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Toward ultimate goal of CIM: teaching 'factory' bridges skills gap.

Toward ultimate goal of CIM:

The deteriorating level of education in the United States is much like the weather - everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Gary Kinkela is an exception. He and partner, Ron Weishorn, founded the Micro-Teaching Factory in Monroeville, PA - a school to train machine operators in the axiom of motion and bring them closer to the age of CIM. They are convinced their unique venture can make a difference in restoring America's industrial muscle.

America is losing its competitive edge, partly because companies can't effectively use the technology they have purchased. "We are only using 30-to-40 percent of the automation power we have in the field today, and that is a crime," contends Mr Kinkela.

As a distributor associated with Anilam Electronics Corp., he discovered that the greatest deterent to implementing automation - more so than knowing about automation and its applications - was the lagging skill level of employees. "Without a foundation you can't really go into more complex work," he found. He became convinced somebody had to do something about rebuilding that foundation.

That's when the partners launched the new educational venture as a spin-off of Kinkade Inc. their Anilam distributorship. However, Micro-Teaching Factory isn't just another OEM's customer training facility. Nor did it start out as a business venture. Rather it was born as a concept to search out a common manufacturing language in the axiom of motion and get it instituted into the more traditional educational system including vocational educational schools and community colleges.

What the educational entrepreneur found was that, although the educators agreed with the premise, they were stymied over instituting any kind of a solution. They concluded it would take far too long to implement such a curriculum into their systems and that the cost of equipment was prohibitive.

It was about 15 months ago that he came to the realization that "planting the seeds of good skill development and constant improvement in our youth is not something for someone else to do, it is our responsibility. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem," Mr Kinkela believes. He is convinced the concept behind the Micro-Teaching Factory can be part of the solution.

Build teams

His school in Monroeville has been conducting classes since last August. Already some 70 companies have enrolled employee-students. Most companies send several employees, a move that Mr Kinkela encourages. "We start with the production floor, building teams of employees, and depend on the trickle-up theory," Mr Kinkela explains. "The employee team's increased knowledge and improved performance raises the eyebrows of management and gets it interested in learning about CIM (computer integrated manufacturing). The ultimate goal is to move the manufacturing operation toward CIM."

Cost ranges from $550 to $650 per 30 hour course, which runs three hours a night for 10 weeks. Unlike traditional schools, each student is treated individually. They are tested upon enrollment to insure they are placed in a program they are capable of mastering. In addition, as each class has only 8-to-10 students, individualized attention is provided and progress is continously monitored and evaluated. Each class has two instructors - a professional educator to teach math and sciences, and an applications expert to instruct in the use of state-of-the-art equipment.

Tailor-made

"It's important we concentrate on individualized instruction to keep the student interested and growing. Through personalized evaluation we ensure no one fails," Mr Kinkela says. The curriculum is set so as to have the student start with the basics at whatever level he or she is at educationally and then progress through programs that teach CNC, CAM, CAD, and CIM. Each program is offered in three levels that equate to beginning, intermediate, and advanced.

Depending on the individual knowledge level students may start with fundamentals including blueprint reading and machinist's math. In some classes fundamentals are simply built into the front end of the CNC course.

The first level of CNC (computer numerical control) teaches the novice the skills of data entry and program checks. Upon completion, the student can understand G-codes and M-codes, as well as other program skills. The second level is a continuation of the initial course with emphasis on G-code programming and data entry strategies, as well as digitizing directly from a part. The advanced CNC level III course is structured to the needs of the employee-student's company with its parts and programs used as course projects.

CAM I introduces the student ot the world of computer-aided manufacturing. Full part development and post processing are covered, enabling the student to produce machined parts by the end of the course. CAM II (intermediate level) takes the student through more complex parts and the advanced CAM III is designed around the exact needs of the company sponsoring the student, covering all aspects of programming from entering geometry to post processing.

CAD I introduces the student to the basic use of CAD (computer-aided design) programs while the intermediate level teaches the drawing of very complex parts and data entry strategies. The advanced CAD III is, again, designed around the specific needs of the company.

Bridge gap

Mr Kinkela explains that the CAM courses are a "key bridge which brings production and management together like never before. At this level some cultural changes have to take place. We have to break down the walls between production and management and we have to get the worker to belly up to a computer."

CAM and CAD are offered both for the designer and the production man. It gives each function insight into the other side. "These two sides have to start communicating and this helps tear down the walls between production and design," says Mr Kinkela. Computer integrated manufacturing is a strategic plan; it is not a thing. That is the flavor we teach and try to get across in every one of our classes."

CIM for the boss

In addition to courses for production workers, the Micro-Teaching Factory has a program in CIM for management - offered in three levels. CIM I is a four-hour session that introduces the individual to the concept and various factors that go into a CIM strategy. CIM II is built into four weekly three-hour sessions, which gets into more detail and permits the "student" to institute a CIM program. The advanced level gets the manager involved with a systems integrator which provides generic answers tailored to the individual's manufacturing operation.

Unlike schools offered by manufacturers to instruct users of their equipment, Mr Kinkela's operation deals in the common language of manufacturing. "We teach the axiom of motion...how to control motion...how to locate a point. All that the individual keyboards do in manufacturing today is make life simpler once we understand the axiom of motion," he contends. Even so, he says he has the support of most OEMs in keeping up with the latest in technological developments.

The response to the school has been "overwhelming", says Mr Kinkela. He has just launched a national program offering his 10-weekly-session program in an intensified four-day package, which includes hotel accommodations and meals at the Monroeville location.

He is also continuing his efforts to get vo-ed schools and community colleges to adopt his curriculum and is working with OEMs to broaden the school geographically. "We need the support of OEMs to make this a viable idea; to encourage their customers to use such a facility," says Mr Kinkela, adding:

"Today's manufacturer faces unprecedented pressures and complications. Meeting the challenges of quality and delivery, while lowering production costs, will be the keys to success and survival in the 1990s. CIM has long been promoted as a means of addressing these issues. Yet, certain mysteries and misunderstandings persist, which have inhibited its widespread acceptance. America's work force has to be prepared to meet those challenges."

PHOTO : Ron Weishorn (left) and Gary Kinkela, founders of the Micro-Teaching Factory, take a break during one of their class-room sessions.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:computer-integrated manufacturing
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:1323
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