Technology is changing ever more rapidly. Sometimes this means topics learned in engineering or technical school become obsolete. Whole new fields emerge within a few years, so that even those with freshly minted educations suddenly find themselves faced with new challenges. Ongoing professional training is more important than ever.
Webinars, books, and, heck, even magazine articles can help engineers and shop-floor technicians keep up. But there comes a time when in-depth learning in a well-defined course of study, tailored for specific manufacturing functions, is vital. That is where certifications enter the picture.
A certification means a body of working professionals has surveyed industry and determined what is needed, today, to be a practical contributor to an organization. The best certifications emphasize hands-on proficiency, and are usually offered only after a working apprenticeship.
Towards that end, the Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS) has pioneered the development of certifications for metrology specialists. The CMS was formed around portable measurement devices and the professionals that use them, so their existing certifications were developed for these (now) ubiquitous devices.
It is also a question of who needs the certification. “The vast number of users of portable 3D devices used in manufacturing are not professional engineers,” said Randy Gruver, chair of the CMS Certification Committee. They are technicians or shop-floor mechanics. Often their curriculum in technical or military schools did not cover metrology in general or metrology devices outside other than calipers and micrometers.
Which leads to a few questions I asked Gruver. Isn’t the value of a portable CMM the fact that it is easy to operate? Isn’t the software interface more sophisticated, making it easy to operate? Isn’t that becoming true for most metrology devices? “Yes, but even so, the impact on the quality of data collection by the user cannot be overstated,” replied Gruver. “Certification provides that missing benchmark for operator proficiency.”
So, both knowledge and know-how are important. Certifications offered by the CMS are in two parts: Level-One covers basic knowledge and five fundamental areas of metrology as well as ethics. The Level-Two certification is a practical performance assessment. Using a PCMM, the candidate must demonstrate to a proctor they can collect a series of accurate measurements on a supplied artifact, analyzing specific features of that artifact. Each level requires prior demonstrated experience in the field before applying for the certification, a common practice in certifications. The certification must be kept current by accumulating Professional Development Hours.
Building on its pioneering work in developing a certification for portable arm CMMs, in March CMS announced plans to launch two new certification programs. CMS is developing a Level-One certification for fixed CMM operators as well as a Level-Two hands-on assessment for 3D scanners. “Originally, fixed CMMs were not part of this certification [but] it has become obvious that it will be valuable,” said Gruver. Both pilot exams will be offered during the Coordinate Metrology Society Conference (CMSC) in Reno, NV, July 23–27, 2018. The pilots are offered at no cost, but eventually each exam will cost about $400.
While Gruver has seen the generally positive acceptance of these certifications on the part of industry, some industries have been slow to move on them because of cost. “Experience and demonstrated proficiency will help mitigate the risk of any quality measurement program,” said Gruver. “The certifications are not meant to be a barrier to work, but to provide value to the person and to the employer.”