s future is very dependent on the quality of the workforce. They are the ones that add more value. To be able to innovate, to be able to add value, to be able to do something new, you need the best educated workforce WITH knowledge Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  • The most common educational background of the Fortune 500 CEOs today is in fact engineering education. It shows that problem solving and math is driving business going forward.
  • The only way to go forward is improving STEM education. That is not only the role of government or a school district. The private sector needs to get involved and rally together with financial support, advocacy support and program support.

Craig R. Barrett hits the nail on the head, isn’t it?

Have a look what Haas Automation is doing in the field of CNC Manufacturing with the Haas Technical Education Center program: http://haascnc.com/htec/ebook/ It brings Craig Barrett’s vision into practice.


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Great Thoughts

Posted by Bert Maes on April 19, 2011


What would you like to add?

Source: http://bit.ly/fgUtrW

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Psychology Today: Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century?

Posted by Bert Maes on April 14, 2011


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Automation and computerization are doing a lot better than humans in repetitive tasks and calculations. Computers will always have the edge on that.

But there are plenty of things computers cannot do. Focusing on the right skills in upbringing, education and training will give students the top jobs with the most satisfaction.

Without the below higher-order cognitive skills, your children will only be prepared for assembly line work in manufacturing or service. They won’t be able to compete on the global employment market.

The best, most creative, and personally rewarding jobs will go to applicants who have the skills in:

  • Question and evaluate the data
  • Willingness to consider alternative perspectives
  • Articulately communicate ideas successfully
  • Ability to transfer knowledge to new contexts
  • Mental focus, visualize goals, planning ahead, resisting immediate gratification
  • Collaborate with other experts on a global playing field
  • Creative problem solving & concept development

These skills are mainly a result of the development of the prefrontal cortex. That control center changes most rapidly in the age range of 8-16. That is the most optimal learning period for children to start developing the right skills.

Stimulating the brain circuits during these years with hands-on project where students have fun while applying the fundamentals of science strongly influence the highest thinking skillsets that both build wise men and women and determine the best opportunities in the global job market.

Source: Psychology Today

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Don’t sell a product or a course. Sell a community. 12 Tips.

Posted by Bert Maes on April 7, 2011


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Since a long time I am thinking about the most important rules for success as a sales professional, success as a teacher, success as a principal and even success as a student.

My last month’s experiences during trips to schools in Portugal, Germany, Finland and Norway, and 2 articles (here and here) might have given me the answer:

  • Every single person is situated in the middle of potential resources.
  • And every single person is driven by two fundamental social needs: the need to belong and the need to be significant.
  • To meet those two needs we only have to strengthen the relationships with others, with those potential resources.

For sales professionals I believe this means:

  • Have a sales philosophy that emphasizes relationship building.
  • Top sales pros know that success in life isn’t the money you make, but the relationships you build.
  • Accentuate your product’s potential for relationship building.
  • Value the relationship more than making your quota. Think end-of-time friendships not end-of-month totals.
  • You’re first order of business: connecting your customers with each other. Think about how much our lives are driven by peer recommendation these days.
  • Become a trusted advisor that people seek out; not someone  pushing product to anyone that will listen.
  • Be passionate about share of customer not share of market.
  • Sell people a good product and they will like you. Connect them with their peers and they will love you.

For education professionals:

  • Engage students. Create flow experiences through projects and events that not only bring fun and excitement, but also help them to build social connectivity.
  • Get students involved as early as possible in deciding what to teach. It is a big thing for teenagers to have their opinion count.  In school, that can make a big impression with small but meaningful acts. Young people are looking for platforms on which they can tell their own story.
  • Create tools and projects that connect and make your students the stars.
  • If you can offer students a better way to belong, a better way to be significant, and a better way to connect to and impress their peers than what’s already out there, then your students will invest their time into the community, the project and the events you create for them.

Maybe the biggest challenge facing schools that want to attract more students to their manufacturing departments is the right focus on connectivity.

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The give-me-economy versus the make-it-economy

Posted by Bert Maes on April 1, 2011


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I have been lucky to visit Honduras in Central America. Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The Belgian backpacker Geert Van Vaeck who started his own ViaVia Travellers Café nine years ago in Honduras told me that he doesn’t expect decent economic or social change in the future. “Politicians and civilians here are used to just receiving money in the form of tips, without using it to build the community. We live here in a give-me-economy,” Geert said.

But not only Honduras is a nation of takers. Your country is nation of takers too. “We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers,” Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal claims. “Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government”, with a career offering lifetime security, no risks. “It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we’ve gotten. Government jobs are being considered a life time job with rich benefits; all of which get paid by the taxpayers!

In a recent study of Apple and Goldman-Sachs financials by John Cassidy of The New Yorker, it is estimated that the average Apple employee makes $46,000 per year. That same study concluded that at Goldman-Sachs the average salary is $430,700 per year. One of those companies “makes” a product that is sold and the other… manages money.

An economy grows by making things, not by taking things. The economy is built and financed through manufacturing. Losing manufacturing is like stopping the motor of the world.

More people should be ‘nation builders’, more people should go in manufacturing again.

(…and nation building does not mean bombing other countries…)

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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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This is manufacturing’s moment – It is the moment to engage schools

Posted by Bert Maes on March 17, 2011


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At the March Leadership Summit from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute  and the new National Center for the American Workforce was pretty straightforward with a message we advocate since a decade:

She said that manufacturing simply can’t wait for the educational system to reform itself. It must take the lead and press for expansion of industry-education partnerships to infuse technology into school curricula, apply manufacturing principles in educational institutions and produce industry-based skills certifications.

Otherwise the lack of people coming through the school system with employable skills will continue to hamper the nation’s manufacturing’s competitiveness on the global stage.

She is confident about our ability to correct the problems and move forward to reclaim a leadership role in the world, but stated that it would take active participation by the manufacturing industry for this to happen.

On the other hand, DeRocco said in an earlier speech:

Manufacturers cannot do efforts in innovation and the workforce by themselves. Educational institutions at all levels must partner with the industry if we are going to produce both the technical and engineering talent that our sector demands and accelerate our innovation capacity. But we must be the ones to take the first step and now is the time. This is manufacturing’s moment. It is the moment to engage high schools, colleges, and universities as they are under pressure to reform. It is the moment to reach out to young people and offer them a job, a career, and future they can be proud of.

What is your opinion?

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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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A Longer-term View on Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on February 17, 2011


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Plenty of people are applying for jobs. But the unemployed don’t seem to have the skills needed for the world’s current and future challenges. And then I am talking about manufacturing – what else? 🙂

Manufacturers are increasingly automating their plants and laying off the low-skilled workers. Despite the growing amount of machines and robots, more people will be needed that have the ability to ensure production runs continuously and to solve issues – without down time.

Manufacturers are willing to hire again since the beginning of the year, due to good economic results. They specifically look to hire people who understand sophisticated computerized machinery in more than one process and people who are capable of resolving complex production issues, providing preventive maintenance, making routine repairs, and recognizing process improvement opportunities.

So the need for workers that can apply advanced problem solving and analytical thinking skills increases.

Those skills seem to be the main reason why companies offshore: the average cost savings achieved by offshoring declines, the potential for cost reduction alone is no longer enough to justify moving operations. But companies are still doing so -a Duke study says- “because of a domestic shortage of skilled workers, not a desire to save on labor costs”.

This indicates we are not making much progress in training high-skilled workers. In fact, investment in the training of the new workers has gone down over the last 25 years, Mike Collins says. Which means: manufacturers take less preventative maintenance actions and experience more emergency breakdowns.

What is needed is advanced training programs,” Mike Collins concludes. So why don’t we start with this: let us make it easier for teachers and schools to be successful: better tools make better schools. Every manufacturing company can contribute to that. Partnering with schools is one of the best investments in your long-term future.

“Long term” probably means at least seven to ten years. Did you know that Asians typically think in terms of at least 10 to 15 years? In the U.S. and Europe, nearsightedness is the norm. And then we are worried about our future economic vitality.

Dominic Barton believes that having a long-term perspective is the competitive advantage of many Asian economies and businesses today. Consider the long journey of Toyota to become global leader or Hyundai which experienced quality problems in the late ‘90s but made quadruple sales in 3 years by reengineering its cars with a 10-year car warranty.

It is long-term value that needs to be maximalized. Manufacturers must have a perspective that serves the interests of the community. Communities more and more expects that local companies engage themselves. Customers plan to purchase more from socially responsible companies in the future. Just like investments in the environment, corporate investments in local schools build, maintain and improve corporate reputation and trustworthiness .

Better tools make better schools. Better schools make better tools for your future.


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The World’s Fastest Car – To Inspire Engineers

Posted by Bert Maes on February 8, 2011


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Construction work formally begins this week on what is expected to be the world’s fastest car. Called Bloodhound, the vehicle has been designed to reach 1,000mph (1,600km/h).

Even cooler is this: the project has been conceived to inspire school children around the world to take up science and engineering.

BRILLIANT UK MANUFACTURING!

‘to inspire engineers’

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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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Educational Status Quo and Manufacturing Emergency

Posted by Bert Maes on December 15, 2010


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The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data have been released and pretty much show that in general the past 9 years not a lot changed. Nothing suggests that we have made either substantial progress or experienced a marked decline in basic skills in reading, math and science.

That is a decade of status quo in most of the Western world. And I have got the strong feeling that both education and manufacturing lack a sense of urgency and a contagious enthusiasm. There seems no great dissatisfaction with this status quo. There is no fire. There seems to be no pressing need.

That was different in October 1957: the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik.  This immediately prompted fears that we had lost our worldwide dominance in the scientific arena and as a result were horrified by the thought of a space-based missile attack.

That was the wake-up call that caused the United States to boost investment in science and math education. Under the threat of national security, Congress immediately provided nearly $1 billion over four years to support improvements in teaching of science and mathematics, and fund low-interest loans for students pursuing higher education.

There we made a decision, we’ve put our minds to it, we got people together, we focused, we identified a very coherent and very particular vision of what to achieve, we formulated just a few very specific principles and above all: we got unified around an insistent, consistent and persistent shared practice.

And as a result, we not only did surpass the Soviets, we developed new technologies, industries, and jobs.

Since then, we have dismantled the essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. I am particularly thinking about two foundations of every economy: the education system and all manufacturing activities of building, creating, making life-saving things.

Both education and manufacturing have eroded rapidly. Investments have been neglected. This raises doubts about our future economic vitality, at a time when international competition from Asia and the Southern Hemisphere will pose serious challenges during this century.

It is only by creating great school cultures and great learning environments – where children truly can achieve great things and physically create a whole variety of great things – that we can be competitive internationally over the long run.

We cannot afford to cut back on creative technical education. But first we need to have a new sort of Sputnik event. We need a crack in the shell to move people. It seems to be very difficult for human beings to anticipate long-term forces in society and to jump over the walls of quick economic profitability, discomfort and immediate rewards.

Few will voluntarily embrace changes that make their lives more difficult. So few are aware of the importance and educational emergency.

The Huffington Post reports that it is nothing short of tragic to see that our kids aren’t getting the math and science skills they’ll need to thrive in their lives and jobs. “Government data show that almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require a firm grounding in STEM.

>> Dear reader: what can change the status quo in education and/or in manufacturing?

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