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Home / Training Manufacturing Workers of the Future

Training Manufacturing Workers of the Future

An inside look at how one technical college uses industrial robots to teach advanced automation skills.

Posted: October 20, 2022

Gateway Technical College students have access to FANUC robots, actual ROBODRILLS, as well as FANUC CNC Simulators for firsthand experience working with real-world industrial equipment.
The smart factory lab at Gateway Technical College has five FANUC LR-Mate robots, which help move the part through the production cycle. A mobile robot as well as a series of conveyors assists the robots.
The smart factory lab at Gateway Technical College has a virtual ROBODRILL connected to a FANUC CNC Simulator, which helps students learn how to operate the machine tool.
FANUC offers Industry 4.0 Connected Smart Manufacturing occupational pathways and stackable certifications to develop entry-level skills for careers in robotics and automation. Here, a welding operator works with a FANUC CRX Cobot.
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Fanuc, smart factory lab, workforce
The smart factory lab at Gateway Technical College has five FANUC LR-Mate robots, which help move the part through the production cycle. A mobile robot as well as a series of conveyors assists the robots.

In southeast Wisconsin, Gateway Technical College is an important feeder school for businesses in the local manufacturing hub looking to install, operate and maintain Industry 4.0 technology on their production floors. At their state-of-the-art manufacturing training facility outside of Racine, Gateway’s Industrial Internet of Things Technologist David Aguirre designs projects that help educate others about advanced manufacturing technology and data analytics.

“We have set up a lab that mimics a real-world smart factory,” he said. “Here, we are teaching the future of manufacturing through the production process of making 3-and-4-way valves, either created from acrylic or aluminum.”

The smart factory lab has five FANUC LR-Mate robots, which help move the part through the production cycle. A mobile robot as well as a series of conveyors assists the robots. Additionally, a virtual ROBODRILL is in the lab connected to a FANUC CNC Simulator, which helps students learn how to operate the machine tool.

“The FANUC integrated platform of industrial robotics, data analytics software and professional technical services serves as our foundational training in smart machine applications for careers in advanced manufacturing,” said Bryan Albrecht, president and CEO of Gateway Technical College.

Gateway Technical College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology associate’s degree program teaches students about many different mechanical, electronic and information technologies. This broadens the knowledge base of advanced manufacturing technicians and their ability to understand mechanical and electrical principles as well as how to implement data analysis to optimize the manufacturing process through intelligent automation.

Fanuc, workforce
Gateway Technical College students have access to FANUC robots, actual ROBODRILLS, as well as FANUC CNC Simulators for firsthand experience working with real-world industrial equipment.

Gateway Technical College’s students have access to FANUC robots, actual ROBODRILLS, as well as FANUC CNC Simulators for firsthand experience working with real-world industrial equipment. In one of the computer labs, ROBOGUIDE teaches how to program robots before they program actual FANUC robots on the floor. In the Fab Lab, students learn how to design CNC projects.

“We teach them about 3-axis movement,” said John Zehren, Fab Lab Coordinator at Gateway Technical College. “The students learn that way of thinking and to envision their material moving through the space of a machine tool, and how it will be cut. That’s the basis of modern manufacturing.”

In addition to technical lessons, students learn about the Industrial Revolution and its various stages. Teaching about the industry’s progression from using steam power to mass production assembly lines to automation and computers shows how each movement helped increase the efficiency of factory floors.  This all leads to the current age of manufacturing, Industry 4.0, or better known as the Industrial Internet of Things.

“In the smart factory lab, we show students how in lights-out manufacturing, all the equipment is connected by implementing that connectivity here,” Aguirre said. “FANUC’s MT-LINK i  connects and monitors all the equipment, including our PLCs, ROBODRILLS, robots, etc.”

FANUC’s MT-LINK i allows the students to watch real-time machine tool and other manufacturing equipment’s operational data. Screens on the lab’s wall show the machines and robots monitored and students learn how to analyze that data when problems occur, just as they would in a real factory.

“It’s important students learn manufacturing data analytics, and MT-LINK i uses MONGODB for database management, which we also use at Gateway,” Aguirre said. “MT-LINK i also uses OPC UA, which is a machine-to-machine communication protocol used widely for industrial automation.”

When completing the Advanced Manufacturing Technology degree program, students must be able to analyze automation data within a complex manufacturing system. This is in addition to knowing how to manage an entire advanced automated system to maximize efficiency and control costs.

“We have placed QR codes around the facility to bring up the MT-LINK i dashboard on their cell phones, so they always have access to manufacturing data,” Aguirre said.

More than just students are learning about advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technology at Gateway Technical College. Aguirre conducts tours with many company executives and often they are fascinated by what they see.

“People come in and see things like MT-LINK i and ask about it,” he said. “We love MT-LINK i because it’s so affordable, which is important for smaller companies that need Industry 4.0 data, but maybe they can’t afford an expensive monthly fee. MT-LINK i doesn’t have that.”

To monitor and gather preventive maintenance data on the FANUC robots, Gateway Technical College uses ZDT, which stands for Zero Down Time. All of these FANUC products add up to an excellent showcase of what is possible in this Industry 4.0 age and how Gateway Technical College is using them all to create the next generation of the manufacturing workforce.

FANUC Partners with MSSC to Co-Market Certifications

Fanuc, workforce
The smart factory lab at Gateway Technical College has a virtual ROBODRILL connected to a FANUC CNC Simulator, which helps students learn how to operate the machine tool.

Last year, FANUC America and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) began co-marketing the stackability of their respective industry-recognized certifications to meet the acute shortage of skilled industrial robotics and automation operators. The partnership creates a streamlined approach for schools and industry partners when administering the certifications. Both organizations offer their certification assessments through NOCTI/Nocti Business Solutions(NBS), the leader in industry-developed and recognized Certification Assessments.

FANUC offers Industry 4.0 Connected Smart Manufacturing ™ occupational pathways and stackable certifications beginning with the FANUC Certified Robot-Operator (FCR-O1 & FCR-O2) to develop entry-level skills for careers in robotics and automation.

Following international standards for personnel certification (ISO 17024) NOCTI/NBS have developed and validated the end-of-course assessments for both FANUC and MSSC to certify their technicians. The objective is to align students and job seekers on a pathway to become advanced automation operators, technicians, systems integration specialists or engineers. However, the United States is confronting a severe shortage of entry-level operator job applicants with the foundational skills and knowledge needed to perform complex operator tasks successfully. The accelerated use of newly emerging digital technologies in manufacturing is widening that skills gap.

MSSC has upgraded its signature Certified Production Technician program for entry-level frontline production technicians to add a fundamental understanding of Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, 3D (additive manufacturing), Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), data analytics, autonomous robots, augmented reality, nanomanufacturing and advanced materials.

MSSC offers a nationwide delivery system of nearly 2,900 MSSC-trained instructors and 1,800 MSSC-qualified test sites, mostly at high schools and community colleges, and 72 technical field reps, in all 50 states. “Given the close fit between these FANUC and MSSC certifications, we will encourage our entire nationwide network to use both to prepare individuals to build a robust pipeline of world-class robotics operators,” said Neil Reddy, CEO of MSSC. “The digital transformation of manufacturing globally requires the U.S. to build a highly competitive, next generation frontline workforce capable of keeping pace with technological change.”

www.fanucamerica.com and www.msscusa.org

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