INDEX Corporation Hosts Vincennes University Manufacturing Training

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Ask precision machine shop managers about machining skills these days, and they will likely say they cannot get enough interested operators, trained in the essentials of CNC. INDEX Corporation decided to address the issue in a practical way.

INDEX President Jeffrey L. Reinert, Vincennes University Class of ’75, thought the company could do something to address the lack of young people being trained in the sophisticated machines and automation that INDEX markets and that are found in manufacturing today.

Over a period of three weeks at its 100,000 sq ft sales and engineering facility, INDEX Corporation at its own expense hosted four select manufacturing technology students from Vincennes and introduced them to the advanced machining technology the company designs and markets.

Addressing the need for trained personnel
With the technological advancements represented by CNC machine tools today, the educational requirements needed to work in the CNC machining area have been significantly increased.

According to one estimate, the United States graduates more than 3 million students from high school each year, but only about 125,000 apprenticeship slots open annually—just 4 percent, compared to 40 to 80 percent in most other high income countries, such as Germany, Austria and Denmark. In those countries companies partner with local schools to operate a program that combines technical training and some traditional academic instruction.

Mr. Reinert said “We connected with Vincennes and together we determined we could provide three weeks of meaningful training for Vincennes University at the INDEX corporation facility in Noblesville.

“We decided our objectives would be to familiarize the senior-year students with INDEX and TRAUB machine tools and the features that separate our products from the competition. We would provide an overview, and add to their knowledge base, rather than try to train them on every facet of the machines.

“So with Mr. Tim Bauer, director, advanced manufacturing at Vincennes Unversity, we hand-selected four 'Best of the Best' senior students who were proficient in manual programming, Mastercam computer-aided design, and basic machine operation. Their training has given them practical experience with tool-room machines, and Haas single-spindle lathes and 5-axis machining centers.”

These students who have studied together and been in competition with each other for the last 2.5 years wanted to be exposed to hands-on machine set-up and operation, CAD-CAM software training, and programming different types of controls, which at INDEX is mainly Siemens and Mitsubishi.

The students were primarily from vocational education backgrounds in high school with machine training all four years, including manual machines and grinding tools, and basic CNC—computer numerical control of the machines. “The more we got into CNC the more we liked it,” said one student.

The basic premise of the new course is to use demo parts from INDEX as training samples, program the parts using simulation software, machine the part and inspect the parts on equipment that is not available at the school.

“Our intention was to provide a meaningful experience at an OEM machine tool vendor and a completed sample part to take back with them,” said Mr. Reinert. “Further, the course provided the students with enough experience for them to make an interesting and detailed presentation to their classmates. Each of the students intends to work in manufacturing, such as applications engineering, a precision CNC shop, a large-work machine shop, or mining and power plants.

From INDEX’s point of view, it has the opportunity to interact with prospective employees.

Pointed out one of the students, “The need is to start in high school to introduce manufacturing to capable students, not only to students who may struggle academically. The need is to show that there is a future in manufacturing and it is not really for people who can barely graduate from high school. It was not pushed in my area.”

They would be surprised at how clean manufacturing is today.

U.S. companies already spend tens of billions of dollars on training and more than 20,000 of them offer apprenticeships. Many of these companies are foreign-based—they understand the benefits to their operation of training the next generation of employees.

Mr. Reinert pointed out, “We used no state funding for this training. We are paying the cost ourselves. We believe it’s a smart investment in the long-term success of our company. The investment we make pays off in a workforce of long-term, highly dedicated, highly skilled employees. I’d say the program was successful in its intention and we plan to repeat it with new students next year at our Noblesville facility.”

INDEX Corporation, part of INDEX Group, Esslingen, Germany, is a leading producer of high-precision turning machines, turn-mills, multispindle CNC machines, and innovative multi-function metalcutting machines for rapidly producing complex chucked parts, bar, and shaft parts. Markets served worldwide include medical, aerospace, automotive, and precision machined parts.

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