All facets of an organization must be digitized, computerized, and organized with the latest technology.

By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Consumers have great expectations for rapid shipment and customization of products. As consumers, we also expect the ability to go online to handle issues and make changes to orders. This level of service means that all facets of an organization must be digitized, computerized, and organized with the latest technology.

Ensuring that companies – specifically manufacturers in this case – are prepared to go forward in a digitized economy are organizations like Gateway Technical College (Kenosha, WI), Dassault Systemes (Bellevue, WA), and the American Technical Education Association (ATEA).

For Bryan D. Albrecht, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Gateway Technical College, digitization is, “The integration of technology into the processes of manufacturing. We see technology every day in our lives – from cameras in doorbells to touch screens in cars. Technology is having an impact on the way products are being produced.”

He feels that developing the next generation of employees with the most modern skill-sets is business critical. But he said this is a workforce training issue, “If we are going to stay competitive, we need to adapt, and our students need to understand and be able to apply new skill sets. He suggested that machinists, for example, need to not only know machining skills, but also programmable logic control, sensor technology and data analytics. “Learning these skills will elevate the technical capacity of the workforce,” he said.

Albrecht sites one key resource that many community and technical colleges are using for the benchmarking of industry standards – the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). Working with the NC3 is allowing his college to take a leadership role in the Internet of things, cyber security and advanced processes. He said that through their work, they are a part of 700 educational peers working on development of new curriculum and programs that will lead to certifications.

Another leader in the growth of digitization in business is Al Bunshaft, Senior VP for Global Affairs for Dassault Systemes America. Dassault Systemes produces software that is heavily used in industry – their 3DExperience platform – and is the basis for many community and technical college programs.

Dassault Systemes was the host of the recent “End to End Digitization” ATEA conference in, Waltham Massachusetts November 7-9, 2018. They hosted the conference because according to Bunshaft, “We are a software company. We are leader in supporting innovative companies. We are working with many of the leading innovators in the world.”

For Bunshaft, the critical role that these conferences play is, “Understanding that the transformation has been going on for a few decades. No matter what industry you are looking at, there is a massive trend toward digitalization. We need to be talking about medical, construction and manufacturing. Students and workers need to understand computational thinking, digital tools and what that means to the meaning of work.”

Gateway Technical College has now developed an Industry 4.0 Pathway, new curriculum and classes. Albrecht said that they are taking a lead on these credentials nationally. “Wisconsin is working to remain competitive. The State of Washington, as well as many schools in the mid-west are working toward a more robust economy as well. We continue to see more of a need for advanced skillsets in industry 4.0,” Albrecht said.

He added that certifications through NC3 are important, but he is seeing a trend through ATEA, and other organizations that are focusing on integrated technology models for manufacturing. He is seeing the concept of the Internet of things and Industry 4.0 at most conferences he is attending.

Albrecht doesn’t feel that the manufacturing industry has been slow on the up-take but noted that they are a large industry sector and did things in a manual way for over 100-years.
“In an old paradigm, an industrial designer would have to hand draw, create a prototype, before getting to the production of a product. Now they can work in Solidworks to design, create and print 3D products in a short amount of time. Idea generation and fulfillment is going on rapidly in the marketplace,” said Albrecht.

At Gateway, he said they are also adding other programs such as, advanced manufacturing on the industrial Internet of things; cyber security (the integration of data into manufacturing processes); data analytics – a program that allows a technician to understand and apply predictive analysis on programming; machine language connecting machines to each other through program language; and supply chain management. He said, “This is important because now manufacturers or producers can get products from so many places – just-in-time-delivery (JIT) of products and suppliers must be rapid and automated.”

Albrecht added, “80-years ago everyone bought a telephone that worked and looked the same. Now consumers have many choices and can adapt their smart phone to meet their individual preferences. Manufactures must be able to customize products for a verify of specifications and consumer versatility. Flexible customization of the product line is where everything is going. So many components must integrate to allow consumers to get what they want.”

Outcomes from the ATEA conference on “End to End Digitization” were:

  • Start educating students and parents about careers in manufacturing earlier in elementary and middle school
  • Have an awareness of how fast manufacturing is changing – everyone needs to be educated much earlier about what manufacturing represents
  • Incumbent workers will need to up-skill for companies to stay competitive – workforce development programs that come into manufacturing companies will become even more important

For Albrecht, and Gateway Technical College, their rapid adoption of digitization, the Internet of things, and understanding of automation for the future was born of necessity when a huge company moved to their area.

“Gateway had this vision for a long time, but when Foxconn, an electronics contract manufacturer, announced their 22-million sq. ft. advanced manufacturing production facility in our district it required an immediate response by our college.”

They now have developed curriculum that has been picked up by colleges around the nation. They also have learned how to integrate students from a young age to look at careers in manufacturing. Gateway is doing this training for free “to provide a great education for the entire educational community.”