7/23/2012 | 3 MINUTE READ

Getting Ahead with Technology and Training

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We live in a world where technology is ever changing. By the time you buy your next iPhone the new one will be right around the corner. Equipment manufacturers are constantly changing their technology to meet the consumer that is looking for high throughput and better quality. Yesterday’s technology is the dark ages to today’s employee.

What is more interesting is the issue of training and its linkage to technology. Companies have focused heavily on implementing new technology in their businesses, but have not put as much focus on educating their workforce to run this new technology. And let’s face it—kids today are looking to new technology to solve the world’s problems rather than the old fashioned approach for problem solving.

This article has focused the last few months on what it takes to create a sustainable business. There are five critical areas that are the foundation for success. This month our focus is on one of those areas, Technology and Training, and what it takes to succeed.

When it comes to technology in any machining business, it is critical for companies to continue to implement the latest and greatest technology in order to stay current and solve the needs of their customers. This includes things such as new pieces of equipment, up to date programming for machines, part simulation, material handling equipment, material science, cutting technology and cooling technology.

There are probably many other types of technology for companies to implement, but the key is to balance capital investment with what is required to drive efficiency.

Depending on the financial health of companies and how they weathered the storm of the recession, some companies are investing significantly in new equipment to grow capacity and replace an aging fleet of equipment, but that balance is critical particularly in a market of uncertainty.

The larger challenge with technology is training the workforce. Over the years, particularly in machining, there has been a significant loss of skilled trades and with the recession, companies were not investing in the next generation of labor. People in companies were not trained, and new talent has not entered the market. Kids are choosing not to enter this field of work because there is a stigma that this is a blue-collar environment. In many cases, employees with 5 to 10 years experience are making $70,000 to $80,000 per year. It is industry’s job to assist in the education of that fact and help the next generation choose their path.

The key to technology is the linkage of education to the latest and greatest technology. The older generation machinists struggle to learn the new technology and resist much of the change. They are comfortable with the old way of doing business. The newer generation learns much quicker, but needs and wants the expert training that it takes to run the equipment to its maximum capability.

How do companies marry those to generations with the right equipment for their business? The best companies today are doing a mix of several strategies to plan for the future. They are first going to the local high schools and are talking to them about their business. They are hosting open houses and bringing the kids in to see the fascinating new technology and proving to them that running a CNC machine is much cooler than our parents may have painted it to be.

These companies are working with local community colleges to define the requirements needed from a skilled trades worker in their field. They are donating old equipment, helping to develop curriculum, providing unused and unneeded steel to the schools for practice on machining, and in some cases, holding classes on the weekends in their shop to provide the practical skill set required.

But the best are not only teaching these young tradesmen/tradeswomen how to machine, but also teaching them the mechanics of the business.

Many companies have put their head in the sand and say they don’t need to change and they don’t need to marry technology, business and training together. Those companies will be left without a growing business in the future as the baby boomer generation of skilled trades retires and leaves a wake of loss behind them.