Motion-component suppliers surveyed for this year’s Design World Trends issue described several different programs to maintain technical proficiency for both application engineers and OEMs and other users of their products.
CGI Motion engages in outreach in the form of open houses so that STEM students get chances to tour the company facility. That’s from Robert Shouppe of CGI Motion. “We also provide equipment to Western Nevada College in our area — including CNC equipment and other machinery for their technical program. Plus we offer scholarships … and are proud to say that some of our employees have come to work for us, gone back to school to take the programs we sponsor, and obtained degrees and certifications in electronics and automation to ultimately advance their career within our company,” says Shouppe.
He adds that CGI Motion hopes to see more students enter both engineering and machine-shop professions in coming years, because he currently sees a labor shortage. “The retirement of baby boomers will really impact our industry, especially as a lot of older machinists are preparing to retire or ease into a sunset career. There’s a big gap between the skill and knowledge we have in the shop and that just entering the shop.”
CGI Motion manufacturing mechanical engineer at Lance Brown adds is own perspective:
“Colleges do an excellent job recruiting students early. However, I think there’s an emphasis on technical jobs related to computer programming and robotics … and our industry needs more attention is paid to developing young people in the skilled trades. We’re just not developing craftsmen anymore; few high schools still have wood shop and metal shop classes.”
Brown opposes portrayals of skilled trades as only pursued by dropouts: “Our industry offers lots of terrific manufacturing jobs. Many people raise families and live wonderful lives working those jobs; I certainly did.”
Robert C. Adams Jr. PhD, P.E. of rigid-chain technology supplier SERAPID shares that his company supports engineering education in many ways — including full compensation of what employees spend on tuition for higher education. In addition, SERAPID:
• Hires engineering students as engineering interns and sponsors capstone senior projects for the nearby School of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University
• Donates to the local FIRST robotics team and provides SERAPID products at cost to other U.S. FIRST robotics teams
• The company’s Director of Engineering also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Lubrication, Friction, and Wear (as well as a graduate course in advanced tribology) at Oakland University.
Manager of technical Training at Thomson Industries Thaniel Smith explains that a large portion of his company’s training (whether for internal personnel or our distribution partners) is face-to-face classroom instruction. “Our product experts and application engineers conduct these training sessions at our factories in North America and Europe where participants are also able to see firsthand some of the products on which they’re being trained,” explains Smith. Thomson field salespeople and product teams also provide training for OEMs and distributors on an as-needed basis.
“In addition to classroom training, our on-demand training content is always available on our website at www.thomsonlinear.com/en/training with content specific to each of our product categories. Text, images, animations and videos cover basic design concepts as well as Thomson-specific information such as features, specifications, installation instructions, and maintenance tips,” Smith adds.
Multimedia presentations and on-demand resources are increasingly making their way into education and training materials to enhance these types of programs.
Mario Mitchell, product manager for IPS T-slot aluminum framing at Parker Hannifin’s Electromechanical & Drives Division explains yet another program. “In October 2018, we released the Parker T-Slot Aluminum Design Architect software called TADA. This digital tool lets end users design T-slot aluminum framing solutions for tables, carts, and machine guarding,” says Mitchell. The software is categorized as standalone — so it’s more than just an online catalog of parts. “TADA isn’t a plugin either, so design engineers aren’t locked into a certain 3D CAD platform when accessing our components for design work.”
Although the market is heavily dominated by 3D CAD software, the availability of software that doesn’t limit itself to a specific vendor is highly beneficial to customers. TADA inserts and keeps track of the proper fasteners to use within the design — a feature that’s fairly unique.
“In the past we did the bulk of our design work without the aid of a customer-facing tool. Now we can shorten the time from quote request to final proposal,” notes Mitchell. Design engineers can access tutorial videos, templates, and more at www.parker.com/designarchitect.
Company-wide commitment to the FIRST Robotics and more
Robert Watkins, V.P. of sales and applications at Ruland Manufacturing Co. explains his company’s education initiatives: “We’ve begun working more closely with our customers to provide application-based training both online and in-person. In-person training can be more impactful because it is a captured audience with limited distractions. Ruland web-based training is primarily done live (not prerecorded) and we try to have multiple people take it in the same room. This approximates some helpful aspects of in-person training.”
“Beyond that, we’ve made a company-wide commitment to the FIRST Robotics program — and have been a Gold level supplier of FRC for more than 10 years. We donate parts through the kickoff kit, FIRST Choice, and directly to teams … and grant students access to all the training we give to our customers and technical-support team.”
“We’ve passionate about STEAM education and FIRST has been a great way for us to engage and help educate the next generation of engineers,” adds Watkins.