February 2008

Sharing expertise for automation

When a manufacturing plant shuts its doors and sends all jobs to China, U.S. workers who have worked in the plant all their lives will need to retrain and develop new skill sets to start over. That is where the Automation Federation and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) can help. An agreement between the two will play a huge role in the automation industry, helping train, certify, and rebuild the industry.

MEP is a program coordinated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to bridge the productivity gap for manufacturers, identify opportunities for growth, and encourage technology deployment. It provides expertise in process improvements and worker training to business growth and technology applications. A field of nearly 800 specialists work in MEP-affiliated programs and centers throughout the country and Puerto Rico.

Through this collaboration, the Automation Federation plans to bring education, training, and professional development opportunities to local MEP centers and provide enhanced outreach and communication initiatives. The Federation also will continue its efforts to promulgate standards that help manufacturers develop more efficient processes.

The goal from the Federation's view was "to develop programs to influence each state in the U.S., programs such as training, certification, recertification, retraining. We're focusing on N.C. because that's where we are," said Automation Federation Managing Director Bruno Kisala. "By retraining professionals and pushing them into the automation space, "we can also meet future needs for trained and skilled professionals, fill existing jobs, and influence the local economy," Kisala said.

"With the agreement, the Federation is collaborating with the DOL, agreeing to cross-market and cross-communicate. They will leverage our training and certification expertise. And we'll be able to influence or help to achieve their goals," Kisala said.

"As MEP seeks to improve U.S. manufacturers' ability to compete globally, we appreciate partners such as the Automation Federation, which allow the MEP network to better respond to specific industry needs," said Roger Kilmer, director of the MEP, NIST.