Overcoming the additive manufacturing talent gap

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, represents a paradigm shift in the manufacturing industry by introducing innovation in engineering design and production. It has shortened design and manufacturing processes by helping companies streamline prototyping activities, alter supply chains, and evolve end-product manufacturing. This innovation in materials and technologies with respect to additive manufacturing demand new skills and capabilities, both technical and managerial. According to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 9 out of 10 manufacturers are struggling to find the required skilled workers. Moreover, 54 percent of manufacturers do not have a plan in place to address the skilled labor shortage which is impacting production, quality, innovation, and growth.

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Another report by Wohlers predicts the global 3D printing industry is expected to grow from $4.1 billion in revenue in 2014 to $12.8 billion by 2018, and its worldwide revenue to exceed $21 billion by 2020. Although this projected growth for additive manufacturing is a good sign, it raises the significant challenge of finding a finite pool of talent with the skills to work with this technology.

To realize the full potential of additive manufacturing, manufacturing organizations are trying to focus on developing a capable and skilled workforce.

Educational courses 

To close this skills gap, universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology are offering courses in additive manufacturing in an effort to produce additive manufacturing engineers. Manufacturing companies can hire these fresh graduates by focusing their efforts on schools who have this curricula.

3D printing labs

3D printing labs are being constructed in collaboration with universities and organizations to deliver hands-on training to engineers who want to learn additive manufacturing. Engineers can learn about, and conduct research on, the many facets of this technology.

Innovation centers

Another effective way to facilitate learning in additive manufacturing is with the creation of innovation centers where engineers and technicians can collaborate and learn from one another in a skunkworks-style program. In skunkworks projects, small teams of employees without any interference from day-to-day operations, work on specific projects, innovative aggressively, and test ideas.

On-the-job training

Some manufacturing companies have started providing focused on-the-job training to both new and seasoned engineers. By taking the help of subject matter experts, the training programs are being designed to impart an appropriate skill set with respect to additive manufacturing.

Rethinking recruitment

Manufacturers can develop a recruitment plan that identifies training centers, universities, and institutions producing engineers and technicians trained in additive manufacturing technologies and applications. Recruiters should visit colleges, search for candidates online, or partner with academic institutions on targeted programs for creating both awareness for the technology as well as the career options available.

Addressing the talent gap is critical for implementing and scaling additive manufacturing. Without a well-trained workforce capable of adapting to and adopting the additive manufacturing applications, organizations may fail in their ability to integrate and implement additive manufacturing processes effectively. Hence, by building a partnership between HR, managers, engineers, and technicians, manufacturers can identify more ways to address the prevalent talent gap in additive manufacturing.

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