Posts Tagged ‘training’

ToolingU-SME Report Reveals Manufacturers Are Not Addressing Skills Gap

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

In 2011, I attended the imX Expo (interactive manufacturing eXperience) in Las Vegas when Tooling U-SME ” announced their Mission Critical: Workforce 2021 initiative and “sounded the alarm that the future success of manufacturing is at risk by the end of the decade if industry does not address the growing skills gap.” The event was sponsored by SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA).

At that event, Tooling U-SME, “the world’s leading provider of training and workforce development solutions for manufacturing companies and educational institutions,” introduced a free one-of-a-kind “Workforce 2021 Assessment” tool for companies to use to assess and gauge their company’s performance because they had identified that there would be a critical shortage of skilled workers by 2021 that would threaten the future of manufacturing in America. “By answering a short series of questions about a company’s knowledge retention, readiness of future skill requirements, and the status of employee development programs, a company is able to assess their ability to meet current and future workforce challenges.”

In a September 5, 2016 commentary in The Hill contributor Grant Phillips wrote that the National Association of Manufacturers found there are “600,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing primarily due to a lack of skilled labor. It is this skills mismatch that plagues the US labor market…”

On September 8, 2016, ToolingU-SME, released a report that showed the progress towards achieving the goal of the Mission Critical: Workforce 2021. Based on five years of insights from the Workforce 2021 Assessment tool, the report states, “the results are not encouraging. Responses show there has been little advancement. While it’s not too late, companies must take action now to ensure a healthier next decade.” The report quotes from report, “The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond” by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, which states, “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs remaining unfilled.”

ToolingU-SME Vice President Jeannine Kunz wrote in the cover letter, “only a very small number of worldclass organizations are prepared for the extreme talent gap predicted by the year 2021. Some of these companies started planning years ago to address the coming labor shortage. Others were forced to take reactionary steps when faced with a shrinking employee pool. Regardless, they started formal training programs, introduced apprenticeships, built relationships with educators and more…At Tooling U-SME, we are concerned that more manufacturers aren’t taking action since this has a big impact on the long-term health and competitiveness of the industry as a whole. There is a false sense of security among many manufacturers who are not recognizing these future challenges or investing in the development of their workforce today.”

The companies that responded to the survey fall into five categories:  procrastinator, strategist, role model, and visionary.

The procrastinators nearly make up the majority of the respondents because 49% said that “their company has not begun assessing their manufacturing employee’s current skills against skills they will require in the future.” In fact, only “1 out of 20 (5%) acknowledge conducting a complete assessment of all staff.” Since “nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (88%) said their company is having problems finding skilled works in manufacturing,” you would think there would be more urgency to address this problem. This problem will only get worse because “14% of respondents say they will lose a full quarter (25%) or more of their workforce to retirements in the next five years.”

The highlights of the report are:

  • “Key findings from responses to the survey from manufacturers of all sizes
  • Insights on business pains, such as hiring needs, training resources, mentoring and talent development
  • Best practices to immediately start ensuring your workforce is ready for the next decade”

The key findings are:

  • “Less than one-third (29%) of respondents would characterize their company’s talent development as good or excellent”
  • “30% say their company has no community involvement (internships, co-op, etc) to help develop the proper skills of their incoming workers.”
  • “54% don’t budget for employee development”
  • “33% say their job-related training options are minimal”
  • “88% say their company is below average when it comes to offering outside resources to upgrade the skill sets of employees”

While 74% agree that training needs in the organization impact a wide range of levels throughout the company…3 out of 4 (75%) say their company does not offer a structured training program on manufacturing skills. In addition, “less than half (45%) say their company has personnel designated to manage training and employee development.”

The report identifies issues related to the skills gap that need to be addressed immediately:

  1. Incoming employees — finding them
  2. Incoming employees — training them
  3. Incumbent workers — upgrading their skills to keep up with changing technology

With regard to finding manufacturing employees, I commented that we need a national manufacturing database of skilled workers when I gave my presentation on how to solve the skills shortage to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Many workers that have been laid off due to transferring manufacturing offshore or plant closures have no idea where to go to find a new job in manufacturing. They take lower-paying jobs outside of manufacturing because they can’t uproot their family on the chance they could find a job at a manufacturer in another city.

The ToolingU-SME report urges manufacturing to establish training programs for both incoming workers and incumbent workers to upgrade their skills. The report identifies the following six steps for companies to take to get started immediately:

  1. “Build a business case for learning with senior management. Involve the right stakeholders in discussions and tie learning to performance so you can measure the results later. It is important to set expectations, get buy in and gather support for the program early on.
  2. Define and update your job roles with the required knowledge, skills and abilities needed to build strong performance on the job. This competency-based learning approach will lead to the positive return on investment (ROI) your stakeholders expect.
  3. Build career progressive models, showing growth from entry level to more senior levels. This modeling effort will improve employee engagement and retention, and allow the alignment of skills to pay.
  4. Benchmark incumbent employee competencies through knowledge and skills-based assessments to determine gaps in performance and build a training strategy to address them.
  5. Design a custom competency-based training curriculum using blended learning that consists of online and on-the-job training as well as other performance support.
  6. Ensure performance standards are measurable and trackable. These standards will validate you ROI investment.”

What struck me is that all of these steps are integral to a company becoming a Lean Company. They are nearly identical to the requirements of “Talent Development” that are incorporated into the journey of transforming a company into a Lean company. It would appear that from this survey that the majority of manufacturers have not begun their journey to becoming even a Lean manufacturer, much less a Lean Company.

My recommendation is to start by using the free Assessment tool of ToolingU-SME. Then you can decide what steps to take next. If your workers need specific manufacturing skills certification, then check out the classes offered by ToolingU-SME, either online or on-site.

Another source for training is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), which is “a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of America’s small manufacturers. The nationwide network consists of manufacturing extension partnership centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. MEP provides companies with services and access to public and private resources to enhance growth, improve productivity, reduce costs, and expand capacity.” Locate your nearest MEP here. The MEPs have a variety of training programs that are available at reduced cost to manufacturers. The California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) is the designated MEP for California, and they offer training in Lean manufacturing and many other subjects that would incorporate the above steps.

In California, companies can apply directly for a training grant from the Employment Training Panel (ETP) to help defray the cos of training or they can join an active ETP Multiple Employer Contract (MEC).

Many community college systems around the country offer training in specific manufacturing skills. California also has nine Centers for Applied Competitive Technology funded by the Chancellor’s Office of the Community College system, which provides training in specific manufacturing skills as well as Lean Manufacturing.

A number of community colleges actually use the ToolingU-SME courses instead of developing their own curriculum. I have discussed some of the training offered at community colleges in California and other states in previous articles I have written. You can peruse these articles under the Training and Workforce Development categories on my website:  www.savingusmanufacturing.com.

As more manufacturing is reshored to America, it will be even more critical to have the skilled workers we need to make American manufacturing great again. Do not procrastinate any longer on addressing this important problem.

Traditional Industries Generate High-tech Spinoffs in Southwest Florida

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

My last article featured the stories of two companies that I visited, so this article will feature the four other companies I toured during my brief visit to Lee County earlier this month as the guest of the Lee County Economic Development Office.

Shaw Development is a family-owned company with the third generation now involved and specializes in the design, development and manufacturing of custom fluid management solutions, including Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF) systems (headers, reservoirs, caps, adapters, strainers, etc.) for heavy-duty vehicles and machinery, such as trucks, buses, construction, mining, military vehicles, as well as agriculture and forestry equipment, power generation, and locomotive equipment.

Stephen Schock, Director of Manufacturing, gave us a plant tour first, and then we met with Lane Morlock, Chief Operations Officer. Lane told me that Frank Shaw founded the first Shaw company, Shaw Metal Products, in 1944 Buffalo, New York as a machine shop to support the military and developing aerospace market.

Shaw Aero Devices, Inc. was founded in 1954 to add engineering to their core capability and develop products with proprietary intellectual property. Frank’s son, Jim Shaw, headed up this company, and it became the industry standard for a variety of fuel, oil, water, and waste components and systems. Shaw Aero Devices moved Naples, Florida (Collier County) in the early 1980s and moved to Fort Myers in Lee County 1993. The company relocated back to Naples in 2001 after it outgrew its Lee County location.

Lane, said, “Shaw Development, LLC was formed in 1959 to transfer Shaw Aero Devices technology to ground vehicle markets particularly the lift and turn technology for fuel caps. We moved into our current 50,000 sq. ft. plant in Bonita Springs in 2008. Shaw entered into the DEF system business early on, and business has grown dramatically in the last 6 to 7 years.”

When I asked how much they outsource, he said, “We have a fair amount of capability in-house ? machining, stamping, forming, welding, paint, assembly and test capabilities. In 2009, we vertically integrated plastic injection molding by acquiring Gulf Coast Mold to bring back our molding from China. We bought a robot for welding that saves us a great deal of time. We buy some machining and sensors outside. In 2014, we added 17,000 sq. ft. to our production space in the plant and expanded our injection molding operation by 6,500 sq. ft. We added 75 employees over the past 3 years and our revenue has been increasing +25% YOY in this time period. We are now up to about 200 employees, so we are the second largest manufacturer in the region.”

In response to my question about their challenges, Lane said, “Our biggest challenge is to get the right talent. We work with Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and more recently, we have engaged with the University of Miami to find the right talent. We work with local schools and the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association to develop curriculum and manufacturing industry awareness to the local area. We are heavily involved with STEM and bring in students as interns and offer them the opportunity to work on private projects. One of our welders took a job with the local technical college to train welders, and this has provided us with an opportunity to work with this program and provide them with industry experience.”

With regard to my inquiry about being a lean company, he said that he had spent two years at NUMMI (Toyota Joint Venture) gaining an in-depth understanding of the Toyota Production System prior to spending seven years in a leadership role at General Motor’s corporate Lean Office. He added, “We have a full time Lean black belt to train our employees. We have gone from 43-day material turnaround to an average of 27 days in the past two years. Our model for business planning is Hoshin Kanri, and we have a five-year business plan and an annual business plan tied into it. Our on-time delivery is 98.8% year to date, and our quality PPM has improved by 60% in the past two years. We use a two-bin Kan Ban system and one-piece flow for our assembly line operations. Our employees are cross trained, and we review our manufacturing cell metrics at weekly meetings.”

With this emphasis on lean and the fact Shaw Development is both ISO 9000 and 14000 Certified, I could see why the company has been recognized as the Manufacturer of the Year for the State of Florida and Southwest Regional Manufacturer of the year.

My next visit was to American Traction Systems (ATS), a privately owned company formed in 2008 by Bonne Posma, as an affiliate of his other company, Saminco, Inc. ATS specializes in the design and manufacturing of electric propulsion systems for on and off road electric vehicles such the Ford Fusion, fuel cell buses, Hybrid trucks and buses, streetcars, trolleys, trams, GenSet Locomotives, Hybrid Diesel-Electric marine vessels, airline ground support vehicles. ATS has manufactured electric traction drives for Fuel Cell Buses designed by Ballard and Georgetown University, Hybrid-Electric systems for Allison Electric Drive division of General Motors as well as over 3,500 AC/DC and DC/DC controllers for underground mining vehicles. All design and manufacturing is performed in the Fort Myers, Florida facility with the capacity to deliver production of several hundred units per month.

General Manager Lem Vongpathoum led the plant tour at ATS and then we met with Mr. Bonne Posma and his niece, Cari Posma Wilcox, Vice President of Saminco, Inc. In a phone interview with Cari after returning home to clarify some details, she told me that Bonne was born in Indonesia of Dutch parents just as WWII erupted in Asia and spent the war years in a prison camp with his parents. His family returned to the Netherlands after the war and then immigrated to Canada. Mr. Posma founded Saftronics in 1968 in Johannesburg, South Africa and then opened a second facility in Ontario, Canada in 1976, which is still in operation as Saft Drives. He opened a Saftronics plant in Buffalo, New York in 1986, which he moved to Ft. Myers, Florida a year later. He left Saftronics and founded Saminco in 1992. Saftronics was sold to Emerson in 2005. After founding American Traction Systems in 2008, he opened a Saminco service office in China in 2009 and a service office in South Africa in 2011. He also opened an ATS facility in South Africa in 2013. Bonne’s energy and excitement about his companies was that of someone half his age when he showed us around Saminco and gave us a demonstration of some of the mining equipment at their testing yard.

Bonne clarified the difference between the three companies he has founded, saying “Saftronics made variable speed drives. Saminco makes solid-state electric vehicle traction controllers powered by batteries, diesel-hybrid, fuel cells and power systems, mainly for underground mining equipment. American Traction Systems makes electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for a variety of vehicles and equipment. I am the sole owner of both Saminco and ATS, and we have about 120 employees at the Ft. Myers Saminco and ATS plants. We also have a repair facility in Huntington, West Virginia that has 35-40 employees.”

Bonne explained, “We are competing with major corporations like Siemens, ABB and GE. We have to be more nimble to compete successfully. We competed against these companies for a Navy contract for a propulsion system for the USNS Waters operated by the Military Sealift Command and won the contract. We are getting into solar and working on a new diesel electric propulsion system for a Load Haul Dump (LHD) vehicle that is like a large Bobcat. We are also working on a new induction motor for ‘Mag lev’ trains.”

When I asked him about his suppliers, he said, “We use all American suppliers for what we can’t do in-house. We buy machining and sheet metal fabrication and use a contract manufacturer for our PCBs. We do full power testing in our lab.”

He added, “American workers are some of the highest paid workers in the world. There are three things that have destroyed American manufacturing: litigation, regulation, and taxes. If we want to level the playing field, we need to get rid of these three things.”

On my last morning in southwest Florida, we visited JRL Ventures, Inc. dba Marine Concepts headquartered in Cape Coral, Florida. The facility contains 42,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office space, equipped with state of the art CNC robotic machining centers and other technologies. Marine Concepts opened its doors in 1976 under the leadership of Augusto “Kiko” Villalon to be able to go from design to production of boats. Marine industry veterans, J. Robert and Karen Long, purchased Marine Concepts in 1994. As a leading manufacturer for nearly 40 years, Marine Concepts is now the largest manufacturer of tooling and molds for the marine industry in the United States. They make CNC plugs, composite molds (open and closed silicone/LRTM), CNC molds, CNC parts, limited production composite parts, scale models, and CNC cold mold kits. In 2012 Marine Concepts opened a facility in Sarasota, Florida with over 260,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office space. The two plants provide 300,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space and seven 3 – 5-axis CNC milling machines.

Mac Spencer, CFO, gave us the plant tour where we watched a boat mold being machined by their very large machining robot. We met with Dan Locke, Design Manager and Senior Designer, who has been designing boats since the 1980s, using Unigraphix software that provides more free style for designing surfaces than Solid Works. Mr. Spencer said that normally their business was 80% marine vs. 20% non-marine, but during the recession, it was reverse. They diversified into making composite figures and structures for resort parks, such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags. They also make composite parts for trams and electric buses. Design work for other marine companies is also a growing part of their business. We briefly met with President Matt Chambers before departing.

My last visit was to Nor-Tech Boats where we met with Cindy Trombley, Director of Administration. She said the company was founded in 1980 by Trond Schon, who had moved with his family from Norway to Cape Coral, Florida. Nor-Tech manufactures high performance powerboats using advanced technologies, unique manufacturing processes, and stylish designs. The main manufacturing facility in North Fort Myers encompasses over 45,000 sq. ft. complete with a 20’ x 60’ downdraft paint booth. Within the main building a state of the art rig shop and in house upholstery departments are climate controlled year round to insure a clean and work friendly environment. The in-house engine development and production division is housed in a secondary facility along with the service department and a rigging facility. We could see three boats in various stages of production in the main plant, but we did not have time to go visit the secondary facility.

Cindy said they currently have 107 employees, but survived the recession by dropping down to only 35 and going into debt. She said they can make boats up to 80 ft. long, and most of the larger sized boats go overseas or to Canada. They make every style of powerboats except for “T-tops.” Cindy said, “Our biggest challenge outside of heat and humidity in Florida is finding skilled labor. There are no vocational schools teaching how to build boats. We have low turnover, but an aging workforce. One of the advantages of Florida is that there are no corporate or personal income taxes.”

A common thread for most of these companies is the concern about finding the right workers now and in the future. As I have discussed in past articles, this is a nationwide problem, not just in southwest Florida. During discussions with the management of the Lee County Economic Development office and members of the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association at breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings during my visit, I shared what is being done to address this problem in other parts of the country and by organizations such as SME’s PRIME schools, ToolingU, and Project Lead the Way that I have written about in previous articles. The more manufacturers and trade associations that get involved in solving this problem, the more successful we will be in attracting and developing the next generation of manufacturing workers.

How we can Solve the Skills Shortage and Attract the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

We lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs between the year 2000 and 2010, and over 57,000 manufacturing companies went out of business. We have only gained about 500,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010, so some ask why we have nearly 600,00 jobs going unfilled when the unemployment rate for the manufacturing industry jumped is still ranging from 6.4 percent in November 2012 to 7.2 percent in February 2013. The main reasons are:

  • Unemployed workers are mainly from industries that have been decimated by trade deficits with China and American manufacturers choosing to outsource manufacturing offshore.
  • Fewer young people choosing manufacturing as a career choice because of poor image
  • Attrition from retirement that is getting worse as baby boomers started to retire

First, a large percentage of the people who lost their jobs came out of industries that were decimated by Chinese product dumping and the offshoring of manufacturing – textiles, furniture, tires, sporting goods, and the garment industry, to name just a few.

Most of these industries were dominated by large manufacturers employing hundreds to thousands of workers in plants located in the northeast, Midwest, and south. These workers either worked on assembly lines or utilized specific skills suited to their industries. In some cases, a textile plant, furniture plant, or automotive plant was the only large employer in a town. When the plant closed, workers either had to take whatever other job they could find or relocate to another area. In most cases, these workers didn’t have the specific skills needed in high-tech manufacturing industries.

An added blow was the decimation of the automobile and auto parts industry during the Great Recession when North American auto production dropped from a high of 17 million vehicles per year down to below 10 million vehicles in 2008 before climbing back up to about 13 million in 2012.

Second, manufacturing’s tarnished image has led young people entering the workforce to choose other career paths. In an article titled, “What the shortage in skilled manufacturing workers means to a hungry industry” of the e-newsletter Smart Business, Kika Young, human resources director at Forest City Gear Co. Inc. of Rockford, IL, said “Most people in Gen Y out of high school don’t think of manufacturing as a career or as a good option. They don’t think of it as glamorous; they think of it as dark and dingy and dirty and aren’t interested in going into that.”

Emily Stover DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute of Washington, D.C., said, “It’s absolutely true that the image and the definition of manufacturing in this country has not kept up with the industry.” She added, “Companies need to invest more in employee training and make workforce skills a top strategic priority. Our education system must also do a better job aligning education and training to the needs of employers and job seekers. In the face of a global recession and intense international competition, American manufacturers must differentiate themselves through innovation and a highly skilled workforce.”

Third, the attrition of skilled workers through retirement, death, and disability year after year is compounding the problem. Harry Moser, retired president of GF AgieCharmilles and founder of the Reshoring Initiative, estimates that “about 8 percent of the manufacturing workforce is lost each year due to retirement, promotion, career changes, disability, and mortality.” In the machining industry, this means a loss of “about 20,000 to 25,000 skilled machinists per year…In contrast, only about 8,000 per year receive sufficient machining training in high school, community college and apprentice programs to be considered good recruits.”

In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics estimated that 2.8 million, nearly a quarter of all U.S. manufacturing workers, are 55 or older. While manufacturing has led the United States out of the recession, the improvement has been a mixed blessing because as more skilled workers are needed, the supply is limited because baby boomers are retiring or getting close to retirement. What makes the situation worse is that there are not enough new ones to replace them because the subsequent generations were smaller and fewer chose manufacturing as a career.

The convergence of all of these factors has resulted in an insufficient number of workers trained for advanced manufacturing jobs. It is more of a skills gap in the specific skills needed by today’s manufacturers than a shortage of skilled workers. In the past 15 years, the manufacturing industry has evolved from needing low-skilled production-type assembly workers to being highly technology-infused.

The 2012 ManpowerGroup annual Talent Shortage Survey revealed that 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations despite continued high unemployment. According to the more than 1,300 U.S. employers surveyed, the positions that

are most difficult to fill include Skilled Trades, Engineers and IT Staff, all of which have appeared on the U.S. list multiple times since the survey began in 2006.

Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup president of the Americas, said, “This skills mismatch has major ramifications on employment and business success in the U.S and around the globe. Wise corporate leaders are doing something about it, and we increasingly see that they’re developing workforce strategies and partnerships with local educational institutions to train their next generation of workers.”

Training to Address Skills Shortage:

According to a 2011 U.S. Government Accountability Office study of fiscal year 2009, the federal government had 47 programs run by nine different agencies. The GAO noted that more information is needed to measure the true effectiveness of the programs. “Almost all of the 47 programs tracked multiple outcome measures related to employment and training, and the most frequently tracked outcome measure was ‘entered employment,’ “the agency stated. “ However, little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs because, since 2004, only five reported conducting an impact study, and about half of all the remaining programs have not had a performance review of any kind.”

Obviously, we could make government work better and save money in the process by consolidating some of these programs and giving some of the money to the states for programs that work best for their workers. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean programs can be combined. It might not make sense, for example, to combine the “Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program” with the “Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Program,” or the “Native American Employment and Training Program” with the “National Guard Youth Challenge Program.” In addition, the programs are not equal in size or scope. The GAO reported that seven programs accounted for 75 percent of the $18 billion spent on job training, while two programs (“Wagner-Peyser funded Employment Service” and “Workforce Investment Act Adult”) served about 77 percent of all participants.

However, we don’t need to rely solely on government-funded training for manufacturing jobs. A great deal has already been done industry, trade and professional organizations, colleges, and universities to train and retrain today’s workers and prepare the next generation of manufacturing workers.

For example, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) was formed in 1995 by the metalworking trade associations to develop and maintain a globally competitive American workforce. NIMS sets skills standards for the industry, certifies individual skills against the standards, and accredits training programs that meet NIMS quality requirements. NIMS operates under rigorous and highly disciplined processes as the only developer of American National Standards for the nation’s metalworking industry accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

NIMS has a stakeholder base of over 6,000 metalworking companies and major trade associations in the industry. The Association for Manufacturing Technology, the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the Precision Machine Products Association, the Precision Metalforming Association, and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association have invested over $7.5 million in private funds for the development of the NIMS standards and its credentials.  The associations also contribute annually to sustain NIMS operations and are committed to the upgrading and maintenance of the standards.

NIMS has developed skills standards in 24 operational areas covering the breadth of metalworking operations, and there are 52 distinct NIMS skill certifications. The Standards range from entry to a master level. All NIMS standards are industry-written and industry-validated, and are subject to regular, periodic reviews under the procedures accredited and audited by ANSI. NIMS certifies individual skills against the national standards and requires that the candidate meets both performance and theory requirements that are industry-designed and industry-piloted.
NIMS accredits training programs that meet its quality requirements. The NIMS accreditation requirements include an on-site audit and evaluation by a NIMS industry team that reviews and conducts on-site inspections of all aspects of the training programs, including administrative support, curriculum, plant, equipment and tooling, student and trainee progress, industry involvement, instructor qualifications and safety. Officials governing NIMS accredited programs report annually on progress and are subject to re-accreditation on a five-year cycle.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the world’s leading professional society advancing manufacturing knowledge, also provides the following professional certifications:  Manufacturing Technologist, Manufacturing Engineering, Engineering Manager, Lean Certification (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), and Six Sigma. SME’s Certified Manufacturing Technologist program is utilized as an outcome assessment by numerous colleges and universities with Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering or Engineering Technology programs.

In 2010, the Society of Manufacturing acquired Tooling University LLC (Tooling U) based in Cleveland, Ohio to provide online, onsite, and webinar training for manufacturing companies and educational institutions. With more than 400 unique titles, Tooling U offers a full range of content to train machine operators, welders, assemblers, inspectors, and maintenance professionals. These classes are delivered through a custom learning management system (LMS), which provides extensive tracking and reporting capabilities. The competencies tie the online curriculum to matching hands-on tasks that put the theory to practice.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) champions the success of the metal processing, forming, and fabricating industry.  FMA educates the industry through the following programs:

FabCast – FMA’s webinar platform utilizes Internet connection and telephone to deliver live, interactive technical education programs directly to manufacturers on such topics as laser cutting, roll forming, metal stamping, etc. Companies can train their whole team at once, even from multiple locations. Companies can break up full days of instruction into modules and spread out over a period of time (i.e. two hours four days a week, four hours once a week for a month, etc.).

FMA also offers on-site, live training conducted at companies on their equipment as well as on-line training (e-Fab) that allows a company to get the training that they need, when they need it. E-Fab courses combine a full day’s worth of instruction by FMA’s leading subject matter experts with the flexibility of online delivery, available 24/7, 365 days a year.

FMA provides a Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) Certification – the metal fabricating industry’s only comprehensive exam designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of fundamental precision sheet metal operations. Fabrication processes covered in the exam include shearing, sawing, press brake, turret punch press, laser cutting, and mechanical finishing.

Attracting the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers:

If we want to attract today’s youth to manufacturing careers, we need to change their perceptions about what the manufacturing industry is like and show them what great career opportunities exist in the industry. We need to expose them to the variety of career opportunities in manufacturing and help them realize that manufacturing careers pay 25-50 percent higher than non-manufacturing jobs, so they will choose to be part of modern manufacturing.

We need to reacquaint youth with the process of designing and building products from an early age and provide them with the opportunities to learn in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Here are some suggestions:

Conduct manufacturing summer camps – In 2011, the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation (NBT) and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) partnered to launch a unique summer camp program called Gadget Camp, where teenagers learn how to build things from concept to creation. Attendees are required to design a product through computer-aided design (CAD) technology and oversee the design to completion. The initial summer camp will eventually develop into a national program with as many as 300 locations across the United States.

Restore shop classes to our high schools – The elimination of these courses from our school systems has inevitably had a negative impact on the way we view making a living with our hands. Project Lead The Way® (PLTW) has been working since 1997 to promote pre-engineering courses for middle and high school students. PLTW forms partnerships with public schools, higher education institutions, and the private sector to increase the quantity and quality of engineers and engineering technologists graduating from our educational system. The PLTW curriculum was first introduced to 12 New York State high schools in the 1997-98 school years, and today, the programs are offered in over 1,300 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Improve the image of manufacturing careers – The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) is another trade association that has a program to encourage youth to consider manufacturing as a career. NTMA is the Founding Sponsor of an exciting educational program that provides unlimited career awareness experiences in advanced manufacturing technology for students from middle school through college age. The approach has three components: a robotics curriculum based on national standards, teacher training workshops, and competitive events where students showcase their custom-built machines and compete for top honors. NTMA has six active regional leagues in their National Robotics League, a competition of battling robots that generates huge excitement among high school students.

Establish Apprenticeship Programs – In 2011, NIMS launched a new Competency-based Apprenticeship System for the nation’s metalworking industry. Employers are able to customize training to meet their own needs while maintaining the national integrity of apprenticeship training. Developed in partnership with the United States Department of Labor, the new system is the result of two years of work. Over 300 companies participated in the deliberations and design. The new National Guideline Standards for NIMS Competency-based Apprenticeship have been approved by the Department of Labor. NIMS has trained Department of Labor apprenticeship staff at the national and state level in the new system.

Portray manufacturing careers as fun and exciting – the convergence of cloud computing, mobile apps, and gamification within the manufacturing sector is in its infancy. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to capitalize on youth’s obsession with video games. The best example is Plantville, a new online gaming platform that simulates the experience of being a plant manager, introduced by Siemens Industry, Inc. in March 2011. Players are faced with the challenge of maintaining the operation of their plant while trying to improve the productivity, efficiency, sustainability and overall health of their facility.

The existing programs described and recommendations outlined in this article are a good start to ensure that we have enough skilled workers for manufacturers to employ as more and more companies return manufacturing to America from outsourcing offshore and replace the “baby boomers” as they retire over the next 20 years.

Will the AME, NAM and NACFAM Alliance Revitalize Manufacturing?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) is joining with leading organizations, such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the National Council For Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM) to form an alliance to revitalize manufacturing and grow the economy, while improving the standard of living of all citizens in North America.  These organizations are inviting public and private sectors to come together to build on the NAM study, A Manufacturing Renaissance: Four Goals for Economic Growth.

The AME white paper “Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry…” states “The strategy calls for putting people, schools, businesses and the government to work; producing literate career-ready citizens capable of joining the workforce; and enabling manufacturers to once again lead the designing, building and exporting of quality products and services around the globe.” The top three priorities are:

  • Build a better educated and trained workforce
  • Promote product and process innovation, as well as research and development
  • Improve global competitiveness for companies

AME advocates that each priority “must be considered in developing public policies that support the revitalization of the manufacturing sector, and policy-makers must consider these elements in shaping future public policy and legislation.”   The goal is to help companies and our education systems transform themselves by using more innovative processes to become more competitive to put people back to work in making things in America.

I  strongly agree with AME’s viewpoint that we need to revitalize American manufacturing because “manufacturing is very critical to economic growth, prosperity and a higher standard of living.”  This is because manufacturing jobs have a multiplier effect-? every manufacturing job creates three to four other jobs.  Manufacturing creates more wealth than any other sector in the economy.  “Manufacturing pays higher wages and provides greater benefits, on average, than other industries. It performs almost two-thirds of private sector research and development, creates the highest number of jobs to support the industry while serving the surrounding communities, and contributes to more than 50 percent of the country’s total exports.”

The White Paper notes that we’ve lost nearly six million manufacturing jobs in the United States since January 2000, for an average of about 54,000 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  We also lost 56,190 manufacturing facilities from 2001 to 2010, or about 15 per day.

AME has issued a call for action to policy-makers, industry professionals and academic leaders to play critical roles in revitalizing the economy through the rebirth of manufacturing jobs.  To do this, we need to ensure the supply of educated citizens, necessary physical infrastructure, and a favorable tax and regulatory framework that fosters increased collaboration between public and private sector partners.

AME has been leading the “Revitalization of Manufacturing” initiative, wherein AME and their allied organizations have been reaching out to policy-makers nationwide, and encouraging them to join or develop efforts focusing on local and state job creation.  AME states that “itt is imperative that policy-makers recognize the importance of an industry that has been the backbone of the North American economy.  To date, AME has received more than 400 signatures of support from state and federal policy-makers, industry trade associations and operations executives representing manufacturers across North America.”

AME advocates “a renewed emphasis on making businesses more competitive by developing the educational and training infrastructure to produce qualified individuals to fill these new opportunities.”   To accomplish these initiatives, AME is joining with leading organizations to adopt the three priorities by:

Reforming public education to produce career ready citizens – Parents, teachers and business leaders need to recognize that other nations are both out-educating us and out-competing us.  Some of the ongoing initiatives by manufacturing organizations to help reform public education are:

  • The Manufacturing Institute’s Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing, a comprehensive blueprint for education reform
  • American Productivity and Quality Center’s (APQC) Education North Star program that helps school districts do more with less by transforming education through process and performance management
  • Career Pathways,  a program that encourages students to consider a career in manufacturing and help prepare them by using the Manufacturing Pathway Map

Last fall, I wrote about a number of programs sponsored by other organizations to interest and prepare youth for careers in manufacturing in the article, “How Can we Attract Youth to Manufacturing Careers?

Establishing consortiums of like-minded individuals with the same mission to help sustain and grow businesses through sharing technology and innovative ideas.  AME recommends that businesses “grow a culture that achieves results through engaging their people” to “develop pragmatic, working-level leaders who can pull it all together.”  In addition, businesses “need to foster rapid advancement of technology and innovation by establishing regional consortiums to help bring jobs back home.”

“AME Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati Consortium is the first building block of the AME Consortia network, and the organizations plans to deploy at least 10 more in 2012.  AME also has alliance partners, like the Virginia Business Excellence Consortium.”

Reshoring by making better informed business decisions  to keep and bring jobs back home – the Reshoring Initiative was founded by Harry Moser in 2010.  He is collaborating with AME to promote reshoring as part of the “Revitalization of Manufacturing” initiative.  AME recommends that companies use the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis tool Mr. Moser developed “to effectively compare total cost of local and offshore sources, enabling them to make informed business decisions. ‘We are committed to changing the sourcing paradigm from ‘off-shored is cheaper’ to ‘local reduces the total cost of ownership,’ said Moser.”

Redeploying Training Within Industry (TWI) programs to train or retrain workers to have the skills to work in advanced manufacturing jobs to revitalize manufacturing and re-energize the economy.  First created during WWII to replace workers who left the factories and went off to war, the TWI programs were revived in 2001 by the Central New York Technology Development Organization, a member of the U.S. Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MEP), after which the TWI Institute was formed to oversee the global deployment of the program.

AME’s White Paper only identifies the TWI programs, but I wrote about training programs sponsored by other organizations, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Tooling U and The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International in my article, ”What’s Being Done to Address the Lack of Skilled Workers?

In order to be more globally competitive, AME recommends that companies use Lean Certification, an internationally recognized certification process developed by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), AME, Shingo Prize, and the American Society for Quality (ASQ), which establishes the standard for continuous improvement and Lean practices.

The White Paper states that at its 2012 national board meeting, “AME reaffirmed its commitment to helping small-and medium-sized businesses create more manufacturing jobs, and the organization’s strategic plans address the challenges facing manufacturing by formulating counter-measurements to address them with its public and private alliance partners.”

In conclusion, the White Paper states, …the public and private sectors must come together to build an integrated plan supportive of these initiatives, especially NAM’s Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and Competitiveness and Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing; the LEARN Act; and the Reshoring Initiative.  These will ultimately revitalize the industry and grow the economy.”

I have repeatedly said in my book and blog articles that it will take the efforts of the public and private sectors, as well as individual Americans, to first save and then revitalize American manufacturing.  I agree that these strategies will be beneficial, but they will not be enough to accomplish this goal.   First of all, I do not agree that the challenges to accomplish this goal are the “four major challenges on which its future depends and has been failing to meet… globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits and its pattern of energy consumption” that are quoted from Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book, That Used to Be Us, How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

These are all realities that must be addressed, but they are not the main challenges that face America’s manufacturing industry.  The main challenge can be summed up in one word:  China.  By this I mean China’s predatory mercantilism in the form of currency manipulation, export subsidies, theft of intellectual property, product “dumping,” export restrictions on raw materials, and more recently, technology transfer and rare earth hoarding.

As long as companies that are members of AME, NAM, and NACFAM, such as Westinghouse, General Electric, and Caterpillar, choose to close factories in the United States to offshore manufacturing to China for the illusion of selling to the 1.3 billion Chinese consumers, we will continue to lose manufacturing jobs.

As long as these organizations and their member companies advocate so-called free trade policies and are afraid to stand up to China’s predatory mercantilism and urge our elected officials to demand that China adhere to the terms of its admission into the World Trade Organization, our huge trade deficits will continue to escalate.

These companies must stop being Chinese apologists and appeasers just to add more profit to their bottom line.  They need to realize that complying with China’s demand for technology transfer in order to build or establish a plant in China is destroying the future of their own companies.

Now is the time for action.  The best thing that AME, NAM and NACFAM members could do is to take a pledge to not close any more plants in the U. S. to set up manufacturing in China.  Then, we would really be able to revitalize American Manufacturing.

 

Why We Don’t Need a New Program to Train America’s Manufacturing Workers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

In his State of Union address, President Obama placed American manufacturing at the center of a “blueprint” for bringing back jobs and strengthening our economy.  After years of being one of the “voices in the wilderness” urging our elected leaders to “save American manufacturing,” it was gratifying to hear manufacturing being given such prominence.

I am concerned, though, that his idea of “one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help” American workers need for training or retraining for jobs would result in more government control and more deficit funding, adding to the burden of debt for American taxpayers.  We don’t need to wait for government to come up with a new program and spend taxpayer dollars developing new curricula for training for manufacturing jobs.   We don’t need to wash years of work and collaborations between industry, trade and professional organizations, colleges, and universities down the drain.  A great deal has already been done and is being done to train and retrain today’s workers and prepare the next generation of manufacturing workers.

When considering training, we need to understand the difference between certification versus a certificate.  Certificate programs are training based on proprietary criteria/curriculum and sometimes include an exam without any recertification requirements. Numerous training companies, educational institutions, and individual training consultants compete to sell training courses that purportedly include “certification.”  In many cases, these are not based on a standard body of knowledge as developed by objective third-party entities, but rather paper certificates awarded for specific training.  Certificate programs are useful to prepare workers for entry-level positions in many industries.

Certifications are based upon profession and competency.  Certifications are independent, third-party assessments of knowledge, skills, and experience based upon a known publicly available standard overseen by industry.  The exam includes legally defensible content and can be referenced back to widely available industry accepted references.  Recertification is a key component and ensures individuals show evidence of continued learning.  Professional certification is a designation earned by a person to assure they meet the minimum knowledge requirements of the profession and is transferable from state to state and company to company.

For example, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) was formed in 1995 by the metalworking trade associations to develop and maintain a globally competitive American workforce.  NIMS sets skills standards for the industry, certifies individual skills against the standards, and accredits training programs that meet NIMS quality requirements.   NIMS operates under rigorous and highly disciplined processes as the only developer of American National Standards for the nation’s metalworking industry accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

NIMS has a stakeholder base of over 6,000 metalworking companies. The major trade associations in the industry- the Association for Manufacturing Technology, the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the Precision Machine Products Association, the Precision Metalforming Association, and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association have invested over $7.5 million in private funds for the development of the NIMS standards and its credentials.  The associations also contribute annually to sustain NIMS operations and are committed to the upgrading and maintenance of the standards.

NIMS has developed skills standards in 24 operational areas covering the breadth of metalworking operations including metalforming (Stamping, Press Brake, Roll Forming, Laser Cutting) and machining ( Machining, Tool and Die Making, Mold Making, Screw Machining, Machine Building and Machine Maintenance, Service and Repair). The Standards range from entry (Level I) to a master level (Level III).  All NIMS standards are industry-written and industry-validated, and are subject to regular, periodic reviews under the procedures accredited and audited by ANSI.

NIMS certifies individual skills against the national standards.  The NIMS credentialing program requires that the candidate meet both performance and theory requirements.  Both the performance and knowledge examinations are industry-designed and industry-piloted. There are 52 distinct NIMS skill certifications.  Industry uses the credentials to recruit, hire, place and promote individual workers.  Training programs use the credentials as performance measures of attainment, often incorporating the credentials as completion requirements and as the basis for articulation among training programs.

NIMS accredits training programs that meet its quality requirements.  The NIMS accreditation requirements include an on-site audit and evaluation by a NIMS industry team that reviews and conducts on-site inspections of all aspects of the training programs, including administrative support, curriculum, plant, equipment and tooling, student and trainee progress, industry involvement, instructor qualifications and safety.   Officials governing NIMS accredited programs report annually on progress and are subject to re-accreditation on a five year cycle.
NIMS has launched a new Competency-based Apprenticeship System for the nation’s metalworking industry.  The NIMS system represents a dramatic departure from the time based system and integrates the NIMS national standards and skill certifications in defining and measuring required competencies.

Developed in partnership with the United States Department of Labor, the new system is the result of two years of work.  Over 300 companies participated in the deliberations and design.   The new National Guideline Standards for NIMS Competency-based Apprenticeship have been approved by the Department of Labor.  NIMS has trained Department of Labor apprenticeship staff at the national and state level in the new system.

Another professional organization that provides certification is the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the world’s leading professional society advancing manufacturing knowledge and influencing more than half a million manufacturing practitioners annually.  Through its local chapters, technical communities, publications, expositions, and professional development resources, SME promotes an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and keeps manufacturing professionals up to date on leading trends and technologies.  SME provides the following professional certifications:  Manufacturing Technologist, Manufacturing Engineering, Engineering Manager, Lean Certification (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), and Six Sigma.

SME’s Certified Manufacturing Technologist program is utilized as an outcome assessment by numerous colleges and universities with Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering or Engineering Technology programs.  Students who successfully earn the certification demonstrate broad knowledge and its application as related to the fundamentals of manufacturing, which sets them apart from other potential job candidates.In addition, the SME Education Foundation has the mission to prepare the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists through outreach programs to encourage students to study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) as well as Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) education.  Over its 30-year history, SME has invested $17.3 million in grants to 35 colleges and universities to develop industry-driven curricula.

In 2010, the Society of Manufacturing acquired Tooling University LLC (Tooling U) based in Cleveland, Ohio to provide online, onsite, and webinar training for manufacturing companies and educational institutions. With more than 400 unique titles, Tooling U offers a full range of content to train machine operators, welders, assemblers, inspectors, and maintenance professionals.  These classes are delivered through a custom learning management system (LMS), which provides extensive tracking and reporting capabilities. The competencies tie the online curriculum to matching hands-on tasks that put the theory to practice.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) champions the success of the metal processing, forming, and fabricating industry.  FMA educates the industry through the following programs:

FabCast – FMA’s webinar platform utilizes Internet connection and telephone to deliver live, interactive technical education programs directly to manufacturers on such topics as laser cutting, roll forming, metal stamping, etc.  Companies can train their whole team at once, even from multiple locations.  Companies can break up full days of instruction into modules and spread out over a period of time (i.e. two hours four days a week, four hours once a week for a month, etc.).

Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) Certification – FMA’s PSMO Certification is the metal fabricating industry’s only comprehensive exam designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of fundamental precision sheet metal operations.  Fabrication processes covered in the exam include shearing, sawing, press brake, turret punch press, laser cutting, and mechanical finishing.

FMA offers on-site, live training conducted at companies on their equipment as well as on-line training (e-Fab) that allows a company to get the training that they need, when they need it.  E-Fab courses combine a full day’s worth of instruction by FMA’s leading subject matter experts with the flexibility of online delivery, available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Finally, there is ASQ, which is a global community of people passionate about quality who use the tools, the ideas, and their expertise to make the world work better.  ASQ certification is a formal recognition that an individual has demonstrated a proficiency within, and comprehension of, a specific body of knowledge.  ASQ certification crosses industry lines, ranging from Biomedical Auditor, Quality Technician, Inspector, and Engineer, Reliability Engineer, Six Sigma Black Belt to Software Quality Engineer.  Nearly 150,000 certifications have been issued to dedicated professionals worldwide.

Training and retraining workers who are unemployed or underemployed are critical for the health and growth of the manufacturing industry, which will create good-paying jobs.  The focus of a one-stop website for employment should be to distribute the training and certifications provided by the above-listed organizations at the national level down to the local level.