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Focus on the Workforce: Manufacturing Technology is Advancing Rapidly--Are You Keeping Up?

Mark Hoper

By Mark Hoper
FABTECH Event Co-Manager
Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

John Catalano

By John Catalano
FABTECH Event Co-Manager
Society of Manufacturing Engineers

There’s been a lot written about the retirement of the baby boomers creating a skilled labor shortage in manufacturing and about the need for students to become knowledgeable in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) to fill these openings.

But what if retirement is still 15, 20 or even 30 years away? What training might you need to get a promotion? Will you be ready for opportunities that might come your way? What technologies are around the next corner that you will need to master or continue in your current position?

Continuing education is vital to career growth for most 21st-century workers and especially those in the manufacturing profession. Technology is rapidly advancing, and manufacturing professionals need to keep up with the changes.

Additive manufacturing used to be just for prototyping, but is now being used to speed up the product cycle. Nano and micro technologies are enabling us to manufacture things that can’t be seen by the naked eye—and the traditional processes do not work in this minute world. In welding, technology is constantly improving in areas like lasers, robotics, safety and automation.

The gap between what an employee can do and what the job requires is increasing as technology advances and skills consolidate across differing job functions, and you don’t want to be the one to fall through that gap.

Many companies are increasingly investing in worker training, but expect their employees to also invest in themselves. Many manufacturing professionals depend on professional societies and associations to keep themselves competitive and productive. From their publications and technical papers to webinars, conferences, and trade shows, industry associations can help you stay current.

So when five professional organizations come together at an event like FABTECH, the benefits to you are multiplied. Not only are there hundreds of exhibitors showcasing the latest technology, but alongside the show the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA), American Welding Society (AWS), Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), and the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI) offer a comprehensive Educational Program. SME, FMA, PMA and CCAI co-sponsor more than
80 sessions on cutting, finishing, forming and fabricating, management, stamping, and tube and pipe, while AWS presents a complete lineup of welding education. Expert-led sessions focus on the best practices and emerging trends impacting the industry today. The program includes 46 new sessions such as:

• Recruiting and Selecting the Best Employees
• Energy Savings for Finishing
• Social Marketing on Speed—A Crash Course
• Fiber Laser Cutting
• Robotic Automation
• Use of 5S to Control Workspace
• Hydroforming—It’s Lower Cost than You Think!
• Leadership: Critical Communication and
Team Development
• Turning Your Finishing System Green
• Welding Technology to the Rescue
• 8th Conference on Weld Cracking
• What’s New in Power Sources?
• Thermal Spray Technology: High-Performance Surfaces

AWS is focused on educating the next generation of welders as well as encouraging professional development. FABTECH will mark the debut of the American Welding Society’s “Careers in Welding Trailer.” The trailer contains five simulators to provide a “virtual” hands-on training experience. In addition, it will contain information on training, schools, and scholarships. AWS will also provide a variety of professional development sessions including:

• International Trends in Welding Research
• Solid-State Processing
• Arc Welding Process
• Weld Modeling
• Laser Materials Processing
• Filler Metals, Overlays and Repair
• Sensing and Controlling
• Joining Metallurgy
• Materials Weldability

Away from FABTECH, these industry associations have a variety of ways to ensure that you are up to date with the latest technologies and processes.

SME professional development opportunities include webinars, on-site training, lean and technical certifications, Manufacturing Engineering magazine, books, CDs, DVDs, scholarly journals, an archive of 17,000 technical papers and our Ask the Librarian service. Additionally, SME local chapters and technical communities offer both real-life and virtual opportunities where members can connect, interact, and exchange ideas and information peer to peer.

The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) is a professional association dedicated to the education of the current workforce in the metal-fabrication industry— from company owners to machine operators and every job function in between. Educational opportunities run the gamut from multi-day conferences to single-day workshops held across North America to online webinars and self-paced e-learning courses. In addition, the FMA Store is a resource with books and other printed training materials as well as CD and DVD training resources. The ultimate in the concept of learning from peers comes through the FMA User Group program. Each user group is comprised of a half dozen geographically dispersed member companies that gather quarterly to share operational and financial metrics and know-how.

FMA also has a communications division that produces seven industry trade journals focused on a range of specialty fields. The publications include: The FABRICATOR, TPJ-The Tube & Pipe Journal, Practical Welding Today, STAMPING Journal Green Manufacturer, Canadian Industrial Machinery, and The FABRICATOR en espanol (distributed in Mexico). Each of these magazines focuses on educating readers in the latest technology and best practices, using real-life examples taken from industry practitioners.

AWS continues to lead the way in supporting welding education and technology development to ensure a strong, competitive, and exciting way of life. Led by a volunteer organization of officers and directors, AWS serves more than 67,000 members worldwide and is composed of 22 Districts with 250 Sections and student chapters. AWS offers a number of widely recognized certification programs to assist the industry in identifying qualified welding personnel and to provide opportunities for welding professionals. In addition, AWS education programs include international, national, and local conferences, seminars, individual corporate programs, and home study courses. Subjects range from the basics to the leading edge of technology.

The Chemical Coaters Association International is a technical and professional organization that provides information and training on surface-coating technologies. CCAI’s foundation is its series of active local chapters across the US that conduct technical meetings on all aspects of organic finishing and serve as an excellent forum to discuss regional concerns while offering outstanding networking opportunities for finishers and suppliers. CCAI works to raise the standards of finishing operations through educational meetings and seminars, training manuals, our toll-free help line, custom coater and supplier locator, and outreach programs with colleges and universities.

In addition to the stamping track at the FABTECH conference, PMA offers a wide range of workforce development products and services directed mostly at improving the skills of production employees. A full schedule of technical seminars complement self-paced learning modules, curricula and employee assessments used by members and educators. And as a founding stakeholder in the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), PMA supports the use of skill standards to measure competencies and credential industry employees.
We all accept responsibility for our own career and embrace life-long learning. What we learned in college or on the job 10 or 20 years ago isn’t enough to handle the advances of manufacturing. So attend a show like FABTECH, November 14–17 in Chicago, or explore the offerings of professional organizations. Make sure you’re ready for your next job. ME


This article was first published in the October 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF

Published Date : 10/1/2011

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