How to Overcome the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Today we have a guest blogger. Derek Singleton is an ERP Analyst and writes for the Software Advice Blog.

How to Overcome the Manufacturing Skills Gap by Derek Singleton

These days, the manufacturing industry is finding itself in the media spotlight. And the coverage as of late has been fairly positive. Manufacturing is showing signs of growth and there have been several stories of manufacturers re-shoring their production from abroad.

Amidst the positive news, there’s been a negative point: manufacturers are leaving jobs open because they can’t find people with the right talent. According to a recent Deloitte report, as many as 600,000 jobs remain unfilled because of a skills gap.

A significant amount of media attention on the skills gap has focused on what is driving this deficit. In my opinion, the much more important thing to focus on is how we can overcome the skills deficit. I think we can get over it in three ways:

  1. Expand educational partnerships with industry;
  2. Reintroduce corporate in-house training programs; and,
  3. Get young people interested in manufacturing again.

The first two strategies will help solve the workforce needs of today while the latter will help solve those of tomorrow.

Expanding Educational Partnerships with Industry

One of the best ways to deal with the manufacturing skills gap is to expand partnerships with educational institutions such as technical colleges. These partnerships offer an existing network that is ready and able to equip people with the skills they need to fill an open job.

One partnership that’s done a great job helping individuals revamp their skills set is Tooling U. Tooling U is an online training program that provides curricula on everything from CNC machine programming to welding–two skills that happen to be amongst the highest in demand. They partner with industry experts, manufacturing firms, and education institutions.

Since being founded, Tooling U has helped more than 100,000 people adapt to the new skills of manufacturing. These partnerships should be expanded because they’re already a proven model of training.

Reintroduce Corporate In-House Training Programs

Beyond expanding educational partnerships, manufacturers should focus on creating their own in-house training programs. Apprenticeship and in-house training can help manufacturers get talented people up to speed quickly.

Unfortunately, the last few decades have seen a steady decline in apprenticeship and in-house training programs–mostly due to budget constraints. However, a recent study by our neighbors across the pond suggests that manufacturers should re-invest in these programs.

In a UK study, roughly 80 percent of surveyed UK manufacturers said that their apprenticeship program makes them more productive. A full 83 percent said it would help them fill their future work needs. This suggests that manufacturers here don’t necessarily need people with the exact skills they’re looking for, they just need talented individuals that are ready to learn.

Get Young People Interested in Manufacturing Again

Of course, overcoming the skills gap in the near-term doesn’t do much if the next generation is disinterested in pursuing manufacturing. In order for the youth to consider a manufacturing career, they need to be exposed to it in a way that’s fun and educational.

I recently came across a program called STEM Goes to Work that I think does a great job of this. STEM Goes to Work is a program that coordinates classroom lessons with tours of a manufacturing facility. The tours give students the opportunity to see their various manufacturing career opportunities and learn about what it takes to land one of those jobs.

To add an element of fun, the students are often given a challenge that is specific to the facility they’re visiting. For instance, when students toured a gear manufacturing facility, they had to figure out how to make functional gears out of Styrofoam.

Sure these programs don’t teach manufacturing-specific skills explicitly. But they help kids learn to think critically, which is crucial for picking up any skill later in life–whether it be in manufacturing or another industry.

About the author: Derek Singleton covers the manufacturing industry for Software Advice. You can visit his website here. If you would like to leave him a comment on the article, visit the original article at: Three Ways to Overcome the Manufacturing Skills Gap.

CAM software for sustainable manufacture

Sustainability is the current buzz word for politicians. With the recent increases in the price of fuel at the pumps, the need to reduce waste and do things more economically is definitely on everyone’s radar.

You might think – what has this got to do with CAM systems? Actually quite a  lot….  Here are just a few things that will cut out waste and reduce cost with the right CAM system.

Easy programming to get parts right first time with accurate and reliable G codes

  • Reducing scrap rates which saves on wasted material
  • Increasing tool life with smooth cutting and no shock loading of the tool
  • Increasing the useful life of the machine tool by not introducing unnecessary stresses during cutting
  • Reducing machining times by eliminating unnecessary movements and by making sure that the ideal feed-rate and cutting conditions are being used
  • Making it easier to cut more complex parts
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for on-machine prove out

All these savings when put together add up to some really big savings. Even better, they produce improvements elsewhere in the business and in your customer’s business.

  •  Fewer deliveries required
  •  Less scrap to be removed
  • More time to spend looking at other efficiency improvements
  • Less machine breakdowns
  • Fewer tools purchased
  • Reduction in the number of ‘fire-fighting’ decisions and actions when things are going wrong

It might even cut down the number of times you have to go to the gas station!

Youth Rediscovering Manufacturing

There was a recent article published in Today’s Machining World Magazine titled America’s Youth Reconsiders Manufacturing, link to article here. Basically,  there are some signs of young adults showing more interest in the skilled trades than in the recent past.

Many industrialized countries are similar, but here in the United States, it is every parent’s wish their child is able to do better than the parent. To have better and easier access to education. Where most parents wish their child to go to college and get an advanced degree.

Unfortunately, this concept that one “has to” go to college has caused an alarming trend, and that is a huge amount of demand. When demand is high, prices can be high also. View the graph below, it shows the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or inflation, and compares it to real estate and education.

College Tuituion vs Housing vs CPI

Rise in College Tuition

Most people reading this blog likely are aware of the “bubble” in housing that burst during the last recession.  However, there are now a growing number of people that believe advanced education’s meteoric rise in costs can not be sustained, and eventually it will have to pop also.

This brings me to the article about youth rediscovering manufacturing. Learning a skilled trade is hard work, there is no shame in being a journeyman mold or die maker, or any other skilled trade. It takes commitment along with hours of on the job experience to earn those titles. Many skilled trades pay very well, and many are in demand for workers, since so many other people went to college instead, and we learned what happens when demand is high…

Many people that learn a skilled trade, and work in their field day in and  day out are often the ones that are able to innovate new ways to accomplish their tasks. Innovation is allowed to grow when trained skilled labor works closely with the manufacturing components of their field.

So if young, consider manufacturing or a skilled trade, demand may actually be increasing.

Reshore Now

Todays entry is more of an announcement than opinion or information about CAM software.

Reshoring is kind of the opposite of offshoring. It is bringing work back to the United States that was sent out of the country previously. It can also include keeping work here that otherwise one might outsource. Reshoring requires looking at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your manufacturing. Some other justifications to reshore might include:

  • Reduce pipeline and surge inventory impacts on JIT operations
  • Improve the quality and consistency of inputs
  • Enhance Innovation (by being near the manufacturing)
  • Reduce IP and regulatory compliance risk

The Reshoring Initiative was founded by Harry Moser, the former President (22 years) of Agie Charmilles. Harry was also inducted into the 2010 Industry Week hall of fame, and has spoken beside other manufacturing luminaries such as Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and Lee Iacocca. Recently at the Amerimold show, one particular financial analyst speaker made the comment that of all the states that are having a financial crisis, if they had the same manufacturing base today that they had just ten years ago, those states would not have a financial crisis, showing just how important reshoring is.

Part of Reshoring is being able to be as productive as possible, reducing the TCO. To that end, Sescoi USA is hosting a Reshoring Seminar in the Chicago area on June 21st. There is a link to this event here. Not only will Harry Moser from the Reshoring Initiative speak about reshoring and how to go about it, but experts in the milling industry will discuss how to be more productive.

Harry will be showing his free tool, the TCO Estimator , for calculating the true Total Cost of Ownership. It can help large shops determine whether to outsource or not, and it can help small shop sell the benefits of local suppliers.

This is a free event, and companies involved in milling are invited to attend. However seating and space is limited, so advanced registration is required.

Go to the link here for more information, and if interested, and in the milling industry, feel free to sign up.

COFES 2011

COFES stands for the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software. This is an annual event held since 2000. This event brings together not only the big players involved with engineering software, such as Autodesk, Dassault and Siemens, but also many smaller or even start up companies.

Conferences such as this allow companies that ordinarily may be competitors, to share data valuable to the industry as a whole. Data such as; the best way to communicate with customers, new ways to train users, how to stimulate innovation, what customers are really asking for and much more.

Sescoi was pleased to participate in its second COFES conference. We were unique in that we were the only company in attendance that generates a large portion of revenue on CAM software, versus just CAD software. One thing that was stressed by some keynote speakers was the importance of manufacturing to the economy. We feel our presence allows us to provide a voice on behalf of our customers on their manufacturing needs. Also, to remind everyone that without CAM, there is no tooling, and no way to make those parts designed in CAD.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, you will see that we will be providing not only great CAM software, but also information that can be helpful to you to help you with regards to manufacturing.

Subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog to stay tuned for future announcements and updates on some manufacturing related initiatives we are a part of. Leave comments below on your thoughts on the future of engineering software, specifically CAM as it relates to you.

IMTS Day 4

There exist many organizations that exist to support and lobby for manufacturers. Just like the NRA lobbies for 2nd amendment rights, groups like the National Tooling and Machining Association lobby on behalf of manufacturers. However, an association like the NTMA does much more than that, they provide a way for successful manufacturing corporations to share knowledge and allow for mutual support.

Sescoi is an National Associate member of the NTMA, as is AgieCharmilles. We had the opportunity to spend some time speaking with Harry Moser, Chairman Emeritus of AgirCharmilles recently. Harry is a strong voice in the NTMA and an advocate for U.S. Manufacturing companies.

Harry has initiated what he refers to as a Reshoring Initiative. Basically, reshoring is when manufacturing that once was sent over seas is brought back to the U.S. His Reshoring Initiative may be able to provide data to help manufacturers keep more work or bring more work back tot he U.S. This initiative is always looking for data and examples of when something has been reshored. Click the Reshoring Initiative link to find out more information.

Harry will be retiring at the end of 2010, and we wish him the best in all of his new ventures.

IMTS Day 1 – Inspiration

Day one of IMTS is over, and it was a pretty decent day. Often on the first day of large shows there are special conferences and key note addresses. As a company in the “high tech” field of advanced manufacturing software, we were privileged to be invited to an event titled Industry Inspiration Day. This event is meant to inspire U.S. companies towards growing advanced manufacturing here in the United States. There were four speakers that are industry leaders representing Aerospace, Automotive, Medical and Power Generation.

These speakers were:

  • Allan McArtor, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas
  • Jim Tetreault, VP of North American Manufacturing of Ford Motor Company
  • Denise Bode, President and CEO of American Wind Energy Association
  • Rene Van de Zande, President and CEO of Emergo group
Trade balance

Manufactured Products

Normally, one wouldn’t think you would have to inspire people to try and perform advanced manufacturing. Basic business sense states you need to constantly improve and advance your technology, or be left behind, only to be written about in the past tense. However, the United States has definitely lost some ground in manufacturing, as illustrated in the attached camera phone picture. This display was used as a means to inform the people in the industry about the state of the industry. What it shows is that in about 2001, the U.S. started running a trade deficit for advanced manufactured products. For comparison, it shows the trade deficit for all manufactured products, which has been running as a negative for many years already.

Images like this, are meant as a wake up call, to help inspire companies to do advanced manufacturing here in the United States.

So after the conference is over, what is there to be inspired about?

  • Ford turned a profit during a period of time where auto sales in the U.S. were down by about one third.
  • The United States can be considered the Saudi Arabia of available wind. Although we had lost a leadership role in power generation from wind, we are slowly catching back up. This is an excellent opportunity for any company with the capacity to manufacture wind turbine components.
  • The medical industry is still growing strong. It is estimated that just knee and hip replacement business will double by 2015.
  • 25,000 planes will be replaced with more advanced, greener, quieter and safer planes over the coming years. This represents tens of millions of parts which need to be manufactured, and the aerospace industry will be looking at advanced manufacturing techniques to bring the costs down.

In conclusion, we all need open to change, and new opportunities.

IMTS – Sept 13-18

IMTS stands for International Manufacturing Technology Show. It is held in even number years, and has been in Chicago for as long as I can remember. Historically for the past decade, IMTS attendance has usually been near or over 100,000 people coming through the doors. Living in the Detroit area, I have often heard people ask why Detroit can’t have a show that big, the reason is simple, Detroit currently can not handle it. McCormick Center, the home of IMTS, has about 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, with Detroit’s Cobo Hall having about 600,000 square feet. Detroit simply does not have the space nor infrastructure of hotels, restaurants and transportation to handle a gigantic show. Which is a true shame, because that many visitors means a lot of money into the local economy. Detroit’s former Mayor, Coleman Young, often said Detroit could not handle a big show, and had wanted a Cobo Hall expansion, yet decades later, the city and suburbs can’t come together to make it happen. However, that’s enough politicizing, let’s discuss what IMTS is.

IMTS houses all things manufacturing related; milling machines, cutters, EDM, Wire EDM, CMM checking, coolants, lasers and much more. Sescoi will be at IMTS at booth E-3936, showing our Manufacturing Software Solutions. WorkNC Version 21 CAM Software includes multi-threading capabilities and 64 bit support. We will also be showing WorkPLAN Enterprise, MyWorkPLAN, WorkXPlore-3D. Additionally we will show some new items, Wire EDM as part of a new Hybrid CAD modeler.

Shows like IMTS are a large undertaking, and Sescoi does many large shows throughout the world. Check this blog during the next week, as we will update it with some news and opinions directly from the show. Also, I will be giving a presentation during the conferences on Tuesday at 3:00p, if you purchased a conference pass, come check it out and provide feedback here. If you do not have a conference pass, stop by our booth, E-3936 (in the Lakeside Center, with a good view of the lake) as we’ll be able to discuss it and provide a condensed version. We will continue some blog posts about 5-Axis, and what you truly need to do 5-axis after IMTS concludes.

Until then, you may not realize that a lot of work goes into putting on a large show like IMTS. I’ve included a picture of the setup. This picture was taken on Friday, Sept 10, and many companies had not even started setting up their booths yet.


Booth E-3936