On September 26th and 27th American Crane & Equipment Corporation, a manufacturer of overhead electric cranes and hoists, celebrated Manufacturing Day by inviting Reading and Boyertown School Districts’ 9th and 10th grade students to tour its plant and participate in a presentation highlighting careers in manufacturing.
Manufacturing Day, officially recognized on the first Friday in October, is a day set aside to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. According to the Manufacturing Day website, a need for skilled manufacturing workers was identified in the 2001 Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Gap Report. This report showed the mismatch between the skills of available workers and skills that manufacturers demand. The 2015 Skill Gap Report reinforced those findings, which is why many efforts are being made to encourage careers in manufacturing.
For several years, American Crane has offered tours of their plant and operations in an effort to educate students and the public about the many opportunities manufacturing can offer. During American Crane’s plant tour, students learned how knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) relates to jobs in a manufacturing setting. Students first observed mechanical designers and engineers working with a computer- aided design software (CAD) and a computer-aided engineering program (CAE) called Solid Works.
This program helps engineers to design and visualize a product through a 3D concept. To work with this software it is imperative to understand the mathematical equations that support plot lines and curves, the foundation of drafts and drawings.
While walking through the manufacturing floor, students saw various areas where raw materials are received in, prepared, and machined for production. American Crane’s tour guides explained that programming and operating complex machinery requires a solid knowledge of mathematics, geometry and even physics.
Students also learned that STEM education is imperative for innovative manufacturing. To create and manufacture a product (especially custom designs) requires a team of skilled workers with a comprehensive STEM background. This is because STEM education teaches skills like problem solving, evaluating, and making sense of information used by designers, engineers, fitters, mechanics, welders, electricians and many other positions in a manufacturing organization.
Prior to the tours, students listened to a presentation given by American Crane’s human resources manager describing employment opportunities available at a manufacturing company. The students learned about the “life of a crane” and all the people involved in making overhead lifting equipment a reality, from sales to production and everyone in-between. The presentation gave the students information about specific skills and the education required for these positions.
Each school also built a model-size Rokenbok gantry crane. The students divided themselves into task-oriented teams to gather, separate and assemble parts and assigned one student to be the project manager. When completed, the gantry crane had a fully operational trolley and hoist and stood a little over 2.5 feet.
In an interview, American Crane’s executive vice president Karen Norheim was asked how she would describe what it is like to work in manufacturing. Karen responded, “Where else can you follow a product from concept to physical existence while helping to solve complex problems that have a real-world impact for customers?”