Lessons from FABTECH

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on November 10, 2017

FABTECH 2017 has come to an end, closing out a year of great manufacturing industry events for SME. Tens of thousands of people converged on McCormick Place in Chicago for the annual event, which showcased the latest products, developments, and solutions in metal forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing.

Lessons from FABTECH

Over the years, we’ve all witnessed manufacturing’s ups and downs and certainly the challenges being faced by the industry. But today, we see renewed faith in the sector’s renaissance, and the biggest reason for so much optimism lies with advanced manufacturing technology. Stakeholders have high expectations for how the latest tools and equipment will help their companies grab a slice of the booming economic pie, and they look to tradeshow events such as FABTECH to see what’s new and next.

As in years past, FABTECH provided attendees with the latest advancements in forming and fabricating, from welding to metal forming to robotics. This year, the event also included a focus on additive manufacturing – one of today’s most rapidly developing markets. With expected revenue growth of $26.2 billion by 2022, more manufacturers are increasing the number of additive-made parts in products; therefore, we’ll continue to see the industry embrace this technology and use it to spur innovation.

As we look to the latest and greatest products to propel us into the next industrial revolution, the need for a workforce with the right skills to implement and employ this new technology is critical.

During the FABTECH event, I spoke with several industry leaders, managers, and journalists, discussing the successes and obstacles being faced by many manufacturing companies. While there was a lot of enthusiasm around advanced manufacturing technologies and tools, one question seemed to be on the minds of many attendees: What effect will these emerging technologies have on the workforce as the industry evolves?

I had the opportunity to facilitate a workforce development session that focused on what it will take to close the skills gap and how manufacturers can create and keep a high-performance team. I co-presented this session with Steve Staub, president of Staub Manufacturing Solutions, and George Keremedjiev, president of Tecknow Education Services, Inc., both of whom offered great insights regarding employee development. Participants in this session received practical counsel on what works and what doesn't when it comes to workforce development efforts, including apprenticeships and how to develop a structured and sustainable learning and development plan tied to business goals.

At the end of my presentation, I shared the six steps manufacturers should consider when they’re ready to create a successful training and development program:

  1. Build a business case for senior management
  2. Define and update employee job roles
  3. Build career progression models
  4. Benchmark incumbent employees and identify gaps
  5. Design a custom competency-based program
  6. Ensure performance standards and measure results

There is definitely opportunity for growth in the advanced manufacturing industry; to get there though, manufacturers have to invest in the development of their greatest asset – their people. Those valuable employees with energy, creativity, and unlimited learning potential.

To see whether your organization is equipped with the right skills to meet the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s advanced manufacturing industry, take Tooling U-SME’s Workforce 2021 Assessment.

Tags: "additive manufacturing", "advanced manufacturing", apprenticeships, competency-based, "emerging technologies", fabricating, FABTECH, finishing, "George Keremedjiev", "industrial revolution", manufacturing, "metal forming", robotics, "skills gap", "Staub Manufacturing Solutions", "Steve Staub", technology, "Tecknow Education Services Inc.", welding, workforce