As automation continues to enter into manufacturing plants, on both the operation and machining sides, it is important to understand how education will impact the workforce. A shortage of critical skilled labour is not new to the manufacturing industry. What is new however, is the continuing advancement of manufacturing technology. This development causes a need for training and education of the current workforce, to strengthen their skills for new types of tasks in automation intelligence. As companies are developing more automated technologies, they must find ways of managing automation intelligence. They must also find ways to translate the current skills of their machinists and labourers to deal with the new technology.
Workforce and Changes
People have always been the key element in production for thousands of years, and tools are there to make their jobs easier. There are challenges when trying to find the right staff for the wide variety of positions in manufacturing. Companies are seeking to understand how to support their staff to help narrow the gap between the current workers and the technological needs in an ever more competitive market.
Change and improvements are nothing new to manufacturing, when simply observing the changes in the last 5, 15, and 25 years we see an ever changing world. From the onset of faster manufacturing, with the Model T Ford’s assembly line to the automated CNC lines of today. Information technology, specifically related to quality tracking, has become a huge component of manufacturing. Reduced waste is a goal manufacturing plants strive for by having minimal variation during production, and to be able to accurately and quickly measure production output.
Continuing Industry Advancements
While manufacturing methods have changed, the primary tasks for manufacturing have not. The need for engineering, design, production, inspection and sales will always be key activities in the delivery of products. Engineering drawings have gone from paper to 3D models, a lathe and mill have become multi axis CNC machines, multi-spindle mills allow an operator to fully machine a part without removing it from the die. The human element remains a staple in all of these operations. For example, as the technology continues to evolve, a machinist will become a programmer, needing to understand the proper way to interface with the machines in order to efficiently produce the parts. It will be increasingly important to train and hire staff with both technical and mechanical skill sets.
As we look ahead there will be an ever increasing degree of integration with technology and manufacturing on all levels within a company. As machines become more connected, information will be gathered and analyzed to try to remove inefficiencies. From reducing idle time to measuring the exact wear on tooling, this increased connectivity will assist with preventative maintenance by predicting and measuring the life cycles of tools. As I.T. and automation continue to enter manufacturing operations, the educational segment of training will have a greater impact on the workforce. The need for a continuous stream of people to enter the advanced manufacturing workforce will not decrease. While it seems that manufacturing lists very low as a career choice for today’s youth, continuing to drive the awareness of this type of career path will be key. Getting new staff who have a desire to understand the need for automation intelligence will be paramount. By showing new students the great rewards and pride for creating something and by
offering real-world experiences through youth internships, these will play a large role in continuing to build a steady strong workforce.
Author: Curtis Obert