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Why Invest in Education and Training?

Why should a manufacturer invest in education and training for its employees?

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"It comes down to making money," answers Platt Beltz, manager of the training department at automation supplier Yokogawa Corp. of America, in Sugar Land, Texas. "If you are not training your people, you are going to be inefficient, and it's going to cost you." He also points to an even more important reason—safety. Inefficiencies from a lack of training will only cost money, but lax safety procedures could cost lives.

Driving the need for regular training is technological progress. "Automation systems have become so advanced that they require special skills and training to ensure that are put to work to their utmost efficiency," reports Joe Hartman, operations manager for ABB University, in Wickliffe, Ohio.

To make his point, he suggests considering to two batch plants with identical equipment. If the operators in one plant were to have better training, then the tweaks that they make to their equipment could give their plant a 10 percent to 15 percent advantage. He adds that an investment in training often pays for itself within a year. Returns, however, are proportional to the time and effort that management devotes to it.

Because a high correlation exists between profitability and training, it is possible to calculate a return on investment (ROI) for training. To help manufacturing companies to estimate one, Milwaukee-based supplier Rockwell Automation Inc. has some posted helps for doing so on its Web site ( The site offers a Metric Selection Guide and a spreadsheet-based calculator for helping users to consider and calculate all of the costs.

The problem is that too many manufacturing concerns are not making the investment, and it's showing up in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Inadequate skills are keeping OEE scores well below acceptable levels, according to Keith Campbell, principal of Campbell Management Services LLC, a resource planning and development consultant in Palmrya, Pa.

The consequences go beyond poor productivity. They also include inadequately maintained equipment, at best, and expensive damage, at worst. Consider a poorly trained computer numerical control (CNC) operator not making much more than a convenience-store clerk. "On one bad night, a CNC operator can cause six-figure damage to a machine," says Campbell. "If industry paid $5 per hour more for that operator for his entire career, it would be cheaper than paying for the damage an under-skilled person could cause on one shift."

For this reason, he urges companies not only to invest in training but also to work with local schools to institute lifelong-learning programs. "It would be foolish to invest in capital improvements or new facilities where there is no adequately skilled workforce," he says.

Rockwell Automation

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