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When I grow up, I Want To Be In Manufacturing

Aug. 7, 2007
OEMs work to ensure there will be plenty of skilled labor to go around.

The Institute for Manufacturing Productivity goes beyond the typical tech center concept.

A group of high school guidance counselors visiting the institute for manufacturing productivity prepared for lunch and seated themselves at several round tables adorned with white linen tablecloths. during the meal, they were told that the exceptionally clean room they were dining in was actually a machine shop. The counselors could not believe it because, like most people, they envision manufacturing facilities as dirty, oily and grimy. The institute for manufacturing productivity and oems in the manufacturing sector want to change this perception.

The institute for manufacturing productivity at York Technical College in Rock Hill, S.C., is a facility whose mission is to produce a globally competitive workforce in the manufacturing industry for the benefit of local, state and national economies and for workers desiring to enter skilled, high-wage occupations. The institute goes beyond the typical factory-tech-center concept. it represents a joint effort on the part of machine tool OEM Okuma America Corp., the college and other manufacturing partners (see "institute for manufacturing productivity partners" sidebar).

Recruiting is part of the institute's functions, which is the reason that its first order of business was to invite in the high school counselors when it opened its new facility in may of 2001.

"We are going back as far as middle school to identify potential students and to help guidance counselors properly lead parents and students in choosing careers in manufacturing. Today's shops are clean and computer interfaced, and the work requires massive amounts of critical thinking skills," said William Beaver, director of the institute for manufacturing productivity.

Okuma President and Chief Operating officer Larry Schwartz and former York Technical College President Dr. Dennis Merrell developed the concept for the institute. Okuma played a key role in shaping it and had members on the board of directors who helped determined how the facility should look and how it should operate. Based on the partnership concept, the institute would be used for training and technology transfer.

The institute offers both continuing education and credited programs, with about 60 credited students currently in its machine tool technology program and over 500 students going through its continuing education program per year. Credited students typically work toward a certificate, degree or diploma, while those in continuing education focus on quickly acquiring the skills and development hours for maintaining licenses, certifications and registrations.

According to Beaver, students learn on the latest technology of Okuma machine tools, and the institute will be one of the first in the country to offer a 9-axis training curriculum. Since it is a public institution, the facility has access to federal education grants, one of which made the 9-axis program possible. He also said that the institute is part of the National Coalition for Advanced Technology Centers.

The institute's partners supply the technology to develop its curriculums. "Once we develop it (training) here, we can also deploy it to other colleges who want the same system" said Beaver. "We are very interested in sharing information and knowledge. Although when we develop training, we do separate what is proprietary from what we will share. We want people to use 9-axis, and we want them to know how to use it efficiently."

All the Okuma machines in the institute's lab are brand new, fully functional and for sale. They are used not only for training but also for customer runoffs. The building design allows a fork truck to easily move out a sold machine and put a new one in its place without disturbing any of the other machines. Besides educating and training, the institute welcomes people to bring in their real industry problems, and the facility experts will help solve them. While the teaching staff includes York professors and two former Okuma employees, the institute will call in Okuma application engineers if needed on customer projects.

Mazak's National Learning Center
Mazak's Technical Center at its U. S. factory in Florence, KY., houses the company's National learning Center managed by Steve Pearson. The center has several programs in place for not only machine training and teaching current manufacturing trends, but also for promoting manufacturing as a viable career. pearson said that the center is used to show people that manufacturing in the united States is not dead.

The center partners with local colleges, universities, technical schools, boards of education and manufacturing associations. personnel at the center often make presentations on the manufacturing industry to visiting highschool students interested in pursuing careers in engineering or manufacturing. "We'll show students such advanced processes as 9-axis machining, which really peaks their interest. But they are really amazed when we hand them a complex part and then demonstrate how one machine did all the machining operations on it," said pearson.

Working with Mazak, Northern Kentucky University offers a class where students visit the center once a week. While there, they can use the machines, and mazak application engineers are on hand to answer questions and assist in training. This is the hands-on portion of the course in tandem with the theories portion taught in the college classroom.

According to Pearson, Mazak has two philosophies operating at the center – training and learning. Training involves customers coming into the center and mazak determining what they need to be taught, such as an introduction into machine programming. A learning application, on the other hand, deals with more advanced topics. These are not canned classes. They are learning "events" such as forums with industry experts that focus on real-world issues such as workforce development. pearson is currently working with another local college that has a small teaching machine shop that he would like to take to the next level, using the center to teach the class about such manufacturing trends as multitasking machines and other advanced systems. Between the center and the college, students would get a full, wellrounded program, he said.

Mori Seiki University
"We (the united States) are losing the core knowledge base of manufacturing – more specifically, the process of cutting metal – through attrition. A generation of machinists produced from apprenticeship programs is quickly fading. Where once we trained machinists in the united States to be CNC operators, we are now training those unfamiliar with manufacturing to be CNC operators, and this new type of CNC operator lacks the fundamental knowledge for troubleshooting problems and optimizing processes. Basic core training is what is needed." said Marlow Knabach, vice president of marketing at Mori Seiki and of the machine tool builder's recently opened Mori Seiki Uuniversity.

Currently at the facility located in the Chicago area, courses available to employees and distributors ensure that the knowledge bases of those representing the company keep pace with rapidly developing manufacturing technology. moving forward, the company is developing training courses for customers and others within the manufacturing industry.

Staff at the brand new facility are in the process of establishing relationships/ collaborations with outside technical schools and colleges. "We want to build an all-encompassing core curriculum of courses and offer programs with established levels or ranks of learning, such as machining i, ii, and iii. our customers want this, and we are doing everything we can to get these programs in place as quickly as possible because the need is that great," Knabach said.

Knabach and his team want the facility to have a true university environment, plenty of research and the sharing of ideas and knowledge between students themselves and between students and instructors. facility instructors will not be teaching all the courses. There will also be outside experts/educators. Knabach said that the university is the catalyst for bringing all the necessary knowledge and learning materials together.

The university will use "blended" programs that augment on-line instruction with face-to-face learning. Knabach believes such programs will allow shops to get their employees more engaged in the course material they are learning.

The university is a standalone facility completely separate from the company's tech centers and wholly funded by Mori Seiki. in fact, the company has earmarked 1 percent of its revenue for such educational purposes.