Aforward-thinking attitude that embraces emerging technologies is key to success when it comes to filling the skills gap in manufacturing, Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and strategic development for the Detroit Regional Chamber, noted.
“We still make 23% of the cars and trucks built in the US. There are 1400 tool-and-die shops in Michigan. There are more than 375 R&D centers. But we’ve got to look to the future,” he said. “From the 13 assembly plants all the way down to the mom-and-pop, tool-and-die shops, we’re working to protect Michigan’s automotive assets. But if we don’t position ourselves as a center for building next-generation mobility and embrace the Internet of Everything, Michigan will be left in the dust.”
Sharing innovation with other companies is one way to position companies in a region as leaders. Siemens sponsors an annual event called Manufacturing in America that is built around three pillars—community, collaboration and innovation.
It takes a community that is collaborating to drive innovation. Innovation is critical if we want to continue to manufacture in the US. Private-sector funding of manufacturing R&D accounts for almost 70% of the total R&D spend. If we lose manufacturing, we will lose innovation.
Beyond any one community or region, companies are of course focused on attracting new talent. But it is important to also keep in mind the great value of companies’ existing highly skilled and experienced people. It is wise to invest well in lifelong learning development and to find new ways to ensure knowledge transfer.
Ben Kisley, a recent college graduate, is taking part in the Siemens Engineering Leadership Development Program. Every six months, he moves to a different location around the nation. He gets experience from different parts of the organization and to learn from different people.
Siemens also offers a Workforce Performance Improvement program (WPI), a six-stage cyclic program providing transparency into employee job skills for success. The program begins by aligning current worker competency to business targets and approaches the learning process from the customers’ perspective. It incorporates online and face-to-face learning methods individually tailored to improve job performance and meet specific performance needs.
A large automobile transmission manufacturing plant provided a recent example highlighting the success of a WPI initiative. Engineers watched a “how-to” instructional video on-site at the time of a potential factory outage. They made the adjustment that kept the line running and prevented any downtime. And a manager there said the video subscription more than paid for itself at that moment.
Members of academia and organizations like SME are collaborating to create programs and find other solutions to address the skills gap.
Oakland University is working with Michigan manufacturers to create paid internships. Its students work with manufacturers five to 10 hours a week during the school year and full time in the summer. Local companies hire most of the students.
The Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program addresses a widening skills gap and an aging workforce. It functions like an apprenticeship program: Participating students get free tuition and a stipend of $9 to $15 an hour.
SME, the publisher of this industry yearbook, has been at the forefront of manufacturing industry education and technology for decades.
The SME Education Foundation’s Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education initiative forms a collaborative network between high school students, educators and industry,
Tooling U-SME looks at the whole manufacturing ecosystem, not just the engineering level but also the shop floor.
The nonprofit also relies on events and SME chapters to help it introduce new technologies, provide industry-driven curriculum and train teachers in schools across the country.