The Best of SMX: Manufacturing Training Consistent Theme
By: Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME
Recently SME produced its first virtual event focused on smart manufacturing, The Best of SMX. After participating, I am more inspired about the future of manufacturing and its workforce.
The well-attended event on October 29 brought together large and small manufacturers from all industries to discuss crucial strategic and workforce issues, as well as disruptive technologies destined to change the face of manufacturing globally over the next decade.
- Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing
- Automation & Robotics
- Cyber Security
- Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
- Data Analytics
- Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR)
- Industrial IoT
- Workforce Transformation
Now more than ever, smart technologies are driving change in the supply chain, product design and productivity.
And an important question remains: how will this impact our workforce? Or better yet, how can the industry innovate to ensure manufacturing is connected in a way to empower our workforce?
SMX speakers had some great insights on this. Throughout the conference sessions, keynote presentations, panel discussions and live chats, workforce development was a consistent theme.
The manufacturing industry is being transformed by advanced technologies in ways we couldn’t have imagined five years ago. It is clear that a skilled and highly trained workforce is essential to the successful implementation of 4.0 systems, processes and technologies.
Following are a few takeaways from speakers addressing the importance of the workforce.
Robotics Can Attract and Retain Manufacturing Workers
Tom Moylan, Automation Manager, Acieta, presented, “Robots Speed up Manufacturing Recovery and Growth.” Tom covered real-world examples of companies using automation to grow their business in a safe, productive way.
He talked about how finding and keeping good employees is critical to recovery and growth. It’s important, he said, to figure out how to motivate and engage millennial and younger gen workers.
“Let’s face it, we live in a digital world now, and technology is ever changing,” Tom said. “Our new workforce can embrace this in ways previous generations couldn’t or didn’t even want to.”
He continued, “Robotics are an easy way to attract, retain and challenge your employees. Removing the menial labor with the use of robots opens up more challenging, rewarding and higher-paying jobs for your team. All that translates to employee retention.”
Reducing Cyber Security Risk
Stories of digitization also touched on cyber security and the importance of securing data and training employees to avoid cyber risks.
In a panel session called, “How Smart Manufacturing is Disrupting the Supply Chain: Are You Prepared?”, Berardino Baratta, VP of Projects & Engineering at MxD; Marilyn T. Gaska, Ph.D., Logistics and Sustainment Chief Engineer / LM Fellow Chief Engineering and Program Operations at Lockheed Martin; Joel Neidig, CEO and Co-founder of SIMBA Chain; and Vicki Holt, President & CEO of Protolabs covered how the supply chain can take advantage of digital solutions.
They discussed how everyone can work together to make the Smart Manufacturing Supply Chain process as seamless and secure as possible and make lasting and effective working relationships to improve the performance of the supply chain.
Panelist Vicki Holt, president and CEO, Protolabs, said training and development is a big part of that. “The most important thing I’ve learned as well is that you have to train all your employees about cyber security and cyber risk. Today, with the pandemic, the bad guys are coming out in force.”
Vicki added, “It is an investment, and as you become digital, manufacturers large and small must invest in cybersecurity to protect their customers, their employees and their own intellectual property.”
Ford: Improving the Employee Experience
In his keynote session, “Ford’s Journey to a Digital Manufacturing Operation,” Mike Mikula, chief engineer, Advanced Manufacturing, Ford Motor Company, talked about the company’s long history leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies.
To create the Factory of Tomorrow, Ford is taking the time and investing the effort to leverage smart manufacturing within a corporate ecosystem of technologies around four pillars to enable employees, suppliers, dealers and customers.
Speaking of employees, Mike said, “They are our most valuable asset. As a result, we focus a lot on the technology around how to improve the employee experience.”
As an example of training, Mike outlined an Extended Reality solution which uses light to prompt employees to perform their work both safely and effectively. The lights help guide workers in the right direction to choose the correct part or tool to make sure the work is completed properly.
Ford actively enhances their employees’ experiences in other ways, too, like through the use of exoskeletons to reduce strain, introducing collaborative robots to address work that is higher risk from an ergonomic perspective, and creating sustainable factories.
The company also uses training technology advances to share its expertise with partners in its distribution network. For instance, Ford used Extended Reality technology to develop virtual training for dealership technicians around its Mustang Mach-E.
Mike explained that as this is a completely different product, even experienced technicians need to relearn what all-electric vehicle service requirements look like. This accelerates the process so virtual training can take place before the vehicles even appear on the factory floor.
We agree with Mike when he says, “Make no mistake, the future starts today.”
As we saw throughout The Best of SMX virtual event, manufacturing is shifting to be smarter and faster as the global landscape changes. It’s more important than ever to start your digital transformation and make sure your workforce is ready to innovate and adopt smart technologies to carry your company to future success.
You can access recorded sessions from The Best of SMX, including all of the visionary keynotes and presentations on technologies that are revolutionizing manufacturing, through January 30, 2021.
At Tooling U-SME, we have dozens of new elearning classes available on various aspects of Industry 4.0, including additive manufacturing, cybersecurity, data collection and machine learning, and more are coming.
Reach out to us at 866.706.8665 to learn more about smart manufacturing training programs. We’d love to hear from you.