Viewpoints: Preparing for the Future of Manufacturing
By Thomas R. Dillon
DMG / Mori Seiki USA
Hoffman Estates, IL
Web site: www.dmgmoriseikiusa.com
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "by failing to prepare you are preparing for failure." At no other time in my manufacturing career has this statement been more poignant.
It has been just over two years since virtually every industry was negatively impacted by the global financial crisis. Calendar year 2009 was a horrific year, with the first half of 2010 seeing little difference. We are finally seeing progress in 2011, and there is general optimism for sustained manufacturing growth in the US. However, there is still the possibility of difficult times ahead. We, as a community, must adopt a philosophy of preparedness in order to help buoy the future of US manufacturing.
During the recent recession—and it was a recession—entire supply chains were weakened by reductions in workforce. As projects return to US manufacturers, many have chosen to add new capital equipment to compensate for the additional business. Getting this advanced manufacturing equipment up and running often requires additional employees, technical support, and training.
And, even with the current state of the economy, there is still a shortage of skilled workers. The time to ready ourselves to supplement our dwindling workforce is upon us. Attracting, educating, and retaining youth in our industry is imperative. This initiative must be everyone’s priority if we are collectively to succeed. Personal acumen is tantamount to product quality in the effort to sustain business in America.
Educational outreach efforts play a part in promoting manufacturing career paths. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a small group of high school students and parents in partnership with the Village of Hoffman Estates, IL regarding the metalcutting industry’s future job-related opportunities. Once again, I was disappointed by the persistent, outdated perception of manufacturing being a less than desirable career option. Despite ever-developing technological and environmental advancements, manufacturing still does not receive its due as sophisticated and vital to the success of the overall economy.
As such, local efforts, like this event, are extremely important in informing and adequately readying our potential successors in the industry. To this end, DMG / Mori Seiki USA and DMG / Mori Seiki University (DMSU) fully intend to support as many education initiatives as we possibly can. In lockstep, we will continue our emphasis on the expansion of our own proprietary training system, Education on Demand (EOD).
EOD uses technology to create a highly immersive training environment. Courses are populated with simulated machine components that behave true to their real-world counterparts. This interactive technology is not dissimilar from many of today’s more advanced gaming platforms. Such immersive training is available for product-specific training, as well as basic manufacturing skills, and can be used anywhere one can connect to the Internet.
Although interactive training technology like EOD continues to make incredible strides, existing training methods cannot be dismissed. More traditional apprenticeships are dwindling today, but still remain very successful in fostering new, productivity-boosting talent for the industry. I am proud to know several resourceful DMG and Mori Seiki users who have proven apprenticeship programs that have successfully employed a significant percentage of their staffs.
Next month, DMG / Mori Seiki will break ground on its first US manufacturing plant. This new factory must also do its small part in training the engineers of tomorrow. In the near future, that factory will take the lead from its users by integrating an internal training strategy that incorporates both interactive online learning and conventional, apprentice-style training. We, too, will share in the accountability to the manufacturing community that comes with building a product on American soil.
I am convinced that our next generation of highly skilled labor will be a challenge to find. But, as a challenge is actually an opportunity cleverly disguised as a challenge, we can marry our educational resources with the real-world application of manufacturing principles to reach new heights. US manufacturers need to design and build innovative products, but we will also need to design, build, and educate engineers to create those products.
From the smallest job shops to the largest production facilities, we are all tasked with the opportunity of increasing our skilled workforce. The responsibility of preparing for the difficulties ahead of us in developing American manufacturing resources lies within all of us. In the end, we will win together, or we will lose together, but it will be together. Let’s prepare to win. ME
This article was first published in the May 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.