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Posts Tagged ‘skills’

A weak manufacturing sector is like having a weak immune system

Posted by Bert Maes on April 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spanish and Portuguese Students: A Five-Axis Manufacturing Future

Posted by Bert Maes on July 28, 2011

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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German manufacturers recruit professionals from Spain and Bulgaria

Posted by Bert Maes on July 25, 2011

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

But kids in technical education have to know foreign languages!

High unemployment in Spain encouraged workers to emigrate

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

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

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

Wittenstein has already placed job advertisements in Spain

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

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

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

Bulgaria also interesting for professionals recruitment

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

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

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

Source: MaschinenMarkt – Robert Weber

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The Truth about…Youth

Posted by Bert Maes on June 14, 2011

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What motivates young people around the world today? Money? Fame? Justice?

McCann Worldgroup asked that question to 7000 young people around the world: US, UK, China, India, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, Australia and Philippines.

 The same three motivations are ranked highly in every country.


And it is technology – most often their phone and laptop – which fuels the three motivations above. It is the deep relationship with technology that allows them to connect and to influence justice for a new era.

  • The need for connection and community is the most fundamental motivation for young people. They want to connect, share and broadcast through digital cameras, cheap editing software, design programs and blogging platforms.
  • For this reason: to be remembered, not for their beauty, their power or their influence, but simply by the quality of their human relationships and being loved by many people.
  • Connecting to a broader network of friends has replaced the need to belong to a tight-knit group of friends.
  • They long for new tools to broadcast, share, entertain, make new connections, beat their friends, and narrate their lives.
  • They avoid all impositions, rigid rules and structures where they can’t negotiate.
  • But these tools should come from people that really care. Youth is disgusted by corporate people doing good just to make themselves look good. From a young person’s point of view, the worst thing a brand can do us make a promise it doesn’t keep.
  • Young people want to change the world. Social media allows them to share information, to join groups on a wide range of topics (everything from corruption in politics to freedom of speech or human rights abuses) and to build networks of support and encouragement.
  • They believe technology brands like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook will solve most of the problems the word faces today, from environmental issues to food shortages, from freedom of speech to privacy and terrorism.

I am wondering how these technology brands will save the world.
Have you got insights for me?

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 5]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 10, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers

[FINAL] PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools

  • I notice that principals are usually committed to establish a unique school, with a sharper profile, a stronger competitive position while being the reference for the highest quality in instruction and quality learning for all students. The hope is that that results in attracting more students, more money and more working relationship possibilities towards the government, the community and where possible the international scene. That would bring more means to develop his teacher team further via continuous professional development.
  • Generally speaking, I find teachers have the need to be very valuable for the accomplishments of future generations, make a world of difference for their students, motivate them, keep them enthusiast, inspire them, being a true role model, as well as offer them the perfect start for a very secure, promising, rewarding career. Teachers usually are also interested in professional development and advancement to make their professional life easier, and give them more satisfaction in his job.
  • The private sector needs to get involved and rally together with financial support, advocacy support and program support. Schools are looking for good-will professional external agents that can offer guidance and support with forming allegiances with fitting training and professional development suppliers, providers of teaching materials, political and societal leadership, media, fundraisers or financial experts, architects and all other help for the school staff to choose practices appropriate to their needs.
  • What kind of business involvement does it take to truly make a difference in the education arena? Principals and teachers always have a clear passion, but they often lack the systems and tools to create change. To start with companies should study the challenges teachers and principals face. Companies can easily supply goods and services to schools, can make a commitment to continue funding in good and bad times, can offer support in HR, can try to attract national attention and exposure, can arrange employees to work as mentors etcetera. But it is not going to work if you don’t keep in mind three things:
    (1) you have to offer your support in (re)building the curriculum to meet the needs of our youth and the needs of local manufacturers.
    (2) business leaders need to be brought together to put pressure on governments. Serious reform requires changing policy, and that means use political resources, put pressure, push for smart policies and start political debate.
    (3) a lot of barriers are people.

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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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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 4]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 8, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers

Simply put: manufacturers look for ready-trained, on-demand and enterprise-ready talent with following skills:

  • Ability to operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate high
    math proficiency
  • Ability to verify information, critically analyze, recognize patterns, analyze data sets, synthesize, creative
    problem solving and thus improve manufacturing processes.
  • Success in communicating ideas, participating on a diverse team, considering alternative perspectives,
    collaborate with other experts on a global playing field (languages!)
  • Ability to communicate in a variety of media, to participate in networks, and to navigate distributed
  • Track record of personal management, planning ahead and persistence and initiative demonstrating
    independent work and judgment
  • Management, legal and sales/marketing skills

But many companies seem to get disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. In terms of competency as well as attitude (morale and timeliness).

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 3]

Posted by Bert Maes on June 6, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth

  • Very often young people hear that they have to love math and science to be able to follow CNC. They hear that it is challenging, “but if you work hard you can do it”. And they never hear benefits and rewards of being an engineer. The messages emphasizing the challenge of math and science skills, clearly don’t work. Many students don’t enjoy math and science enough to become engineers and find it “boring” and “nerdy”.
  • The four messages that tested besttoward appeal and relevance are
    1. Engineers make a world of difference.
    2. Engineers are creative problem-solvers.
    3. Engineers help shape the future.
    4. Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.
  • Youngsters lose their attention in av. 3 minutes. They have no patience; they want to get information fast and quick on subjects that are visual, hands-on, actual, challenging, adapted to the needs of society, based on real-life problems with practical use for the youngster’s own life. They want direct action, direct results, and a respectful, passionate and authentic teacher.
  • Technical education should encourage their creativity. “We encourage our children to be expressive and make things. Then, suddenly, when they reach age 6 or 7, we switch gears, leaving them with the impression that art class is as extracurricular as baseball and not nearly as important as, say, English or math”.
  • This generation did growing up in a period with booming wealth. At home they have everything they want, in terms of high-quality goods. They want to keep the same standards outside their home, i.e. in schools and in their jobs. Young talent expects quality in class.
  • In school and on the work floor young people are looking for self-development and a fun time. Their choice of work and their choice of education should support that goal.
  • They are very eager to learn more, to see more, to develop themselves and especially to do what they like to do. In the first place it is not important how much money they get, but what is the most crucial: how much you’ll learn, how happy you’ll be, how much respect you get from your friends’ community, how much fun your colleagues will be, how good the job matches with personal interests and values. Young people don’t want huge salaries, if that means they don’t have time anymore for their family and friends.
  • Engage students. Create flow experiences through projects and events that not only bring fun and excitement, but also help them to build social connectivity. Create tools and projects that connect and make your students the stars. Don’t sell a course, sell a community. 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.
  • 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.
  • On open days young talent wants to hear about the role of manufacturing and how it is important to economic development, how manufacturing and the company is global, that the industry is alive and well, what the value is of what they are learning in school, what the products are that are being made, the possible jobs and wages, the advanced technologies, alternative energy or bio processes involved, and testimonials from young employees.

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers (June 8th)

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 2]

Posted by Bert Maes on May 31, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

PART 2: Understand the education facts

  • Pupils are avoiding technical subjects, partly because of “substandard, inadequate facilities” All too often, technical schools are dark, dirty, old fashioned and depressing places with totally obsolete training equipment. This is not the type of environment in which young people want to invest 5-6 critical years of their lives.
  • It’s all about first impressions. If the first impression of a classroom is not good, you can’t touch and move young people to follow your manufacturing classes.  Welcoming environments reduce dropout rates. ”Talent demands an environment in which it can excel. Innovation comes from talented people working in the right environment with the right tools. Give talent the resources to create”.

PART 3: Understand the needs of our youth (June 6th)

PART 4: Understand the needs of manufacturers (June 8th)

PART 5: Understand how to work together with schools (June 10th)

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A Guide to Convince Youth to Pursue Manufacturing Jobs [PART 1]

Posted by Bert Maes on May 27, 2011

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PART 1: Understand the manufacturing facts

  • The countries that enjoy a strong manufacturing base have a healthier financial situation. Loss of industry makes a country lose exports, lose income and lose standards of living for the citizens. Loss of manufacturing contributes to impoverishment.
  • Manufacturing makes a bigger contribution to exports than anything else. “It still contributes to 50% of all our exports,” says Sir Alan Rudge. “The only valid way to close the trade gap is something like 20% increase in manufacturing. Anything else is pure theory. Without manufacturing the economy would be a disaster. It is already weak and it would be much weaker.
  • The most powerful nations in the world are those that control the machinery that makes the goods. Jon Rynn shows that about 80% of the world’s production of factory machinery has been controlled by what we would consider the “Great Powers”. Until the 1950s, the US had produced about 50%; we now produce less than China’s 16%.
  • Machine tools and technological improvements in that machinery are the main drivers of economic growth. No machinery industries, no sustained, long-term economic growth. Machine tools lead to the explosive economic growth of the last two hundred years. A machine tool makes the metal components that not only go into other pieces of machinery, such as cars, but are used to produce yet more machine tools.
  • The modern factory is no longer a giant building filled with hundreds of interchangeable low-skill, low-wage full-time employees. With the right skills most manufacturing operations offer rewarding, creative career opportunities involving sophisticated equipment.
  • The problem of course is that manufacturing takes time to develop and change and be able to build up the markets. In financial services the actions can be taken a lot faster. Improving manufacturing output is clearly not a short term project.
  • Do you have any other important facts we should tell the youth of the nation?

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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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Manufacturing and What It Takes To Be a Fortune 500 CEO

Posted by Bert Maes on April 22, 2011

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Adam Bryant - Author of The Corner Office

Yesterday I posed a video in which the former CEO of Intel tells us that the most common educational background of the Fortune 500 CEOs today engineering education is. Today I am reading Adam Bryant’s post on what it takes to lead a Fortune 500 company, a start-up, and, yes, a school.

The five skills Bryant found -in interviewing more than 70 chief executives- can and should be learned in school. Manufacturing and engineering classes are the ideal tools for that purpose. After all, engineering courses can promote the qualities Bryant distilled: fascinated how things work, ask the right questions, critical analysis, questioning data, communicate ideas successfully, transfer knowledge to new contexts, creative problems solving.

The perseverance, the precision, the determination and the out-of-the-box thinking needed to manufacture something, turn out essential for a CEO and for day-to-day life.

Here are the five essentials for success — qualities that most of the Fortune 500 CEOs share and look for in people they hire.

  • Passionate Curiosity: What, ultimately, is the CEOs job? “To be a student of human nature.” The CEOs are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students. They always want to learn everything, they are engaged with the world, fascinated with everything around them, and want to understand anybody with asking the questions: Why do you do that? How come it’s done this way? Is there a better way? It is this relentless questioning that is their greatest contributions to their organizations.
  • Battle-Hardened Confidence: For leaders status quo is not an option. They own the challenges with perseverance, purpose and determination. They make mistakes, don’t look for excuses, dust themselves off and keep fighting the next day. They say “Got it. I’m on it.” – Words that are music to a manager’s ears.
  • Team Smarts: They understand how teams work, sense how people react to one another, recognize the players the team needs, know how to bring them together around a common goal and how to get the most out of the group. The greatest players might not be the stars, but those will get you the ball and then be where you’d expect to put it back to them. The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people.
  • A Simple Mind-Set: Most executives expect people to be concise, get to the point, make it simple… Yet few people can deliver the simplicity and focused thinking of a 10-word summary of his or her idea, get to the conclusion first, starting with “Here’s what’s important …” or “The bottom line is … .”
  • Fearlessness: [CEOs are] looking for calculated and informed risk-taking, but mostly they want people to do things–and not just what they’re told to do…. They want people to shaking up status quo, not necessarily because things are broken, but because they can be much better and should be much better.

However, it should be noted that all of these are personal traits cannot make individual leaders do it all–turning around companies and schools by virtue of their energies. The organization settings and context interferes. Saviors with the right personal traits might make a difference if they adapt to and work with the new setting rather than repeat behaviors that seemingly worked elsewhere. Think: transfer knowledge to a new context.

Engineers and manufacturers are trained such that they can take a problem and design a solution that meets the requirements, by working in team, by taking information from various fields and apply that information to solve problems.

It looks to me that engineering and manufacturing classes can prepare you for the challenges of the real world. If you can survive the challenges of manufacturing school, you can probably survive the challenges of a CEO too…

Is that the reason why the most common educational background of the Fortune 500 CEOs today is engineering education?

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Manufacturing in the backyard garage changes things

Posted by Bert Maes on March 29, 2011

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Manufacturing is very much alive. But you don’t see it. Manufacturing is an invisible sector that is building, making and creating all the things you are using every day. But you don’t know it.

What is happening in your backyard? There is probably someone in his or her garage making money transforming metal or aluminium into new products using his or her advanced skills and cutting edge technology.

These people in their small manufacturing businesses, often micro-factories occupying just a few square meters of floor space – probably working almost next to your home – are the driving force of your wealth and your quality of life. Economic growth is generated locally, not by nations. The source of prosperity is always local! And that wealth always involves manufacturing.

So the small manufacturing companies are not solely there to make money for themselves; they are playing a bigger role.

And I see that students are becoming very aware of that. Andrew Reynolds Smith of GKN told the audience at the recent Rebuilding UK Manufacturing Summit that young people want to go into manufacturing, because it is their best chance of changing things.

How can that be encouraged further?

We urgently need to build a strong educational system… That is our weakness. Manufacturing education IS economic development.

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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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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 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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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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Future manufacturing depends on young talent with advanced analytical skills

Posted by Bert Maes on December 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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