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Posts Tagged ‘Statistics’

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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If you want to have a green job: get in manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on September 5, 2011

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Investment in the green economy and renewable energy today will help ensure our economies stay competitive in the future. But perhaps more importantly, right now investment in the green economy is creating new jobs for millions of job-seekers.

And guess what? If you want to have a green job: get in manufacturing!

A great portion of jobs in the clean economy is in manufacturing-related segments.

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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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Posted in Policy, Solutions, Statistics, Value of CNC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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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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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31 parameters which shape a healthy environment for manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on May 26, 2011

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The ERA Foundation established a list of parameters which are considered to be influential in shaping a healthy environment for manufacturing.

The list is not necessarily exhaustive; nonetheless, to test the parameters and provide some initial prioritization, it was circulated as a simple questionnaire to one hundred knowledgeable industrialists and policy makers who were invited to add further parameters if these were felt to be important.

Thirty-six responses were received and a final list of 31 parameters compiled; these are organized in the priority order shown below.

A long-term high-level Government commitment to manufacturing.
A competitive exchange rate.
Low interest rates.
Lower corporation tax.
Capital depreciation tax relief.
Taxation of dividends.
Capital gains tax on companies (cf. property etc).
R&D tax credits.
Direct government grants.
De-regulation/ Better regulation.
Intellectual Property protection.
Skills – professional.
Skills – technical.
Energy costs.
Accommodation costs (including business rates).
Capital controls – including FDI.
Competition policy – mergers and acquisitions.
Foreign takeovers of companies.
Role of Regional Development Agencies.
Labour costs.
Flexible labour laws.
Bank for Industry.
Infrastructure – transport, communications, broadband.
Government procurement.
Tax incentives for investment.
Business start-up support.
Venture capital funding and tax incentives.
Science research base.
Academic-industrial collaboration.
Encouraging the young to consider working in industry.
Culture – recognizing and broadcasting the critical contribution of manufacturing to the future of the country.

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How to Support Teachers

Posted by Bert Maes on May 4, 2011

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

Absolutely essential or very important:

(1) 96% Supportive Leadership

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

(3) 89% Time for Teachers to Collaborate

(4) 89% Clean and Safe Building Conditions

(5) 86% a Collegial Work Environment

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

(7) 81% Higher Salaries

(8) 43% Opportunities for Alternate Careers

(9) 25% Pay Tied to Performance

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

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

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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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The European Metal Manufacturing Hotspots

Posted by Bert Maes on October 13, 2010

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During the past 8-10 years companies in metal processing (manufacturing articles on turning and milling machines, treatment and coating of metals, and mechanical engineering) have prospered. Between 2000 and 2006 the European Metalworking and Metal Articles (MMA) employment have grown 8%, whereas basic metals and electrical engineering saw diminishing people. Split in sub-sectors the metal processing industry saw an increase of 15% in employment opportunities (from 1,5 to 1,75 million).

So even though technology has advanced, it has not replaced people. Even today, in the midst of the economic recession, the prospects for growth in metal parts output over the next 16 months look very good. EU added value metal products seem to be in demand!

But the European historically strong knowledge base is eroding. Companies report skills shortage as having a major negative impact on the competitiveness of the sector. It threatens the attractiveness of the EU to MMA firms as a place to locate production and R&D.

More and more technological development has lead to automation of production and increasing need of a capable force of hands-on, practical engineers with knowledge and skills in technologies, processes, management, languages and teamwork, with a focus on critical thinking, problem solving and adaptability skills. These skills will be the foundation for economic growth and prosperity.

Despite these well-known trends, only a few regions in Europe is stimulating the relevant streams of education.

GERMANY: South Westphalia

Germany -first of all- is dominant in manufacturing. It is the single largest producer of MMA goods, generating 25% of all EU27 metal output and responsible for 20% (860,000) of employment in the EU MMA industry.

The manufacturing hotspot of Germany is located in the south-west part of Nordrhein-Westfalen. The 600 MMA enterprises (with 140,000 employees) are focused on steelwork fabrication, vessels, containers, steam-generating boilers, cars, cutlery, wire and springs.

The region depends heavily on its metal sector: 53,8% of the companies in the region with more than 20 employees belong to the MMA sector. 1/4th of the region’s employees work in metal products and mechanical engineering. Manufacturing is THE generation of the regional wealth and prosperity.

Besides investments in slim administration, efficiency of equipment via automated processes, and personnel productivity, the region has got a very strong skills base due to the high number of quality vocational schools and universities.

Authorities see vocational schools and training institutions as a central piece for maintaining the competitive position of South Westphalia, as they are the prime source of innovation and knowledge renewal for many SMEs.

To strengthen the educational investments, NEMAS has been developed: a platform of cooperation between machine building firms and with colleges, universities and research institutions. The network develops projects towards

  • improved skills in engineering, design and management
  • collaboration in R&D
  • spurring children’s interest in technical subjects, already from the kindergarten years (see video Miniphänomenta).

ITALY: Brescia

Italy is the second powerhouse of EU MMA manufacturing. With the Italian output of 19,7%, Germany and Italy create combined almost 50% of the metal output in Europe.

The Brescia region is a cluster of 6000 internationally connected MMA SMEs in iron and steel industry, pots and pans manufacturing, weapons, machine tools, cars and industrial vehicles. The sector focuses on R&D investments, networking, internationalization (close contact with Germany), IT technology and niche products to maintain and grow its importance in the world. Consequently two service centers have been created:

  • AQM offering competitivity-enhancing technical and organization solutions, as well as technical training.
  • CSMT specializing in training and technical services and applied research from universities to the Brescian industry.

FRANCE: Pays de la Loire

France generates 11% of the metalworking output in the EU, in 45,000 companies with 462,000 employees. From them, 4000 companies and 120,000 employees are located in the Pays de la Loire region for the food machinery, aviation, shipbuilding and automotive industries.

In 2005, 71 innovative clusters were created in the area, initiating R&D projects involving 10,000 researchers.  One of the clusters is called ECM2, founded by a.o. Airbus and Renault around composite and metallic subjects, in association with inter-regional networks and 14 engineering schools. Together they develop better composite materials and processes via capital expenditures, set up collaborative engineering and local training programs for highly skilled manpower and share knowledge in new business opportunities.

SPAIN: Basque country

Spain is responsible for 9% of the metal manufacturing output in the EU, as well as 9% of the employment (378,000). As such MMA firms are important employers in Spain, delivering essential products and parts to other industries. For 60%, the Basque industry supplies to multinationals and other large international companies in the sectors rail and shipbuilding, automotive, aeronautics, aerospace and moulds & dies.

The Basque region is highly successful due to its long and focused support from the government. After severe economic recessions, dedicated strategic clusters were formed in 1988. One of them is the Machine Tool cluster that built a strong network and trust between machine tool companies and related industries. Especially the fundamental commitment to innovation (5% of the turnover is reinvested in R&D ), joint work in technology, promotion and training and the broad range of products with embedded flexibility and adaptability, are in this region the key to competitiveness.

  • The Machine Tool Industrial Research Foundation (INVEMA) offers technological and management services and promotes inter-company collaboration programs.
  • INNOBASQUE is the Basque Innovation Agency, a non-profit association established to coordinate and promote innovation throughout the Basque Country and to encourage entrepreneurial spirit and creativity at all levels.
  • IHM², the Machine Tool Institute, is focused on MMA training courses, fundamental to the competitiveness of the Basque economy.

AUSTRIA: Vorarlberg

Austria is another key player in European manufacturing. Vorarlberg, in the western-most region of Austria, is in economic terms one of the best-performing regions of Western Europe, with flourishing textile, clothing, electronics, machinery and packaging sectors. The 100 MMA companies in the region (12500 employees) manage to survive with investments in skills education and quality towards profitability. The V.E.M. (Vorarlberger Elektro- und Metall Industrie) is established to increase collaboration between enterprises and educational establishments. Companies, for example, are sponsoring the schools in terms of technical equipment.

The Economic Chamber of Vorarlberg has taken several initiatives to promote interest in technical qualifications:

  • The “Schaffar”-day in which children from the 3rd and 4th grades are invited to visit local companies. In 2008, 1700 children participated.
  • The “up2work”-day, a similar initiative for 5th to 6th grades in the primary school. In 2009 a total of 1900 children visited 160 local companies for a day of work.
  • 7th to 8th graders are invited to visit the BIFO fair for advice on education and profession.
  • FITFrauen in technische Zukunftsberufe (Women in future technological professions) which every year invites girls from the 7th to 9th grades to visit companies and technical schools along with their teachers.

Such actions support the development of a highly skilled workforce able to deliver high-value products with a high degree of customization.


The Metalworking and Metal Aricles (MMA) industry is present in virtually every corner of the EU. And for many countries manufacturing is critical for its economy and wealth. Some countries are notably known for their low labor costs. But often substandard innovation and skills are the result.

Educational programs in which students from an early age get exposed to manufacturing technologies in an entrepreneurial manner, therefore, are central to stimulating the competitiveness of the industry and create innovative companies.

Main source of information: 2009 Report Competitiveness of the EU Metalworking and Metal Articles Industries

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Manufacturing is dead. Long live manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on September 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main source: James B. Kelleher (September 2010) SPECIAL REPORT- Blue-collar, unemployed and seeing red.

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Strong Manufacturing = Healthier Financial Nation. A study from Belgium.

Posted by Bert Maes on September 8, 2010

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Over the past 40 years Belgium lost 17% of its manufacturing activities, a prominent Belgian economist finds, in collaboration with several entrepreneurial organizations (the presentation of the study – in Dutch). Only the United Kingdom is doing worse. The future of both countries in terms of competitiveness doesn’t look bright.

Change % Manufacturing Since 1970

Is deindustrialization/demanufacturing a normal natural process giving way to the services era? Not entirely, the study shows. Many countries still rely heavily on manufacturing. The simple logic is this: when a country loses its manufacturing base, the service sector gets fewer chances to grow.

The manufacturing sector has to be preserved, simply because the basic creative activities in the industry are a must to keep the rest of the economy going, according to the study. The financial crisis has revealed the weakness of our services economy. Loss of industry makes a country extra vulnerable. The country loses exports, loses income and has to rely on domestic demand that has to be stimulated by the government.

Maybe the most fascinating observation from the study is that the countries that enjoy a strong manufacturing base, have a healthier financial situation. There is not a chance that a country can get out of its recession and generate renewed wealth without substantial contribution from its manufacturing sector. Loss of manufacturing contributes to impoverishment.

The study states that Germany should be Belgium’s benchmark example with: lower labor costs, a more flexible labor market (less conflicts between employers and employees), less complex administration, a real export policy, attracting (foreign) top companies that have a urge to innovate and internationalize, focus on R&D support, more collaboration with the educational sector etcetera and the fact that the Germans unite behind the notion of manufacturing export. The government, business community and workers all see their future in global business and they work for a common purpose more often than not.

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

Posted by Bert Maes on September 6, 2010


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

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Prospects for Manufacturing Growth Next 16 Months

Posted by Bert Maes on August 27, 2010

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

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McKinsey: How to compete and grow: a guide to manufacturing priorities

Posted by Bert Maes on August 18, 2010

The McKinsey Global Institute has analyzed the performance of more than 20 countries and nearly 30 sectors, including the African continent, on what the best government manufacturing policies are to make those economies compete and grow during and after the current recession.

According to those studies, the best manufacturing policies first of all depend on two criteria

(1) Whether you live in a low-income, middle-income or high-income country;

(2) Whether you operate in an innovative start-up industry or in a mature sector.

(1.a.) The manufacturing situation in HIGH-INCOME economies
(in total 54 countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the US):

  • Between 1995 and 2005 services generated ALL job growth in high-income countries, and between 75%-87% of the economic growth. Only 13-25% came from goods-producing industries. Between 1985 and 2005 manufacturing contributed 0,3% to growth, services accounted for 2,2%. The employment powerhouses and growth sources were retail trade, restaurants, construction and those services that bring process innovations. Some predict a substantial employment growth in IT &  telecom, private equity, construction and environmental services by 2014, as well as car & automotive manufacturing and mining, oil & gas machinery manufacturing.
  • These are of course statistics from 2005. Since then the situation changed drastically. The oversized financial industry did hurt the broader economy the past years. At this moment “making goods is — with exceptions — more productive than providing services, and rising productivity is the fundamental source of prosperity… a major nation must be able to maintain a balanced current and trade account over time, and goods are far more tradable than services. Without something to export, a nation will either become over-indebted or forced to reduce its standard of living,” says economist and author Jeff Madrick. Since there is no economy that would have sustained rapid growth without substantial contribution from its industrial sector, at this moment, increased growth depends on the performance of manufacturing! Today manufacturing is doing more to lead us out of the recession than any other industry.

(1.b.) Manufacturing situation in MID-INCOME countries
(In total 93 countries including Argentina, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Hungary, Jordan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Russia and Turkey)

  • 85% of net new jobs comes from service sectors, including utilities, broadband telecommunications, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, finance and insurance, construction, IT and software activities, R&D, digital media etcetera.
  • But the manufacturing industry (including pharmaceuticals, radio-TV-communication equipment, motor vehicles, cloth and apparel, food, drinks, tobacco, oil, coal, basic material, agriculture and forestry) contributes 46% of all growth (Russia for example 39%, China 55%). So in these countries the performance of expanding industrial sectors is critical to the economy.

(1.c.) Manufacturing in LOW-INCOME countries (61 countries including the African continent, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, India and Nepal)

  • Educating has to be one of the highest priorities for public policy, to deliver the necessary trained business and scientific talent. Truly competing and winning in the long term will require local know-how and talent. Local capacity-building programs, attractive career paths, and apprenticeship opportunities will be critical to achieve sustained growth.
  • The other highest priorities include infrastructure development (transport, fuel, water, energy, port, airport, roads) and regulation, including a strong stable government, upholding the rule of law, creating a more predictable business environment. The current poor performance in these fields complicates the importation of equipment and materials, and makes the overall manufacturing costs very high.
  • Expanding manufacturing, however, increases exports and reduces the need the need for imports, easing these countries’ current-account deficits. So precisely manufacturing is essential to make continued investments in infrastructure and education.

(2.a.) Best government actions in MATURE manufacturing sectors

  • After being highly dynamic and generating growth to other sectors, the semiconductor industry today employs only 0.5% of the workforce. The last 15 years semiconductors didn’t generate sustained growth – public investments have led to very low returns.
  • There is a similar situation in the cleantech solar/wind power and biomass industry. The global markets in this area are already subject to heavy competition and as a result this market will not bring enormous job creation. The sector will remain too small to make a serious difference to economy-wide growth. New jobs in this green technology production is more likely to come from improving building insulation and replacing obsolete heating and cooling equipment.
  • Mature manufacturing markets best benefit from expanded infrastructure construction (roads, ports, high speed telecommunication, research labs, parks and training centers), improved access to capital, support in R&D through universities or other research funds, reduced trade protections, export assistance, faster and streamlined government regulations, enhanced access to raw materials and logistical effectiveness, focus on quality of education and technology-driven retraining to acquire a skilled workforce – at the right cost – that can continuously deliver new products for new generation of technology, in low-cost production.

(2.b.) Best government actions in INNOVATIVE START-UP industries

  • Protecting local producers has helped create local industries in a sector’s early development phase, but it led to low productivity and higher costs to consumers, with limited growth. Removing trade and investment barriers at the right time, with exposure to global competition, significantly improves performance and productivity.
  • Innovative high-quality ‘original technology’ industry start-ups should get government contracts, low-cost loans for investment, reduced raw materials/energy/logistics costs, long term large government investing in channeled R&D funding and expanding necessary education, support from private companies and university research to develop new technologies together, and attracting smaller companies to form clusters, which help create a sustainable pool of talent and expertise. But remember, this only works in brand-new industries.

Conclusion: designing and implementing manufacturing policies to improve growth and competitiveness are not easy. Taking into consideration the maturity of the country and the maturity of the industry will boost the odds of policy changes having a positive impact.

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Forecast + List: The Most Durable Jobs of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on August 3, 2010

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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The aging workforce: a competitive disadvantage – the necessary actions for the manufacturing sector

Posted by Bert Maes on June 29, 2010

Daily I talk about the problems in education and the resulting catastrophes manufacturing companies are facing in the near future. But many people have to act – not only teachers and school principals. Also enterprises must take significant and necessary steps to make sure the young perceive manufacturing as an interesting and rewarding career opportunity.

A new June 2010 report “The aging workforce: responsive actions for the manufacturing sector” is showing the manufacturing company leaders the way forward.

A quick summary:

In comparison to other sectors, the manufacturing sector’s demographic profile is disproportionately composed of older workers and men. 38% of the workers is aged 40-54 year, compared to 31% in other sectors of the economy. More than others, manufacturing employers will experience a large-scale exodus of older workers in the forthcoming years. The aging of the Baby Boomer generation is likely to have a greater impact on the manufacturing sector than on other sectors.

The question is: how can enterprises attract the young workforce to counter the inevitable exit of the older workers?

The good news is that manufacturing is transforming today. Changes in technology, the use of robots, computers, programmable motion control devices, and various sensing technologies makes the industry evolve away from traditional assembly line systems towards “lean” manufacturing systems that use teams of workers to produce entire products or components, that rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task.

That means that production work in this sector can no longer rely on lower educated individuals who labor on repetitious low-skilled tasks. Machinists using machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts, in most of the cases produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. They have to use their knowledge of the working properties of metals and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed to make machined products that meet precise specifications. More and more employees can enjoy creative work. That is the good news, which is a significant incentive to attract new and the very best talent.

The other good news is that – while manufacturing workers have significantly less autonomy and fewer opportunities to change their work arrangements in comparison to workers in other sectors of the economy – especially younger workers get more freedom in deciding how to perform their work and are included in decision-making activities. This evolution for sure enhances commitment and talent stability.

The bad news is that working in manufacturing tends to be tiring work. Two in three middle-aged employees in the manufacturing sector – reported that they come home from work too tired to take care of their household chores at least several times a month.

More bad news is that in comparison to other sectors, workers in the manufacturing sector have less access to career progression and promotion programs and fewer options in terms of where, when, and how work is to be performed. All generations express a preference for access to flexible work options. That would increase business effectiveness and productivity. Likely, some rigidities stem from the imperatives of the production process, which can prohibit work off-site, work part-year, reduce work hours, choose work shift etcetera. But still…

On the other hand the authors of the report find evidence that enterprise size strongly predicts the availability of flexible options. One in four small manufacturers (those employing fewer than 100 workers) established flexible work options to a moderate or great extent, a rate that was two to three times higher than medium sized and large sized employers. For young people those small job shops look like the most promising career starts.

And a last – critical – observation is that manufacturers especially have difficulties in

  • recruiting competent job applicants,
  • finding new employees with satisfying operations skills levels,
  • absenteeism,
  • morale,
  • finding employees skilled in management,
  • legal skills
  • and sales/marketing skills.

Teachers of technical schools and parents are the people that can make the change in these skills and attitudes happen.

The manufacturing sector appears to be at a competitive disadvantage without education that leads the world, without redesigned human resource practices to the expansion of flexible work options, and without forward-looking employers…

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The 25 factors that underpin manufacturing competitiveness (US, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia)

Posted by Bert Maes on June 25, 2010

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According to a new report access to talent that supports innovation is the key factor driving global manufacturing competitiveness, well ahead of traditional factors such as cost of labor and materials and energy policies.

In the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, a joint report from Deloitte’s Global Manufacturing Industry group and the United States Council on Competitiveness, manufacturing executives identify talent-driven innovation as the most important competitive driver.

The quality and availability of skilled production workers, scientists, researchers, engineers, and teachers, who collectively have the capacity to continuously innovate and improve production efficiency, is the most significant driver of manufacturing competitiveness, the report says.

Talented people are giving companies the greatest potential for making a company innovative and for improving the overall competitiveness of the country. The capacity of a country thus largely depends on the quality of its education and training.

The quality of talented people is driving manufacturing innovation. Coupled with the costs of labor and materials and the costs of energy, these three are the “foundations” of manufacturing competitiveness.

After the key factors of production – labor, materials and energy – government forces have the most significant impact on manufacturing. These include environmental, institutional and infrastructural elements.

It is interesting to see the differences across continents:

  • Talent-driven innovation is the top driver of manufacturing competitiveness across global regions. The exception is Mexico and South America, where executives rate the quality of the physical infrastructure (roads, ports, electricity grids, telecom) as the most important.
  • European executives view energy costs and policies as the second most important driver. The European Union faces serious challenges concerning security of supply as the dependence of several member states on one single gas suppliers (Russia) makes the continent very vulnerable for shortfalls in supply and energy crises. So clearly manufacturers in Europe see the availability of cost-effective alternative energy as key to competitiveness and the springboard to leapfrog competing regions of the world. However a common energy policy in Europe is very controversial as many nations see access and sources of energy supply as too critical to national security and should remain under the control of member nations.
  • In the US between 50 and 60% of the respondents considered major current policy trends as very disadvantageous: (1) the bail outs that hinders competition and does not benefit business over the long term, (2) the corporate taxes making US manufacturers pay 18% more on taxes, natural gas, employee benefits and pollution abatement than a foreign competitor making a similar product, and (3) the increasing costs of healthcare that will stifle manufacturers’ ability to grow and create jobs.
  • In China on the other hand the lack of access to healthcare and insurance is seen as very disadvantageous, as that is a major contributor to poverty in China. Low levels of insurance coverage have resulted in high savings rates and reduced consumption – key determinants of economic growth. China’s leaders recognize that they need to improve the equity and efficiency of the healthcare system, which plays a critical role in the economy.

Overall the study concludes that difficulties in accessing an empowered talent base are likely to contribute to the United States and Europe becoming less globally competitive in the next five years.

…Time to act towards attractive, inspiring and advanced manufacturing education…

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