Education in manufacturing: Some ideas to help train your workforce

AGMA Director of Events & Education

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It is well known the manufacturing industry, regardless of sector, is having a workforce issue. There are not enough people to fill the jobs needed to fulfill orders and stay competitive. A study by the Manufacturing Institute (MI) projected the manufacturing industry will face 2.1 million unfulfilled jobs by 2030 resulting from a lack of skilled labor in the United States alone. The fact is, if you, as an employer, don’t figure out a way to get in new talent or train up your current employees, you might find yourself having to make some difficult decisions.

So now that this horrible picture has been painted, it is very important to highlight there are some traditional and innovative ways to help keep your current employees and perhaps recruit new ones. One of the biggest challenges manufacturers come across is taking the time to train people so they can step up and grow with the company. Here are some ideas that are easily implemented to help:

Assign work in pairs based on skill level

Having visited many manufacturing facilities during my time at AGMA, I see many people are in different areas of the shop and tend to work on machines independently. If you are seeing there is a decent number of talented employees that are going to be retiring soon, make sure to have them work side-by-side with newer employees to help train them. An apprenticeship program does not need to be so formal – it can look like a beginner working alongside a veteran to soak up all of their knowledge. This is called one-on-one training but also it is a method of succession planning. The newer operator learns the tricks of the trade while the more seasoned expert can pass on their legacy of hard work.

Send your team to education classes

When you have a limited staff, it can be challenging to train them internally on everything. If you think about hiring a new person with no background in manufacturing, you are going to need to educate them not only on company procedures, but they will need help with nomenclature, technical requirements, basic information, and even materials and best practices. There are many associations, suppliers, technical colleges, and government groups that offer education courses for every type of manufacturing process there is. Make sure to budget some money for your new hires to travel and attend education courses. It not only helps them become better at their job, but it will alleviate the stress of having to do it in-house.

Bring instructors to your plant

If you have a large group of employees who all need to learn the same thing, perhaps it is time to invest in either having an in-house instructor or working with a consultant who can bring the education to you directly. Associations such as AGMA work with members and non-members to develop onsite training with subject matter experts to go directly to the plant floor. This allows longer access to the instructors; it enables those taking the class to see it all happening exactly where they work, and it can save on the costs of travel.

Look into local government grant programs and state-funded education

There are so many different programs developed in cities across the U.S. paid for by government funding. These programs include technical trade classes at different schools, industry -focused curriculums developed by organizations who have history in the business, and by consultants who wanted to start a school to help backfill the trade knowledge. Some of these programs are offered for free, and some of them accept grant funding if you apply. It might be worth looking into what is available directly in your own backyard before you decide to spend money sending your employees away.

Allow your employees to learn online

Many employers do not want their workforce distracted by social media. However, in today’s world of YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram, sometimes education comes in the form of quick five-minute videos.

“A whopping 86 percent of U.S. viewers say they often use YouTube to learn new things. In fact, there are more learning-related videos on YouTube than books in the Library of Congress, and seven in 10 YouTube viewers use the platform for help with a problem they’re having with their work, studies, or hobbies,” according to yumyumvideos.com.

Granted, having a computer on the shop floor to search for immediate answers isn’t always checking the box for proper training, but it might be worth investigating if some channels have real online education for your employees to take advantage of.

If you are looking for an immediate solution to your workforce issues, there isn’t one answer. In fact, getting new talent in the door remains one of the biggest challenges the industry faces. However, this makes your current employees more valuable than ever, and that is why it is imperative you train them up, enable them to become leaders, and hopefully they will invite their friends to come join them.

Make sure to take a look at the great online and in-person classes happening in 2024 through AGMA. We also are introducing two new EV courses and, as always, we can arrange for the instructors to come to you.

Registration for 2024 Annual Meeting is Open

Join AGMA and ABMA for this member-exclusive event nestled among the vineyards of Napa, California, at the Meritage Resort & Spa. Gear and bearing professionals from companies all over the world gather together to listen to experts in economics, trade, workforce development, supply chain management, political forecasts, and more. Aside from the informative presentations and interactive workshops, attendees will have plenty of time to network during curated events, dinners, and activities.

Don’t miss out on the event that brings together the leaders in our industries and is the best place for high-level, C-suite executives to receive tangible takeaways and actionable advice back to their businesses.

More info: www.agma.org/events/agma-abma-annual-meeting

Upcoming Education

Involute Spline Design & Rating

January 17-18 | Live Online Course

This course will address both geometry and rating of involute splines of various types. The types of spline joints and their applications will be discussed. Spline configuration variations, including half depth, full depth, and special function designs, will be addressed. Both fixed and flexible spline configurations will be examined in terms of usage and design. Lubrication methods, including grease, oil bath, and flowing oil, as well as coatings appropriate for various spline applications, are examined. Shear and compressive stress rating methods are discussed with analyses methodology presented in both equation and graphical methodology via various rating charts.

Analytical Gear Chart Interpretation

January 23 | Live Online Course

This course is an introduction to the methodology of analytical gear inspection and the evaluation and interpretation of the resulting data. The application of this information to identify and correct manufacturing errors will begin to be explored. Additionally, it reviews chart interpretation and applies inspection data to understand the causes and cures of manufacturing errors. Many chart examples are used to understand cause and effect.

Gear Materials

January 30-February 1 and February 6-8 | Live Online Course

Learn what is required for the design of an optimum gear set and the importance of the coordinated effort of the gear design engineer, the gear metallurgist, and the bearing system engineer. Investigate gear-related problems, failures, and improved processing procedures.

Design Basics of Spur & Helical Gears

February 13 | Live Online Course

Learn how to develop and understand customer gear drive application specifications and target performance expectations. Review, calculate, and select basic gear terminology variables and design parameters that define tooth bending and contact rating safety factors on two real-life examples. Learn how to optimize gear fatigue safety factors for a given target design life and fit new gear designs and ratios into existing center distance using profile shift. Use commercially available software to develop gear-geometry factors, calculate and optimize gear set power density and performance. Review common gear failure modes if the design or final accuracy does not meet application requirements. Discuss time and cost of more than 20 other gear-drive component functions and drive development steps through prototypes to shipment of compliant assembled production drives. There will be an opportunity to discuss gear design challenges that may be unique to participant industries.

For a full list of the 2024 courses, go to: www.agma.org/education/advanced-courses

Calendar of Events

January 3 — Emerging Technology Webinar  Webinar

January 9 — Helical Enclosed Drives High Speed Units Committee — WebEx

January 17-18 — Involute Spline Design & Rating — Live Online Course

January 23 — Analytical Gear Chart Interpretation — Live Online Course

January 30-February 1 — Gear Materials Part I — Live Online Course

February 6-8 — Gear Materials Part II — Live Online Course

February 7 — Emerging Technology Webinar — Webinar

February 13 — Design Basics for Spur & Helical Gears — Live Online Course

Feb 13 — Helical Gear Rating Committee — WebEx