To those of us in this field, this mantra is beginning to sound like a broken record, but to many others it is still sounding untrue. Many continue to believe that U.S. manufacturing is dying, that there are no good jobs and that the ones left offer only a dirty and monotonous career.
One only needs to read the recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Help Wanted on Factory Floor,” by James Hagerty to learn that the lack of qualified workers for the advanced manufacturing and engineering field has reached a crisis.
In order to compete globally and have a sound economy, a nation must make things; this has always been the backbone of our country and without intelligent, technically savvy workers, our standard of living will falter.
The article correctly points to three trends that are contributing to the dearth of qualified employees.
First, manufacturers are starting to hire again after almost 10 years;
Second, despite the recent delay in retirements, the baby boomers are beginning to retire in massive numbers now and into the near future; and
Third, “… the U.S. education system isn’t turning out enough people with the math and science skills needed to operate and repair sophisticated computer-controlled factory equipment, jobs that often pay $50,000 to $80,000 a year, plus benefits. Manufacturers say parents and guidance counselors discourage bright kids from even considering careers in manufacturing.”
I find this third trend the most troubling, but it is the only one of the three over which we actually have some control.
According to the National Science Foundation, about 5% of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. are in engineering, compared with an average of about 20% in Asia. According to the WSJ article, “In the most recent comparison of math and science test scores of 15-year-old students by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American students trailed far behind those from China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Germany.”
Everyone should view these statistics not only as a wake-up call, but as appalling.
While many manufacturers, big and small, across the country are working with their local career technical schools, institutions of higher education, returning veterans groups and even the prison system to sponsor internships, offer apprenticeships and in addition provide tuition reimbursement, our country will never be able maintain or improve its competitive advantage until our education system, both public and private responds en mass to the needs of the industry.
I know I now sound like a broken record, but hopefully my voice as well as others’ will begin to be heard.
HEADLINE The survey definitively shows that product innovation leads to more growth, while “grow your own workforce” strategies will be needed to fill the major labor shortages hampering small manufacturer growth. Emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and digital manufacturing are beginning to enhance innovation and productivity, but still have significant room for adoption amongst Ohio’s small manufacturing businesses. ABOUT THE SURVEY Under the direction of the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Ohio MEP), MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network conducted a thorough survey of Ohio’s manufacturing base. Contributing approximately 20% of Ohio’s jobs (and driving in some regions up to 50% of Ohio’s economy), and generating a disproportionate amount of export revenues and Gross Regional Product, manufacturing is critical to Ohio. Greater than 95% of Ohio’s manufacturers are small (under 500 employees), and these manufacturers need to remain competitive both nationally and internationally to ensure our economy’s health. Ohio’s Development Services Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which runs the MEP, recognizes the importance of this sector and fuels MAGNET and the Ohio MEP program to directly serve and support innovation, efficiency, and growth in small and medium manufacturers. What manufacturers need
How Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Can Help Keep Our Engineers Safe and Our Manufacturing Strong Recall how difficult it was to put together complex LEGO creations when you were a child or helping a child. Now, picture assembling a fighter plane from a room full of parts. Even highly trained engineers can benefit from technology to help improve consistency and quality. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are making near-perfect assembly a possibility in the manufacturing space. By wearing AR glasses that use cameras, depth sensors and motion sensors to overlay images onto the real working environment, engineers and factory workers can visualize the exact bolts, parts, part numbers and instructions on how to assemble a particular component correctly. Lockheed Martin began using AR goggles and improved F-35 assembly time by 30 percent, in addition to increasing accuracy to 96 percent. In order to remain competitive, businesses should consider the ways VR and AR can improve efficiency and supply chain productivity. According to a recent BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research report, AR platforms can provide companies up to 25 percent in cost savings on installation of equipment. Here are four ways VR/AR is disrupting the mid-market manufacturing space:
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