Siemens' digital future comes through Elk Grove training center
Global manufacturing technology giant Siemens AG is preparing to unveil its vision of digital manufacturing later this month at EMO 2017 in Hannover, Germany. The company will showcase its digital offerings -- including its new cloud-based, internet of Things operating system MindSphere -- over a massive 13,000-square-foot area at the world's largest manufacturing trade show.
As it shows off its digital vision in Germany, Siemens is also gearing up its Elk Grove Village facility to train the workforce needed to run the new technology.
Siemens' Technical Applications Center in the Elk Grove Industrial Park recently underwent a major expansion and upgrade, replacing outdated equipment and decor and expanding the facility to handle a larger number of trainees.
The TAC is responsible for providing training to Siemens customers and their employees throughout the United States, according to John Meyer, manager of marketing communications and motion control at Siemens Digital Factory division. The center -- which started in 2009 with one classroom and a lab -- has been expanded to two classrooms and an expanded lab with three milling machines and one turning center, as well as a robotic center and a training station for Siemens' NX-CAM computer-aided manufacturing system.
Meyer notes the center is set up to seamlessly move trainees from classroom lessons to hands-on experience.
"They'll work in the classroom, then they'll come into the lab and work on the machines, so basically they're learning in theory and then in practice in real time," he said.
Meyer and TAC Manager Randy Pearson noted the center's upgrade includes adding touch screen panels in the labs that coincide with the company's expanded use of the technology in its equipment. The technology allows the operator to use touch screen-unique features -- like pinch-and-zoom -- to more precisely cut, mill or finish a machine part.
Pearson points out the new technology, which makes computer numerical control machining operate similar to a smartphone or tablet, adds an extra appeal to younger people considering manufacturing careers.
"The computer guys, the gamers, the video guys, they see that it's the same thing they're doing now," he said. "They touch, scroll and do everything with their fingers."
Meyer added, "It's helping that the younger generation becomes more familiar and gets better acquainted to our technology."
And while the classroom space has been expanded to handle up to 24 people at a time, the center is adding virtual training to its portfolio.
"We know that customers may not be able to get away from the shop, be gone for 3 to 4 days or travel to Chicago, and the virtual training is a perfect answer for that," Meyer said, adding that many of the Siemens' U.S. clients are small-to medium-sized, independent businesses.
But, above all, the expanded TAC is an example of how technology has changed the manufacturing industry from its perceived history of dirty, back-breaking work.
"Manufacturing is not a dirty word," Meyer said. "We're trying to help people overcome that perception by showing something that is high-tech on the manufacturing side -- from the machines, to the controls, to the things that you see with the touch panels.
"It overcomes that perception and shows manufacturing is actually a cool job."
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