Mazak Canada Corp. opened a $4 million headquarters and technology center in Cambridge, Ontario, Mori Seiki USA is planning to spend about $7 million a year for its new "university" in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and Okuma Corp. pooled together 23 companies for its technology and training center in Charlotte, N.C., called the Thinc center.
These are three recent, commendable examples of the lengths to which many machine tool manufacturers are going to provide education and training on their machines to their customers and potential customers. These aren't the only machine tool producers that are opening new training and technical facilities, these are only the ones that announced their plans in May of this year.
In talking about the outlays for their new training centers or technical facilities, each company cited, in some way, the lack of a skilled workforce as a motivating factor for their investment. That demonstrates great long-term thinking on their part. These manufacturers are investing in their own futures: If there are no machinists — or operators — capable of running run today's machines, every machine tool manufacturer eventually will see prospects diminish.
As the level of machine tool complexity increases, the level of basic training also has to increase. Thus, these training facilities are direly needed.
There is another bit of forward-thinking wisdom at work here also: These machine tool manufacturers are investing in their technical centers and training facilities at the top of the market. Many machine tool manufacturers are continuing to report record sales in terms of machines sold and, it can be presumed, they are recording record profit. So, they are taking some of their current profit and reinvesting in their futures at a time when they are best able to do so.
Shop managers and owners should look at the message machine tool producers are sending, and they should take action to follow their lead.
It's common wisdom that most shops are enjoying a good period of economic success. Business is good right now and promises to remain good for several years to come, especially in the medical and aerospace fields. It would be easy to keep your head down, pay attention to getting all of those parts out the door, and declare that you're just too busy.
However, to ensure a future that's worth looking forward to, whether for your shop or for your family, now may be the exact time to take a break and plan for the future while we are still riding a crest of a profitable period.
The training and technical centers that the machinery producers have set up may be good tools to use once your individual planning is done. They come at a cost — for the most part you have to be a customer of the company that has the training and the training is focused on their own machine tools — but there are available resources that you could use to make your own future look brighter.
One more note: Mazak, Mori Seiki and Okuma are approaching the idea of training and technology centers in distinctive ways. Each one of the facilities that opened in May demonstrate creativity and ingenuity in how these companies address the need for training and customer support.