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Skilled worker shortage Your January 2004 issue highlighted the shortage of skilled maintenance technicians and strategies to overcome the problem. All plant managers must recognize that the technicians are the critical people who make a manufacturing plant a success. FORTUNE (August 22, 1994) 'Technicians - "The New Worker Elite" states that as companies use advanced technology to improve prod...
By Staff April 8, 2004

Skilled worker shortage

Your January 2004 issue highlighted the shortage of skilled maintenance technicians and strategies to overcome the problem.

All plant managers must recognize that the technicians are the critical people who make a manufacturing plant a success.

FORTUNE (August 22, 1994) ‘Technicians – "The New Worker Elite" states that as companies use advanced technology to improve product design and manufacturing quality, technicians are the key people they depend on. Technicians turn black box technology into productivity gains.

When Congress passed the $125 million TECH PREP bill in the 1990s, it stated America’s technical and economic leadership in a world economy depends more on technicians than on engineers. On the factory floor, the people who make things happen are not the engineers or managers, but the technicians.

Technicians have advanced associate’s degrees in a technical field from a two-year community college or state technical institute. The degree may be in one of several areas, such as:

  • Electronic engineering technology

  • Instrumentation and control

  • Robotics

  • Computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM)

  • Manufacturing technology

    • Specific topics include:

    • Digital, analog, and microprocessor systems design

    • Math through introductory calculus

    • Computer numeric controlled (CNC) machining

    • Instrumentation and process control

    • Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)

      • In addition, many technicians have passed certification tests administered by organizations such as the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) or the International Society for Automation (ISA).

        Plant maintenance technicians can do more than just troubleshooting and repair. They should be utilized for new equipment design, upgrades, and selection, and can serve as a liaison between the design and manufacturing departments. They can define quality systems procedures and manufacturing methods.

        You can help the local community college technical programs by serving as an adviser, or teaching night classes.

        By visiting the local community college or technical institute, you can see first hand the advanced programs and training labs. Many have web sites that list their programs. Some may even have photos of the training labs. Many local two-year colleges offer customized training, even on the company site.

        Also, consider membership in the American Technical Education Association (ATEA). This organization is dedicated to the postsecondary technical training so vital to prepare the workforce of the future.

        Glen W. Spielbauer

        Human Side

        Smoke-free policy at the plant

        I just finished reading Raymond Dreyfack’s discussion about a smoke-free policy in the February 2004 issue of Plant Engineering. I strongly disagree with Mr. Dreyfack’s conclusion that adequate accommodations were provided to the imaginary employee, Rose Krause, who was depicted as having a severe allergy to cigarette smoke. Her employer had acknowledged that Krause was handicapped and had taken several steps to avoid having her exposed to second-hand smoke.

        Smoking is not a inherent to the functioning of the workplace, as described. The offending employee was under the direct control and supervision of the company, and he could have been ordered to avoid smoking while in Krause’s area.

        The number of accommodating conditions taken by the company is not related to the reasonableness of the accommodations. Having an employee to refrain from smoking is not unreasonable, just as having an employee refrain from wearing an overbearing amount of perfume is not unreasonable.

        Thomas J. Koralewski, P.E.

        Money winners
        The following readers won a $100 gift cheque from American Express in a random drawing of Product of the Year ballots received on or before Dec. 15, 2003.

        Luis Alomia Maint. Supverisor Okeelanta Corp. South Bay FL
        Brian Hatala Supt of Maint. Reunion Ind. McKeesport PA
        Ron Snyder Eng. Mgr Rite-Hite Dubuque IA
        Jeff Youngblut Maint Elec Deere & Co. Jesup IA
        George Barker Chief Engr Hehr Intl Chesaning MI
        Ray Meyer Mfg Eng Dana Corp. Milwaukee WI
        Wm Seiss Elec Engr Aristech Chemical Pittsburgh PA
        Andy Johnson Pl Engr Dura Automotive Sys. West Union IA
        Steve Sherman Pl Engr Simkins Ind. Catonsville MD