Stepping Up To The Plate

The shortage of skilled workers poses a significant threat to existing profitability and future growth for both large and small companies. As a result, it is an issue that must be addressed on several fronts, not the least of which is in-service training and education.

Workforce development is one of the most important issues facing the worldwide manufacturing industry. Maintaining a knowledgeable workforce is a daunting task that requires planning, commitment and resources. And, as customer and industry demands increase, it becomes more and more difficult for manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve. The shortage of skilled workers poses a significant threat to existing profitability and future growth for both large and small companies. As a result, it is an issue that must be addressed on several fronts, not the least of which is in-service training and education.

At Mori Seiki, we take a comprehensive approach to education. As a leading machine tool builder, it is incumbent upon us to play an instrumental role in workforce development, with regard to our customers as well as our staff. The establishment of Mori Seiki University (MSU) has enabled us to solidify our commitment to not only this issue but also our role in the education of the skilled workers of the future.

Our president, Dr. Masahiko Mori, believes in leading by example. As a result, educating and training our staff and distributor network is a core function of MSU. Traditionally, manufacturing expertise has been a prerequisite for a significant percentage of support positions at Mori Seiki. MSU allows us to instill this expertise in highly qualified and proven personnel from varying backgrounds to ensure the development of a much more diverse workforce. The acquisition of fresh perspectives further enhances the innovative approach for which we are known.

When MSU first opened its doors for employee and dealer training, we were flooded with inquiries from customers asking to enroll. We quickly realized that the challenges faced by our customers with regard to education and training are complicated and oftentimes, quite costly. Since experienced CNC operators are not readily available, our customers must frequently hire employees and provide the training themselves. This often presents a slew of overwhelming and prohibitive complications, as job shops face lost production time, inability to pay wages during training, inadequate training from OEM suppliers, high rates of turnover and high training costs.

MSU alleviates much of the stress and strain for our customers by offering a comprehensive range of classes in varying formats. Through MSU, operator training is delivered in several ways. Customers receive operator training during machine installation on their factory floor by the distributor’s service engineer or an applications engineer. Our customers also attend fee-based operator training classes held at our technical centers, as well as customized training programs offered on an as-needed basis by Mori Seiki and our distributors.

Though traditional methods certainly have a role to play in any workforce development initiative, we recognize that the realities of day-to-day business often require a higher level of access and flexibility for our customers. MSU Education On Demand is a Web-based training program that is available to our customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Using 3D virtual machine tools, Education On Demand immerses students in an interactive environment that engages them and holds their attention.

Providing learning on two levels, Education on Demand allows students to obtain a solid fundamental understanding of manufacturing principles through skills courses and hands-on training. Not only can students enroll in courses that teach basic manufacturing skills like blueprint reading, principles of metrology and lean manufacturing, but they can also hone their operational skills in classes that cover the full scope of Mori Seiki’s functions and capabilities on CNC lathes and multi-axis turning and machining centers.

Lasting between 2 and 4 days, these hands-on courses enable students to both observe and participate in problem solving in a controlled learning environment. Through a variety of examples and exercises, instructors guide students through the process of identifying, creating and modifying programs, maintaining machines with specialized controls and diagnostics, and troubleshooting issues like magazine indexing and removal procedures.

From associations and trade publications to OEM suppliers, distributors and customers, workforce development affects all of us and is an issue that demands our commitment. In fact, our ability to compete in the expanding global marketplace depends on it. As an industry, we must work together to ensure that our manufacturing workforce continues to be the best in the world and that not even the smallest job shop becomes a casualty of this existing crisis. Furthermore, we must work together to ensure that manufacturing continues to be a viable and credible career for our young people.