Having been part of a company that distributes, rebuilds and services machine tools for nearly 40 years, Terry Iverson has seen many changes in CNC systems and in manufacturing overall. In this episode, he shares his perspectives on the factors driving CNC manufacturing today—global competitiveness, reshoring, and the need for younger employees; explains the unique characteristics of the four types of control systems; and describes the impact of emerging technologies. Where is industry going next with additive manufacturing and cobots? And what impact will this have on the education of entry-level technicians?
In today’s VUCA environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, explains Mark Maybury, Chief Technology Officer for Stanley Black & Decker, new technicians will need digital skills, “soft” skills, and the ability to be a lifelong learner. New, emerging jobs in a subset some call “gray collar,” require not just hands-on skills and mechanical knowledge but also digital skills in computing, data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Technicians who learn new knowledge and skills the fastest and contribute the most and collaborate most effectively will be the ones who will succeed. In addition to being able to collaborate, they will need to be good at listening and very good at understanding and empathizing. A combination of “hard” skills and “soft” skills are the key things sought from job candidates in a constantly changing future workplace.
Before the Internet of Things, a technician would hook a digital multimeter up to a sensor, measure the output and evaluate whether equipment is running properly. Now there are smart sensors that have built-in diagnostics built. The technician’s job has expanded beyond taking rudimentary measurements and making a judgment call. Erik Fogleman from ConnStep, a consulting firm that works with Connecticut’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, explains why today’s technicians need to learn how machines talk to each other and to the cloud and edge computing systems. They need to learn communications protocols that dictate how devices talk to each other, how to configure them, and how to troubleshoot them when they are not communicating. It’s not about more intelligent machines replacing technicians, but about machines providing technicians with more accurate “actionable intelligence.”
Marilyn Barger, Executive Director, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center and Richard Gilbert, Professor, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, University of South Florida October 2020 | 00:23:45 Episode 17 Transcript and Show Notes
While nine or ten technologies are often categorized as critical to Industry 4.0, in this episode Marilyn Barger and Richard Gilbert highlight the skills needed for the four that will impact manufacturing technicians over the next four to five years in their daily operational mode: simulation, the industrial internet of things, autonomous robots, and additive/subtractive manufacturing (and associated materials). Technicians working with each of these technologies will need specific skill sets. Which skills are most sought by industry? Are instructors on the same page? Using data gathered from surveys of Florida manufacturers and educators, Barger and Gilbert discovered gaps—sometimes gaps in prioritization of skills that need to be taught, and other times perspective gaps based on vocabulary used by each group to talk about the skills—and also many points of agreement between the two groups.
What are the cross-cutting skills–the skills vital for all future STEM technicians, regardless of discipline, to practice in order to be successful? Matthew Carter from Cook Medical, a manufacturing company, shares that it is vitally important for technicians to be able to gather data, present information, and balance the technical aspects of a project with its business considerations as well as perform what are considered more traditional technical skills. They also must be able to work in cross-functional teams. He notes that medical device manufacturing is not different from other industries in at least one regard: as quality demands continue to increase, the consistency of the product is very important. In this episode, we talk about how the data, the technology, and the people work together like gears interacting with one another to maintain process efficiency and product quality.