Manufacturing technology is changing: the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about smart sensors, connected systems and smart factories, cloud-based data analytics and integrated software. “Industry 4.0” technology is systematically evolving manufacturing processes, creating a need for highly-skilled workers.

Wisconsin’s educators have identified this shift and are responding in suit.

I want to get involved in the Industry 4.0 educational movement. 

The Beginning of a Movement

The movement began this fall when over 30 high school programs adopted Industry 4.0 curriculum to introduce students to advanced manufacturing technology and processes.

Kenosha Unified, Gateway Technical College’s high school consortium, and the Trempealeau Valley Co-op are among the school districts implementing this curriculum. The latter made headlines this fall for their state-of-the-art mobile skills lab, the result of an investment by Ashley Furniture’s Education Foundation.

The Ashley Furniture Mobile Skills Lab loaded with Industry 4.0 educational equipmentJim Dotta, Vice President of Casegoods/Engineering with Ashley Furniture Industries, recognizes that these efforts help “all our local high schools to foster technical and engineering careers and career pathways in many fields of study – from agriculture to advanced manufacturing to information technology to engineering and computer-aided design.”

The high school program consists of four courses: Introduction to Mechatronics, Introduction to Industrial Controls, Introduction to Industrial Robotics and Introduction to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Even middle schools, like Random Lake, have jumped on the opportunity to expose students to connected manufacturing technologies.

Mike Trimberger, Superintendent for Random Lake School District, said the decision was made after months of consulting with employers in the community about what students need to know when they enter the workforce.

“As we see the increase of devices that are connecting to the Internet every day, our students will have an advantage over others if they understand the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 as it relates to careers they are interested in for the future,” Trimberger remarked.

The middle school curriculum used by RLSD builds a foundation in mechatronics, robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles, alternative energy and data analytics to grades 5-8 with student-led projects that require problem solving, creative thinking and hands-on learning.

And it continues into technical colleges and universities. Gateway is currently building a 35,000 square foot Advanced Manufacturing facility to train students in Industry 4.0 skills and Chippewa Valley Technical College installed a fully-automated Industry 4.0 system.

Standardization of Industry 4.0 Pathways

Through Pathways Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been identifying high-skill, high-demand industries for which to develop “ready-made” Academic and Career Plans. With this Industry 4.0 movement, Manufacturing has been targeted as the next pathway.

Industry 4.0 education includes automation technology, like this FANUC ROBOGUIDE softwareKarin Smith, Regional Pathways Director for Milwaukee, remarked, “the Regional Manufacturing Pathways that are being developed will infuse Industry 4.0 careers and related post-secondary education and training options. It will also highlight Industry 4.0 skills and certification that will help high school students get a jump start on exciting careers in manufacturing!”

The Manufacturing Pathway will prepare students for careers in a range of skill levels, from Maintenance Technician through Industrial Engineer and from Operator to Automation Engineer, Electrical-Mechanical Engineer, and Industrial Data Scientist, for example.

Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President and CEO of Gateway Technical College, is a strong proponent of these efforts. “We are proud to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a statewide pathway defining the knowledge, skills and career opportunities in the Industry 4.0 manufacturing sector. It builds off the rich history of manufacturing in Wisconsin.”

The process began when the DPI gathered over 100 industry and education leaders to pinpoint career ladders, technical skills and academic skills required for a manufacturing career. Follow-up meetings helped bring ideas to a consensus as the pathway outline began to form.

Next, five pilot regions (Indianhead, Madison, Milwaukee, Gateway and Moraine Park) will discuss the draft to see how it fits into the needs of their individual region. For schools already offering the courses, credits, work experience, and certifications required, they will have the benefit of being named on the pathway. For schools who aren’t quite there yet, a standardized map will empower them to implement items needed to meet the criteria.

And this is key: As Industry 4.0 technologies create more opportunity in manufacturing, schools need the guidance and resources to develop a program that enables students to succeed in a manufacturing career.

Additional benefits of the Manufacturing Pathway include:

  • Adherence to Academic and Career Planning mandates
  • Provides a better understanding of modern manufacturing career ladders and Industry 4.0
  • College credits and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Empowers teachers to communicate with parents
  • Builds relationships between schools, community and industry partners
  • Ensures students will graduate with the hard skills potential employers are looking for
  • Certifications through SACA, MSSC, and NIMS


Industry 4.0 Certifications

SACA Technical Workgroups validate hard and soft skills required for Industry 4.0 certificationsCertifications are an especially important benefit. While those obtained from MSSC and NIMS cover basic manufacturing processes, SACA adds in the Industry 4.0 component. But what is SACA?

The Smart Automation Certification Alliance was founded to bridge the skills gap for Industry 4.0 technologies. Jim Wall, Executive Director of SACA remarked, “with the rapid deployment of Industry 4.0 technologies, companies are increasingly finding they have a critical shortage of skilled workers.”

To solve that problem, SACA created standardized certifications for a range of skill levels. Competencies are determined and validated by technical experts in a variety of industries across the country.

And education recognizes the validity of these certification standards. “SACA represents industry’s voice on the knowledge and skills needed to perform in an Industry 4.0 work environment,” Bryan Albrecht commented.

Guided by clear pathways and equipped with credits, certifications and hard skills, Wisconsin’s students will be well-prepared for successful careers in manufacturing technology.

Get involved in the Industry 4.0 Movement

You can get involved, too! We’re at the leading edge of Industry 4.0 education, and those that implement this curriculum now will be recognized as thought leaders in technical education.

March 6-8, 2019 – Wisconsin Dells, WI

LAB Midwest is proud to support the 50th annual WTEA conference – where educators come to network, learn best practices and see hands-on equipment for STEM & Tech Ed programs. Attendees will see some of the collaborative projects and technologies being implemented across the state that are setting Wisconsin up as a leader technical education.

The 50th Annual WTEA Conference

This year, the event will be held on March 6-8 at the Chula Vista resort in Wisconsin Dells. Keynote speakers are Wilson R. Jones, President and CEO of Oshkosh Corporation, and Jim Benson, Chairman Emeritus of Bemidji State University.

Breakout sessions cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Successful Dual Enrollment Leads to Successful Career Pathways – Jim Mackey, Wisconsin Technical College System
  • Finding Funding for your Classroom – Sylvia Tiala, UW-Stout
  • Adapting for Jobs of Tomorrow – Josh Gamer, Western Technical College
  • Meeting the Needs of Advanced Manufacturing – Ray Koukari, Gateway Technical College
  • Partnerships in Education – Kristopher Gengler, Ashley Furniture Industries

Still need to register to attend? Click here.

LAB Midwest to Showcase Biggest Advances in WI

Wisconsin is making record-breaking advances in technical education, especially in the last year. LAB Midwest is proud to be a collaborator in many of these advances, and attendees at the conference will be able to see some of this work displayed. 

  • Ashley Furniture’s Partnerships in Education
  • Industrial-Grade Robotics
  • Industry 4.0 for Middle School
  • Portable Learning Systems
  • 3D Printing, Drones and Rovers, Hands-on Engineering Kits, and more!

Come see this technology in action, learn about turn-key programs and solutions, and talk with one of us about how we can help implement these systems in your school.

About the Wisconsin Technology Education Association

From the WTEA’s website:

The WTEA is an association made up of educators and other interested stakeholders with a desire to improve technology & engineering education at all grade levels within the state of Wisconsin. A wide variety of individuals, agencies and organizations have representation in the Association, including public schools, private schools, correctional institutions, technical colleges, universities, business and industry representatives, classroom teachers, teacher supervisors, administrators, and college students preparing for the profession.

The WTEA works in cooperation with the International Technology Engineering Education Association, Wisconsin Association for Career and Technical Education, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Technical College System Board, Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers,  Skills USA, and technology education collegiate student associations.

Career and Technical Education Recognized

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development recognized West Bend School District’s Career and Technical Education department during a student showcase and tour. The event was part of statewide efforts to highlight CTE during the month of February, which is CTE Month.

Department of Workforce Development Applauds CTE Program and Industry PartnersAttendees included educators, school board members and industry leaders who have contributed to the programs and who directly benefit from the education and certification being offered in these courses.

WBSD’s CTE program is extensive, including Automotive, Graphic Communications, Engineering, Digital Media, Architecture and Construction, Manufacturing and Welding, Culinary Arts, Finance and Accounting, Computer Science and IT, Fashion and Interior Design. Each of these programs offers benefits to students, including certificates, youth apprenticeship opportunities and articulated credits to Moraine Park Technical College.

As attendees arrived, students showcased their projects and talked about their coursework, certifications, and work-based learning opportunities. For some, the classes reinforced career plans and gave them opportunities many students would not have until post-secondary education. For others, the classes introduced new career paths they might not have otherwise considered.

Collaboration Leads to Success

As the event began, Superintendent Dan Kirkegaard addressed the room, acknowledging the role the DWD had in fostering the progress of CTE at the school.

“The success of our programs are due in part to the grant opportunities through the Department of Workforce Development such as the manufacturing equipment grant,” he said.

In September 2018, WBSD was announced as one of 35 school districts to receive a Wisconsin Fast Forward Advanced Manufacturing Technical Education Equipment Grant. Fast Forward grants have benefited many schools and companies across the state in the last few years, but government isn’t the only avenue for upgrading and expanding resources in schools.

Department of Workforce Development Applauds CTE Program and Industry PartnersIn fact, DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman reinforced this idea during his speech at the event. After acknowledging the DWD’s support of CTE programs, he shifted focus toward the partnerships between local industry and education.

“We really applaud this type of investment in our schools and in our students…It’s so important that they start these conversations early and often as to what we can do to introduce students to different careers and industries to make sure they get a full spectrum of what’s out there.”

Frostman went on to recognize Metalcraft of Mayville for their investment in West Bend’s manufacturing program. The company recently worked with LAB Midwest to install industrial-grade robotics equipment from FANUC, the world’s leading industrial robotics manufacturer.

“I think it’s pretty evident what happens when you partner with groups like that for our children, for our economy, and for our community,” remarked Frostman.

Relevant and Hands-On CTE

The evidence was clear during the tour that followed.

Each CTE classroom was filled with authentic technology for teaching industry-relevant skills. Perhaps most impressive of all was the Metalcraft Learning Lab, where instructor Jacob Gitter was able to explain how the equipment is used in the Manufacturing and Welding program:

Our manufacturing program is very robust. We offer students a choice of six courses. Ranging from introductory to a high level capstone course where students run a small business. Throughout all these courses we seek to expose and teach the students methods, processes, and techniques that are only relevant to the industries which we support. The students who participate in the capstone course also experience a taste of a real manufacturing environment. This includes workplace expectations, deadlines and customer interaction. This course is very helpful to prepare students for a “real” world manufacturing environment.

The Learning Lab includes a FANUC Robot loaded machining center with a Levil CNC machine and FANUC CNC controls, a FANUC LR Mate Robot Cert Cart, FANUC/Lincoln Electric Robot Welding Cell, a FANUC CNC Simulator, and ROBOGUIDE software.

Metalcraft’s vision was to create a hands-on learning environment that simulated authentic industrial practices so students can transition directly to work on the same machines.

Department of Workforce Development Applauds CTE Program and Industry Partners

Sonal Ramani, HR at Metalcraft, said the company currently has five WB high school students working various shifts in the facility. One of those is Jakob, a senior who works in the company’s machining department measuring materials for tolerance and loading the machines.

When asked how his CTE experience has prepared him for work, he explained,

“I learned a lot. I pretty much just took this program here – the intro and the advanced – and it’s pretty much the same as Metalcraft.”

Jakob will be attending Moraine Park Technical College in the fall, completing the CNC program with the hopes of remaining at Metalcraft as a full CNC programmer.

Technical college is just one of many career pathways available to CTE students. Credits and certifications open the door to many options, like apprenticeships, university, or entering directly into the workforce. This is the value of career and technical education: it gives students a chance to explore their interests and talents so they learn what they don’t want to do as well as what they do want to pursue in life.

Click here to view the full album from the event.


My classmates used to brag about their plans to become doctors, lawyers and investment bankers. Tomorrow’s “cool” careers may follow the rise of advanced manufacturing.

I am a lifelong resident of southeastern Wisconsin, a region chosen last year by the largest contract manufacturer in the world to build a 20-million-square-foot complex (yes, you read that right, 20,000,000 square feet) that is being billed as the most technologically advanced manufacturing facility on the planet. Predictions about the impact of this project abound, but my favorite one is that the Midwest will become the nation’s “epicenter of Industry 4.0 technology,” bringing with it a host of new career opportunities.

One of the lead industrial engineers working on this transformative project shared some examples with me earlier this year. Thirty years ago, my classmates used to brag about their plans to be doctors, lawyers and investment bankers. Those were the cool careers. Tomorrow’s “cool” careers may look more like those below.

Each includes an MKF—My Kid Factor—meaning, “I would want my kid to consider this job.” The scale is 1-10.

App Developer

As mobile apps become ubiquitous in industrial processes (think monitoring quality and productivity directly from your smartphone), people possessing a familiarity with manufacturing, combined with the requisite software and programming skills, will find a prosperous future in industry. (MKF 8)

Automation Engineer

These people design, develop and test advanced manufacturing technology. Curiously, this occupation is the “fourth happiest job in America” according to USA Today, in part, I believe, because automation engineers get to work with really amazing technology (and also maybe because their bosses have no idea how they do what they do, so they get left alone at work). (MKF 9)

Electrical Engineer

Responsible for the electrical aspects of systems, from the device level (a smart sensor on a machine) to the enterprise level and everything in between, electrical engineers will be in high demand in an Industry 4.0 economy. (MKF 6)

Industrial Engineer

The purpose of this role is to optimize industrial processes, reducing bottlenecks, eliminating waste, increasing yield and thereby maximizing efficiency. As technology on the manufacturing floor has become more complex and software-driven, so, too, have the aptitudes necessary to be successful in this career. (MKF 5)

Interface Developer

People who choose this career develop the software and hardware that connect people to machines and software. Think the human machine interfaces common in many industrial facilities. (MKF 8)

Mechanical Engineer

Imhotep is said to have built the Pyramid of Djoser in about 2630 B.C., dawning the role of the mechanical engineer. No longer designing pyramids for pharaohs, in an industrial setting, the mechanical engineer’s responsibilities might include the planning and design of mechanical systems and processes, conveyorized and automated material handling and product transfer systems. (MKF 6)

Production Engineer

The role of the production engineer is similar to that of the industrial engineer, but with increased emphasis on the execution of manufacturing processes. (MKF 5)

PLC Programmer

Called by some the computer of manufacturing, the programmable logic controller receives information and turns it into output. For example, a material-handling system on an automated production or processing line is likely controlled by a PLC, taking an input signal from a sensor that indicates a part is ready to me moved and sending an output signal to a mechanical lift system to move the part. PLC programmers design these programs, enter them into the PLCs and troubleshoot industrial operations when necessary. (MKF 6)

Quality Engineer

Responsible for overall product quality throughout the supply chain, quality engineers may also have a role in executing the processes designed by the test engineers. (MKF 5)

Systems Integrator

Robotics, conveyors, material-handling systems, PLCs, industrial control systems and computer networks and the related software are becoming inextricably linked in manufacturing, requiring people with knowledge in all of these who are capable of making them work in concert. (MKF 9)

Test Engineer

These individuals design and operate the processes and systems used to ensure a product conforms to its specification. As quality control functions are performed automatically and in process, using technologies such as vision systems, 3D scanning, advanced coordinate measuring machines and tomography, the role of the test engineer is becoming an increasingly technical and engaging vocation. (MKF 8)

The same engineer who shared these careers with me was asked whether each would require a four-year degree or if candidates with associate degrees also could be considered. No offense intended to those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees among us (myself included), but the engineer’s response was “a lot of times the two-year people are smarter than the four-year people.”

Know a young person considering a career pathway? Encourage him or her to consider the careers above and be open to the possibility that a four-year degree and the debt that may accompany it is just one of many means to an end.

If your career choice has already been made, prepare for a future of lifelong learning, the only way to ensure your aptitudes remain relevant and your skills valued in what promises to be a wild ride.

Article written by Matt Kirchner, originally published in Products Finishing.

Prepare your students for Industry 4.0 jobs

Students familiar with connected technologies face a higher job placement and starting wage than students who haven’t. Attract the best minds to your institution by providing the resources they need for these jobs. Fill out the form below, and we’ll help you accomplish this.


When the University of Northwestern St. Paul set out to build new labs while meeting degree accreditation requirements, they scoured the educational teaching equipment market for a supplier that could deliver:

  • High quality products and customer service
  • Competitive prices
  • Purpose-built equipment with teaching flexibility in mind
  • A single supplier source for the majority of the practical teaching needs

“We chose TecQuipment because they ticked all the boxes and some more. They were great to work with from start to finish,  from initial discussions at ASEE 2016 in New Orleans through to the more recent installation, training and commissioning in August 2018. Even when we encountered problems, the Lab Midwest team and TecQuipment dealt with the situation with smiles and joyfulness,” explained Rachel Friesen, Lab Technician at the University of Northwestern.

Degree Accreditation

University of Northwester Students - TecQuipment - EngineeringThe legacy of teaching engineering at the University of Northwestern goes back to the debut of pre-engineering in 1983-1984 and then to the establishment of the Engineering Dual Degree program in conjunction with the University of Minnesota in 2000.  Students in the Dual Degree program would typically enroll in mathematics, science, and engineering courses at University of Northwestern for three years and then transfer to the University of Minnesota for the final two years of the curriculum.

The decision to offer a complete bachelor’s degree program in engineering at Northwestern beginning in 2016 was made with accreditation as a high priority. They already had a strong teaching team with lots of experience, but another requirement for accreditation was the addition of modern and practical teaching equipment to prepare students for the industry workforce.

Flexible Teaching Requirements and Space Limitations

“Our current lab space was renovated from art studios and kitchens, which means space is a high concern”, explained Friesen. “This was another reason why we opted for TecQuipment products that are compact, while still being big enough for groups of students to work on them together.”

In addition to this, they were looking for equipment that would run pre-set experiments, as well as offer flexibility for the teaching team to design their own lab experiments.

Cost Savings

The University of Northwestern looked at four main suppliers of equipment, comparing the product specifications, cost and comprehensive equipment provision. “TecQuipment was both cost effective as well as able to provide the majority of the equipment that we needed to teach both our thermal-fluids and materials labs,” commented Friesen.

The Laboratory Set-up

University of Northwester Students - TecQuipment - EngineeringAt the University of Northwestern, theory and lab courses do not relate one to one.  For example, the materials lab consists of mainly destructive testing equipment that explores concepts from both the material science and mechanics of materials courses.

“Our favourite piece of equipment has been the Universal Testing Machine. Despite also having a higher capacity piece of equipment in the lab, we like this one because it is an easy to manipulate, hands-on machine,” explained Friesen.

The compact size means that the instructors have the freedom to move it around and can allow students to operate it. Plus, if it should break, they felt confident about the repair process.

Friesen explained further: “It is so very fun to watch the students pumping the hydraulic arm and then see them edge further and further away as they anticipate the break in material. It has also given the engineering department an opportunity to educate the rest of the university and local community about what we do. We’ve had groups from our alumni community, human resources and the local community come along to the department, get hands on and break something with this piece of equipment. It allows us to show them that engineering is not all equations and work on computers.”

Other equipment for exploring materials included the purchase of the Torsion Testing Machine and Creep Testing Machine.

Dedicated Thermo-fluids Laboratory

For the thermo-fluids lab, they purchased a Digital Hydraulic Bench and experiments to mount on it including the Flow Measurement Methods apparatus and Flow Calibration apparatus. They also purchased freestanding apparatuses including the Piping Networks apparatus and Two-Stage (Series and Parallel) Pumps.

For learning about heat transfer and thermodynamics, they opted for the Heat Transfer Experiment base unit with a range of experiments, Heat Exchanger Service Module base unit and experiments, a Free and Forced Convection Experiment, a Radiation Experiment, and lastly a Refrigeration Cycle Experiment.

A Seamless Experience

University of Northwester Students - TecQuipment - Engineering“Throughout the process of purchase we have had excellent service from the TecQuipment team and local agent Lab Midwest. It extended from the initial quote, where it was clear to see what was and what wasn’t included, through to the set up and installation – which was incredible. Paul Holslin from Lab Midwest worked with me for a week in ninety-degree heat unpacking crates. Then, TecQuipment specialist Matthew Fellows did a wonderful job of walking us through all the products, answering questions and resolving the small transit damage issues,” summarised Friesen.

Rachel Friesen went on to emphasise the people element. “Another thing I really appreciate about working with TecQuipment is that you are working with people, not just with nameless assistance at a generic email addresses. It’s that personal care and attention that has never left me feeling that I’m waiting unnecessarily.”

This article was originally published by TecQuipment at:

Tecquipment for Your Engineering Program

To learn more about TecQuipment programs for engineering education, visit their product page on our website, or fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch with more information!

Spring semester starts this week, and most college students will struggle to get back into the habit of a structured schedule after a month of vacation. But not six Whitefish Bay area students: they’re headed back to school with several weeks of valuable work experience at longstanding local manufacturing companies. (And they have the added bonus of extra money in their pocket.)

Noah started as a press operator at Engel Tool and Forge over the summer and came back to work during his winter break. Since 1923, Engel Tool and Forge has been engineering and manufacturing solutions for customers.

Jen worked as a molding operator at Molded Dimensions. The company has molded rubber and cast polyurethane products since 1954.

At Grover Corporation, twins Xander and Josh did manual labor, including painting, inventory organization and deburring while Jack worked on the machines, sorting and doing quality inspection. Their classmate Betsy assisted several departments in the office. Grover Corporation has manufactured custom piston rings for hydraulic applications since 1929.

First Experiences in Manufacturing

For the Whitefish Bay students, the firsthand exposure to a manufacturing environment enlightened them to how a large portion of Americans work on a daily basis.

Noah, a student at the University of Wisconsin, works at Engel Tool and Forge on the manufacturing floor during winter breakNoah recalled his first day on the job. In addition to the usual nervous questions (​How am I going to impress my boss?​) he found himself asking new questions: ​Will I remember all the safety procedures? How will I earn the respect of my coworkers who come from a much different background than me?

Working in an environment out of their comfort zone, the students quickly picked up on the traits necessary to succeed on the job: timeliness, following directions, and respecting safety protocols. While most teenagers work in retail, food service, or other service-industry jobs, the students found value in learning about the complex and highly-structured processes that a manufacturing company runs on.

“I never realized how intricate a factory was,” remarked Betsy. “I liked getting a behind-the-scenes look at a company like this. Before this, I never even knew what a piston was.”

Charles Engel, President and Owner of Engel Tool and Forge, says this is a reason his company supports employing students. “We’re bringing more manufacturing back to the US, and it’s important to ​make​ something rather than relying on being a service industry.” He added that it takes a certain curiosity about how things are made to succeed in a job like this.

A Win-Win Situation

Hiring college students on a temporary basis was a huge benefit for the companies as well.

With many industry employers finding themselves in a skilled-labor shortage, mundane tasks tend to fall to the wayside as more pressing projects take precedent. A student can help complete much of that work.

At Grover Corporation, Betsy was able to do scanning, filing, and data entry that freed up other office workers for more difficult projects.

At Molded Dimensions, Jen’s time on the molding press gave the regular molding operator the opportunity to be cross-trained on another piece of equipment.Jen, a university student, works on a molding press during her winter break

The work might be challenging, but the lessons learned are invaluable. For one, the experience is a small slice of what adulthood beyond college will look like.

“It gives them a taste of what it means to show up every day,” remarked Alan Brown, Chief Operating Officer at Grover Corporation. “This is what your first job is going to be like; you’re going to come in at the bottom end and have to learn basic tasks. This is what it takes.”

Mike Katz, President at Molded Dimension, agrees. “They’re learning soft skills about interpersonal interaction that will help in their careers.”

The students are adding a number of soft skills to their resume, including time management, taking directions, developing strong work ethic, respecting safety procedures, collaboration and teamwork.

But there’s a deeper investment these employers have in the students. They hope the experience in manufacturing will give them a new perspective about how things are made.

“This is what America is built on – manufacturing,” said Brown. “Manufacturing creates products. You can actually see durable products being made that will go into things that make a difference.”

Jen is able to take her experience at Molded Dimensions back to college to help her in her Engineering degree.

But what about the other 5 students who are majoring in subjects like Business, Biology, English, and Government? What benefit will this manufacturing work experience have on their careers?

The Benefits of Manufacturing

Noah recalled interviewing for a job on campus. “They asked me, ‘Do you have any experience working in a diverse environment? Have you ever had to step out of your comfort zone? What are some times you had to problem solve at work?’ I kept thinking of all these examples of my time at Engel that I could use!”

In her time at the office, Betsy said she was able to work with several different departments to learn new skills she can add to her resume, like working with Excel spreadsheets, creating invoices, and getting a more solid grasp of how a business is run.

Betsy, a student at Wesleyan, works in the office assisting a manufacturing company called Grover CorporationThese students already stood out from their peers by working over winter break. But a job in manufacturing will stand out even more. And when many college students are all vying for the same jobs after graduation, a diverse work experience might be the deciding factor in landing their dream job.

Katz encourages this for students. “Do something different or interesting. As someone who hires engineers, it’s amazing the little things on the resume that we latch onto. Everyone applying for your job has the same resume, so do something that sets you apart.”

And who knows, a temporary work experience in manufacturing may be enough to spark interest in a new career path or move the students to share about the benefits of a manufacturing career with their peers.

At the very least, it provides exposure to the work it takes to create the very items that run this country. And that new perspective will remain with these students for the rest of their careers.

In an excellent start to 2019, LAB Midwest hosted teacher and instructor training for a four-course Industry 4.0 program at the Mequon Tech Center. The program was developed to prepare learners and prospective industrial employers for the changing manufacturing landscape.

This is the second round of instructor training held in Wisconsin; the first training occurred this fall at Gateway Technical College’s iMET Center in Sturtevant. The program has gained so much momentum in its first six months that another round of instructors signed up.

Attendees included technical college instructors, high school teachers and industrial employers who are collaborating to create statewide pathways for careers in advanced manufacturing and are being prepared to deliver the four courses in their classrooms and labs. Milwaukee Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College have been major proponents of the Industry 4.0 education movement in the state.

WISN 12 News caught wind of the training and featured LAB Midwest on two of their live broadcasts, highlighting the great work being done for STEM education in Wisconsin.

Matt Kirchner demonstrated the Amatrol Skill Boss which teaches and assesses over 60 manufacturing skills. “We’ve encompassed every single aspect of advanced manufacturing, from programmable logic controllers which are the computers we use to run manufacturing equipment, to electric motors, to a three-axis robot, smart sensors, wireless communication.”

The Skill Boss demonstration can be viewed below:

Mike Dietrich then demonstrated operating a FANUC pick-and-place robot, showing how students are benefitting from exposure to authentic industrial skills like robotic programming.

“We are seeing this a lot more in K-12 and technical colleges to be able to teach kids what the aspects of automation are,” remarked Dietrich. “And how it can be applied into a real job setting and even have some really cool certifications attached to it.”

He went on to comment about how skills learned through these programs can open up exciting career pathways in automation that many students might not have known about otherwise.

The FANUC robot demonstration video can be viewed below.

What these demonstrations show is how dynamic learning practices are changing the way instructors teach valuable skills. With equipment like the Skill Boss and pick-and-place robot, students get the added layer of first-hand operation of the STEM concepts they’re learning in classrooms.

“Students get a really hands-on, interactive experience, which is a great way to reinforce learning,” remarked Matt Kirchner.

The Industry 4.0 education wave continues to surge across the Midwest, and LAB Midwest is proud to be a part of its influence.

More photos from the instructor training event can be found here. For more information on the four-course Industry 4.0 program mentioned in this article, contact us or download the flyer.

How and why should we be teaching students Industry 4.0?

In the fall of 2017, a white paper was published that changed the trajectory of technical education in the Midwest. “Teaching the Industrial Internet of Things: Preparing Students and Learners for Industry 4.0” recognized that the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands a response from education in equipping students for future careers in a world of constantly-progressing technologies.

The paper established six building blocks for Industry 4.0 education. Each of these building blocks is meant to be utilized at every level of education, from K-8 through high school and post-secondary education. Below is an overview of the six building blocks, extracted from the white paper.

Click here for the downloadable Building Blocks Infographic

Building Block 1 – Industrial Success Skills

Industry 4.0 is not a destination or end unto itself. Rather, it’s a systematic tool to continuously improve and drive waste out of their processes. For an individual to reach the workforce Industry 4.0-ready, they must have a basic understanding of the basic disciplines that underpin industrial success, including:

  • Workplace safety and safe work practices.
  • Basic throughput equation and the basic industrial need to maximize efficiency and productivity.
  • The Seven Deadly Wastes and how they manifest themselves in industrial and related processes.
  • Industrial Standardized Quality Systems.
  • Troubleshooting industrial processes and equipment.
  • Soft industrial skills including collaboration, problem solving, discipline and time management.


Building Block 2 – Industrial Equipment and Technology

Widely viewed as the world leader in CNC Controls and Automation for industry, FANUC has led the charge to an Industry 4.0 world. Mike Cicco serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of FANUC America. “It’s important that our people know how to write analytics to derive useful data,” Cicco suggested during his participation in our research, “but it’s equally important that that person has a deep knowledge of what manufacturing is in the first place.”

Cicco’s observation is astute. As industrial equipment collects more and more data about its own condition and performance, the need to discern usable and pertinent data from that which is not becomes vital. If the person performing analysis or creating algorithms does not understand the underlying industrial technology, their ability to perform such tasks will be severely deficient.

Building Block 2 is the understanding of the production and manufacturing equipment that underlie Industry 4.0.

Examples of such equipment and processes include Industrial Robotics, Machining, Extruding, Casting, Manual and Robotic Welding, Conveyors, Mechanical Drives, Mechanical Fabrication, Forging, Stamping, Forming, Molding and more.

Understanding basic manufacturing technology, such as AC/DC Electricity, Thermal Science, Pneumatics, Hydraulics, Fastening, Product Finishing, Materials and Metrology is also of great value.

Building Block 3 – Smart Sensors and Smart Devices

At the core of Industry 4.0 are Smart Sensors and Smart Devices. This technology gathers virtually infinite volumes of information about its own environment and then uses embedded intelligence to complete programmed functions before sharing the information with other systems and devices via computer networks and the Internet.

Smart sensors are an integral part of Industry 4.0 technologySmart Sensors and Devices take a wide variety of forms and perform a wide variety of functions. Examples include vacuum sensors that detect the condition of vacuum pickup, ultrasonic height sensors, and current and pressure sensors.

Smart sensors can also measure and act on data pertaining to conditions such as temperature, proximity, the presence and levels of smoke and gas, fluid level, humidity, force, torque and acceleration.

In addition to his role as the president of Jeffersonville, Indiana’s skills-based, interactive technical learning provider Amatrol, Inc., Paul Perkins serves as Chair of the State of Indiana Workforce Innovation Council and on the National Governors Association of State Workforce Board Chairs.

Perkins’ company is a leader in delivering IIoT learning systems and he believes that a student’s knowledge must expand beyond a simple understanding of smart sensor and device types. “It’s really giving students the opportunity to experience working with each type of data, including analog data, discrete on/off data, position, torque, pressure and more so they understand how to embed data in the device and how to retrieve it,” says Perkins.

Building Block 4 – Control Systems

Industrial Equipment and Technology perform the work of manufacturing: machining, forming, extruding and molding materials into usable products. Smart Sensors and Devices monitor the process of doing so and provide direction and feedback to the process, and Control Systems oversee the processes. Functioning in real time to control the entire manufacturing process, these systems serve as the brain of each operation.

To be prepared for an Industry 4.0 world a student’s understanding of these systems is imperative and should include an aptitude in the following:

  • Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) Operation and Programming
  • Safety PLC Operation and Programming
  • Operator and Human Machine Interfaces
  • Distributed I/O
  • Electronic and Variable Frequency Drives
  • Motor and Motion Control
  • Power & Control Electronics

Building Block 5 – Connectivity and Networking

If Control Systems are the heart of Industry 4.0 then networks carry the lifeblood. Industrial networking isn’t anything new – Industry 3.0 was full of industrial computer networks. What changes in an Industry 4.0 world is the increasing use of Internet Protocol in the overall system or “Fieldbus”. As industrial equipment is increasingly internet connected a wide range of issues arise.

Industry 4.0 technologies are connected via wireless and smart devicesCisco claims the spot as the worldwide leader in IT and Networking and Brian Tantzen is the General Manager of the company’s Connected Industry and Manufacturing Business Unit. Also leading the formation of Cisco’s Industries Product Group which drives engineering and cloud applications for Cisco’s industry and IoT products and solutions across multiple vertical markets, Tantzen participated in our research.

“The big opportunity for the future are the people who can do both [Operational and Information Technology],” says Tantzen. “Cisco is providing factory networking, security and training for the move from proprietary systems to IP-based systems and working to bridge these two worlds together.”

As these two systems converge students will require greater understanding of the computer networks that carry the data produced by smart devices and control systems. This understanding must include learning multiple technologies, including Network Servers, Distributed Servers, Routers, Switches, Gateway Devices, Ethernet, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, Wireless Communication, Linking Technologies and Multi-User Applications.

Perhaps an industrial company’s most significant anxiety at the advent of Industry 4.0 is the idea of connecting all of its manufacturing intellectual property to the internet. The very intrinsic value of many such companies lies in the processes and systems used in manufacturing their products and the risk that this property could be stolen is of grave concern.

Concerning also is the risk of a supply or manufacturing system interruption resulting from the introduction of a virus or ransomware into an industrial company’s computer network. As Tantzen puts it, “Network Security is one of the barriers to implementing Industry 4.0 technology. There is a growing wave of attacks in factories and catastrophic risk they could be facing as a result. Factories were intentionally built to be air gapped and now we’re connecting them.”

For these reasons a student’s appreciation for and working knowledge of network security tools and appliances is imperative.

Building Block 6 – Inform-Actionable© Data

It’s a made-up word but it fits perfectly. More data was created in the last two years than was created in the last 5,000 years of human existence. For many industrial companies one challenge of Industry 3.0 was a lack of data. As companies embarked on continuous improvement projects many lacked the necessary information to perform analysis, draw conclusions and take action.

Understanding Informactionable data allows for more efficient processes in an Industry 4.0 environmentWith the presence of smart sensor and smart device technology, and the resulting nearly infinite abundance of data, the problem in Industry 4.0 will quickly become not the absence of data but way too much of it.

Individuals possessing the skills and knowledge necessary to analyze data and prescribe corresponding action will be of absolute necessity in the era of Industry 4.0.

As FANUC’s Cicco noted, “[In a connected environment] the amount of data pouring out of a piece of industrial equipment at any given time requires new analytics on an ongoing basis. Some data is important to some and other data is important to others. Finding people who can sift through the data is really important.”

In addition to analyzing data, a student’s ability to write the analytics, the computerized analysis of industrial information and data, will be highly valued. Not that every individual moving to an industrial employer will need to possess this skill, but, as Cisco’s Tantzen shared with us, there will be a considerable role for data scientists with an aptitude for statistics, regression analysis, lightweight programming and familiarization with SQL, SSAS and R.

Finally, students will require a working knowledge of cloud-based production control and an understanding of how production data, gathered using Industry 4.0 technology, is utilized to manage an entire industrial enterprise.

Of all the building blocks, Block 6 is perhaps the most challenging to align with a student’s educational needs. As Operational Technology and Information Technology continue their convergence the point at which one leaves off and the other begins will become increasingly blurry and eventually overlap. Thus the need to ensure that, at each level of education and in each educational program, the importance of inform-actionable© data and the processes by which it is gathered and acted upon is communicated and understood.

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Industry 4.0 technologies are rapidly transforming how people work in manufacturing, engineering, computer science and other sectors. New technologies increase productivity by connecting cloud-based data analytics software to smart devices.

With these changes comes a need for education to respond at all levels, preparing students for Industry 4.0 careers.

Middle School is the Critical Age

Middle school is a critical age: studies show that a majority of students will have already decided whether or not to pursue a STEM career by 8th grade. A study published by the Manufacturing Institute found that 63% of students said their own interests and experiences were the number one factor in determining their future pathway. (For reference, the next highest-scoring factor was parents, coming in at 32%.)

Student Influences in Career PathwaysSo here we have a clear vision of the future workforce: all industries will be affected by connected technologies, making Industry 4.0 skills more important than ever. And educators have a clear mission: get more students to stick with STEM education by integrating experiential, hands-on learning of new technologies into middle school curriculum.

Industry 4.0 Solutions

Industry 4.0 Foundations is an education solution for 5th – 8th grade that provides an opportunity for middle schoolers to explore topics related to pathways in advanced manufacturing, robotics, engineering, computer science, electrical technology, and more.

The curriculum focuses on a number of key topics: basic mechatronics (including electricity, fluid power, mechanical systems and controls), autonomous vehicles and drones, smart sensors and devices, robotics and automation, computer science and coding, 3D printing, data analytics, and alternative energy.

Basic mechatronics teaches engineering design, computer science, and electrical technology. The capstone robotics project guides students to build a humanoid robot using intelligent servo motors, bluetooth controls, sensors, and software for coding, flowcharting and robot motion editing.

In the automated guided vehicles and aerial drones units, students build drones and AGVs while learning the science behind each component, including sensors and servos, variable force and motion, drone coding, physics of flight, and more.

The alternative energy unit provides experiments for understanding concepts in alternative and renewable energy, including photovoltaics, wind power, hydro power, electric mobility and fuel cells, all while allowing students to use creativity, data logging and analysis.

Students also get an introduction to 3D printing, including design, materials, and projects for printing components that can be used in tooling, mechatronics, robotics, and more.

The program is excellent for teachers because it provides full LMS platforms, teacher training, ready-to-go kits, student-led projects, assessment tools, and is scalable to any size program.

Students Get an Advantage

Random Lake Middle School is already implementing curriculum and engineering robotics kits from the Industry 4.0 Foundations program.

Mike Trimberger, Superintendent for Random Lake School District, said the decision was made after months of consulting with employers in the community about what students need to know when they enter the workforce.ERIK

“As we see the increase of devices that are connecting to the Internet every day, our students will have an advantage over others if they understand the IoT and Industry 4.0 as it relates to careers they are interested in for the future,” Trimberger remarked.

At RLSD, students learn about mechanical systems, sensors, and coding as they put together the ERIK robot (Educational Robotics Invention Kit).

Industry 4.0 Foundations provides a framework that can be built upon in high school and beyond, including the four-course Industry 4.0 Fundamentals program that’s already being implemented in high schools and technical colleges across the Midwest.

But most importantly, it gives middle schoolers the chance to see firsthand what a STEM career could look like. And with demand for STEM skills growing in all industries, this early exposure is crucial to our students’ futures.

View the Industry 4.0 Foundations web page, download the flyer for Industry 4.0 Foundations to learn more, or contact us to see how this solution is right for your middle schoolers.

A new How Machines Work class is gaining positive attention for its relevant curriculum and hands-on skills in preparing New Berlin students for a multitude of career pathways. The class is in its flagship year after an Industry 4.0 community night in May raised awareness about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


The program was designed to prepare students for multiple pathways by exposing them to technology and hands-on skills for engineering, automation, machining, computer science, and more. It’s all part of a broader academic initiative that started six years ago when the School District of New Berlin developed Academic and Career Planning pathways for their students. 

How Machines Work student operates a FANUC teach pendant on Roboguide softwareSuperintendent Joe Garza remarked, “As a state, we need to go beyond the traditional measures of College and Career Readiness if our students are to succeed in the projected economy. It is our collective work to help students develop a diverse set of talents that can fuel innovation and job creation while supporting projected workforce needs.”

How Machines Work is a course that resulted from this initiative – but it is just a part of the greater pathway for a Manufacturing student at SDNB. Other other career readiness options include Project Lead the Way classes, TechKNOW, Applied Data Science, CTSO, work experience, MSSC Independent Study, and post-secondary coursework.

The course structure and subjects were informed partly by a white paper published by the Milwaukee 7 Regional Talent Partnership: Preparing M7 for Industry 4.0.

Laura Schmidt was on the M7 board that drafted the white paper and was instrumental in putting together the manufacturing student pathway at SDNB.

“Digital disruption affects every industry,” she said. “As we were redesigning the manufacturing course, we knew we needed to align both the current and future needs, and industry feedback confirmed this. How Machines Work supports pathways in traditional manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, IT and applied analytics. It was the right next step.”


How Machines Work is broken up into multiple segments. First, students learn basic manufacturing practices, safety and procedures. Then, they get 10-hour hands-on rotations on a number of modules including turning, mechatronics and applied fluid power, CNC and manual milling, vacuum thermoforming and fluid power concepts, and automation and robotics. The course wraps up with a section on Industry 4.0 and connected systems, including IIoT, cybersecurity and data analytics.

70 students at two district high schools – Eisenhower and West – are taking How Machines Work this year. And in an effort to promote student choice in multiple pathways, the class is open to all high school grades and contains students with vastly different future plans.

At a recent open house event for community partners, students from 9th-12th grade demonstrated each piece of equipment, how it works, what they’re learning, and what they’re making.

Two freshman boys worked on the FANUC robot simulation software, using a teach pendant to program the robot to spell letters.

How Machines Work student demonstrates Amatrol's Tabletop Mechatronics System to community partnersAt another station, two seniors demonstrated Amatrol’s Tabletop Mechatronics system. Luke, one of the students, explained each module and sensor for each station of the system. “I like that we learned each process individually so we could build the unit and see the entire system come together,” he said.

He also likes that, after learning the ins and outs of the mechatronics system, one class will come in and reprogram it so the next class will have to troubleshoot and adjust. Luke plans to get a four-year Civil Engineering degree and likes how this class complements the engineering courses he’s already taken.

Blair, also a senior, is already in his second year apprenticeship in the workforce and is using his experience as a student-aid in the How Machines Work class. During the open house, he shared with community partners how his apprenticeship has given him the knowledge to benefit his peers and excel in the new class. He is open to several career pathways next year, including continuing to work full-time and getting a degree from WCTC to supplement his skills.


Soon, the students will begin applying their technical knowledge to Industry 4.0 skills. Pindel Global Precision, a key industry partner in the creation of the program, will come in to teach about data sets and have the students work through them.

In January, the class will spend a day at Waukesha County Technical College where they will have the opportunity learn welding and program a FANUC robot.

Dana McLaren teaches How Machines Work and is especially enthused about the relevance of the coursework – including the trip to WCTC and tours of industrial facilities.

How Machines Work student presents to a room of community partnersStudents are given the opportunity to learn industry-specific machines and programs, so when they get the opportunity to go to facility tours, they’re asking in-depth questions about the equipment being used, ” she commented.

The program’s success is due in part to support from community partners. In addition to Pindel and WCTC, contributors include Husco International, the National Fluid Power Association, Dynatek, LAB Midwest, SpinGroup, Stanek Tool, Foxconn, the Waukesha County Business Alliance, and a Fast Forward grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Whether it’s donating funds, providing equipment, bringing in data and teaching, or providing scholarships, each of these partners’ contributions sets a precedent for success in career pathways.

Seeing the community backing of the new program is inspiring, but it opens dialogue about how Industry 4.0 technologies are changing more than just manufacturing.

“Moving forward, we need to better understand, and subsequently articulate, how this impacts other industries as well,” remarked Laura Schmidt. “We cannot adequately prepare students to effectively navigate higher education and work if they do not understand this.”

As Industry 4.0 education continues to adapt and conform to industry needs, schools districts like New Berlin are helping to lead the way into the future.

A fab lab functions to teach students to think critically, problem solve, plan, design and create using a number of computer-operated procedures. The best fab labs teach relevant skills using authentic industrial equipment and materials.

1. 3D Printer

Markforged Desktop 3D printer perfect for a fab labThe best fab labs will have a 3D printer capable of printing in a wide array of materials, including nylon and durable carbon fiber composites. We recommend the Markforged Onyx One. It comes with Eiger software compatible with STL files from any CAD/CAM program. Markforged’s line of industrial and Metal X printers are widely used by industry, giving your students access to a classroom-friendly 3D printer that is a cut above the rest.

2. Injection Molding

Additive manufacturing is a key component to fab lab requirements, so injection molding is a must-have in addition to your 3D printer. Amatrol’s 96-PLS1 Plastics Technology 1 Learning System is designed to teach modern technical skills in plastics and polymer science using injection molding. LJ Create’s Injection Moulding Trainer offers a classroom-based resource for investigating the techniques used to create thermo-plastic products.

3. Robotics

ERIK RobotA world-class fab lab will have a robotics component that combines engineering and programming. We recommend ERIK, the Educational Robotics Invention Kit from LJ Create. With multiple design options, ERIK teaches students to work with intelligent servo motors, sensors, a programmable controller and a range of construction parts.

Additionally, students can learn authentic industrial robotic programming with FANUC‘s Intro Robotics package. The set features 6 permanent seats of ROBOGUIDE software and a teach pendant that can connect to a computer. Students can program and operate simulated versions of the world’s most-used industrial robot brand.

4. Precision Measurement

A fundamental skill, precision measuring will add to any process performed in your fab lab. Amatrol’s Portable Measurement Tools Learning System introduces principles of measurement using both the U.S. customary system and S.I. metric system. Students will learn a variety of skills including basic and precision measurement, direct and indirect gauging, and dimensional measurements.

5. CNC Router

A compact 3 axis CNC Router will be the perfect fit for your lab. The Denford Compact 1000 Pro is capable of cutting a range of materials including hard and soft wood, plastic, modeling foam, acrylic and prototyping materials, and non-ferrous metals.

6. CNC Milling Machine

The Denford Micromill is a compact 3 axis milling machine that fits right on your tabletop. It comes equipped with VR CNC milling operating software. The variable spindle speeds and feedrates make it ideal for cutting resistant materials such as wax, plastic, acrylic, aluminum and free cutting alloys.

7. PLC

Programmable Logic Controllers are essential in any digital fab lab, and you’ll want a sturdy yet portable model. With Allen-Bradley and Siemens options available, Amatrol’s Portable PLC trainers teach skills that are directly transferable to industry careers.

8. Welding

Miller Welding AugmentedArcIntroduce your students to foundational welding principles in a safe, virtual environment before graduating them to live welding. Lincoln Electric’s VRTEX Engage and Miller’s AugmentedArc are foundational systems designed to introduce students to the skilled trades – specifically arc welding. The portable systems include a touch screen monitor, welding gun, tracking device and a work surface. Students will learn safety, machine and process selection, welding procedure set up, welding theory and more.


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As professional educational consultants, we’d be happy to help personalize your fab lab with just the right equipment for your needs. Contact us for one-on-one assistance!



Powder Coating is a complex process, and proper training on these skills can prevent waste, increase efficiency, and cut time and costs for employers.

1. Basic techniques for Powder Coat spraying

It goes without saying that every powder coater should have a solid grasp of the basics. So before moving on to more difficult techniques, make sure you understand how distance, angle and speed need to be adjusted for painting each part.

2. Identify & Prevent Coating Defects

Powder coaters should understand proper thickness (mil build) and will be able to avoid common coating defects like Orange Peel, Fisheye and Scaling. It takes training to understand how to prepare, paint, and cure each part based on a range of variables that could result in defects. Knowing how to identify and prevent potential defects will save your company time and money.

3. Maximize Transfer Efficiency

Skilled powder coaters will have a high rate of first-pass transfer efficiency, applying paint with little to no waste. Certainly, collection and reconditioning of overspray can be used for subsequent passes, but additional steps come with a price. Maximize efficiency in the process by avoiding wasted material, labor and time.

product finishing powder coating4. Match Existing Finishes

When painting next to a finished product, you should be able to use blending techniques to match the color and mil build of the existing part.

5. Maximize Conveyor Throughput

Racking maximizes profitability by increasing line speed and density and decreasing paint waste. Avoid daisy-chaining! Experienced powder coaters will choose the most efficient rack design, eliminate manual handling of racks when possible, and maximize throughput on their conveyor.

6. Understand the Faraday Effect

The Faraday Effect creates an invisible electrical cage that prevents charged powder particles from reaching tight corners on parts with complex designs. Knowing how to fully coat these sections will prevent premature corrosion and save your company time on multiple passes and manual touch-ups.

7. Master Abrasive Blasting

Every powder coater should know how to choose the right media for abrasive blasting depending on the job to be done. He should be able to successfully remove paint and debris for powder coating.

8. Choose the Right Spray Gun

Airless, Air Assisted Airless or HVLP? It depends on many variables, like fluid viscosity, production requirements, finished quality requirements, and length and diversity of use. Make sure you’re confident in which to use.

9. Proper Curing Techniques

A powder coater should know how to create the right cure schedule based on parts and paint. If the polymer chains don’t link correctly in baking, your part will be compromised. This results in cracking, discoloration, brittleness, and premature corrosion.

10. Set-up and Operate Equipment

No matter the environment or line set-up, an experienced powder coater will understand how to set up his equipment, use it properly, clean and take care of it for long-term use.


SimSpray is a Virtual Reality Powder Coating training system, complete with equipment, software and curriculum to help product finishers master all 10 essential skills. Click here to learn more about SimSpray, or contact us for more information.

Authentic Industrial Equipment in the Classroom

Instructors at Lomira School District are passionate about giving their students access to authentic automation, robotics, and advanced manufacturing equipment as early as middle school. They were using Project Lead the Way curriculum already, but they wanted to give students hands-on experiences.

Lomira Middle School students work with ROBOGUIDE software, CNC Simulators, and FANUC Cert CartShanna Martin, 8th Grade Social Studies instructor and Personalized Learning Coordinator for the district, said her background in project-based learning was motivation to get a makerspace or STEM lab for the school.

“We want to give the kids an opportunity to open up their eyes and see what’s out there,” she said.

That’s when they found Metalcraft of Mayville, Inc., an Original Equipment and Contract Manufacturer that has invested in several schools in the region, including West Bend and Palmyra.

Randy Gloede, President at Metalcraft, said the company’s investments in local schoolsis intended to inspire [students] toward rewarding careers in industry and to equip them with the skills they will need in the quickly evolving world of advanced manufacturing.”

The school acquired three CNC Simulators, ROBOGUIDE software, a Robotic CERT Cart, and a Robotic Weld Cell as part of the investment from Metalcraft.

Middle Schoolers are Enthusiastic Learners

Lomira is getting students in the lab as early as 8th grade to learn on FANUC Roboguide and CNC Simulators. This strategy coincides with research by the Manufacturing Institute, which found that a vast majority of students will choose a career path based primarily on their experiences in middle and high school.

Martin is especially passionate about utilizing the potential of middle school curiosity.

I am really excited to see middle school students engaged in and applying real skills they can use later on in the workforce. We are very grateful that Metalcraft has provided these tools to Lomira School District. The equipment challenges student learning while giving them hands on skills that they can use in a future career.”

And she’s helping her middle schoolers connect the dots, too. The students performed investigative research on jobs and salaries available to skilled positions using the very skills they’re learning in the classroom. Many came away both surprised and excited about career pathways they didn’t know existed.

For students whose parents work in manufacturing (and many do), the lab is an opportunity for children to relate their hands-on learning to tasks performed by their parents in the workforce. The connection fosters familial conversation and is an asset when these parents volunteer in the Tech Ed classroom.

Building the Future Workforce

The generational connection is inspiring, but it is also crucial. With manufacturing in the US growing, unemployment rates dropping, and much of the current workforce preparing to retire, a pipeline of skilled workers needs to be cultivated.

An October 2018 report by the National Science and Technology Council argues:

“to prepare the STEM workforce for future manufacturing jobs, national investments should prioritize life-long STEM education–across elementary, high school, career and technical education (CTE)…–and include diversified platforms for hands-on learning and self-directed learning.”

Lomira School District is doing just that. Hands-on technical education begins in middle school, but there is a clear progression through the high school level. The department’s 5-year plan impressed Metalcraft, and it’s already impacting students.

8th grade students work with instructors Shanna Martin and Blake Bogenhagen on FANUC CNC Simulators, ROBOGUIDE software, even the CERT Cell. In high school, instructor Jon Marx works with the students on higher progressions with the curriculum and introduces the Robotic Weld Cell.

Within the progression, the ROBOGUIDE curriculum allows for individualized learning so students can work at their own pace. While the students will admit it’s not easy, they take to the technology rather quickly. Yet the independent structure allows instructors to assist students as they need it on certain tasks, more advanced students are able to move through the lessons on their own time.

And this is just the beginning for Lomira’s lab. “The kids will learn the basics here but there’s always room for growth,” remarked Martin.

Early exposure to hands-on skills, trips to tour Metalcraft and local manufacturers, and integration of new technologies into the lab are all part of the program’s growth plan. With this trajectory, students of Lomira School District will someday be leaders of the advanced manufacturing workforce.

Lomira 8th graders work with their new robot

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Sturtevant, WI — Industry and education leaders from across the country came together to support the groundbreaking of a 35,000 square foot expansion of the SC Johnson iMET Center at Gateway Technical College. The project, which includes updates to 12,000 square feet of existing space, will add new labs for Industrial Control, Engineering, Mechanical Systems and Material Science, as well as new CNC Manufacturing space and IT Analytics Computer classrooms. It is one of the first flexible manufacturing labs equipped to train workers and students for advanced manufacturing careers.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was joined by key partners to dedicate ground to the expansion project. Partners included Amatrol, Ashley Furniture Industries, FANUC, LAB Midwest, Rockwell Automation, SC Johnson, and Foxconn. The expansion is made possible by a $5 million grant from the State of Wisconsin in addition to collaboration from industry partners.

Foxconn’s investment in Wisconsin is evidenced by the growth of manufacturing careers and education awareness in the region. Soon the tech giant will be looking to fill an initial 13,000 jobs at its Mt. Pleasant facility. As a result, tech colleges like Gateway are investing in training and education for skilled jobs in Industry 4.0 positions. In his speech Monday, Scott Walker commented on Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate and bright future for Wisconsin manufacturing.

Scott Walker addresses the crowd at the Gateway expansion ceremony

“Foxconn’s ripple effect is growing once again with the expansion of Gateway Technical College’s iMET Center. This center is one more example of Wisconsin’s educational institutions creating more opportunities for their students because of Foxconn’s decision to build in Wisconsin. With eight straight months of unemployment at or below 3%, it makes worker training all the more important. And, this will provide hands-on opportunities for students that will help them gain the skills to work for one of Wisconsin’s many growing companies.”

Alan Yeung, Director of US Strategic Initiatives at Foxconn said, “[Foxconn] came, we were impressed and we wanted to be part of Wisconsin. We saw speed, we saw cost-effectiveness, and we saw talent.”

Wisconsin truly is living up to Foxconn’s vision as the hub of advanced manufacturing progress.

Among the advanced technologies taught in the new center will be FANUC Robotics’ Zero Down Time (ZDT) Technology. ZDT is an application that uploads and analyzes key performance data on the cloud for all integrated robots. Predictive analytics can prevent downtime and keep production lines running efficiently.

Additionally, Gateway will be the first college to offer Industry 4.0 certifications from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).

In his address at the event, Gateway President and CEO Bryan Albrecht remarked, “The SC Johnson Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center will be the model for training technicians throughout the world.”

Dakota County, MN – High school students in Minnesota are benefitting from exposure to state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing technology in multiple classroom settings.

Intermediate School District (ISD) 917 serves nine school districts in Dakota County, Minnesota. Housed in Dakota County Technical College, the school provides increased opportunities for personal and career skill development for students in specialized classes that their local high schools don’t offer.

For example, all nine Dakota County high schools have their own robotics teams, but none offer robotics as a class. At ISD 917, students can learn the concepts and skills needed to program and use industrial-grade robots as a course, not simply a hobby.

One of the goals at ISD 917 is to create an educated and skilled population that can easily assimilate into the workforce. Recently, the school recognized a need to revitalize their Technology Education courses to accomplish this goal.

Building Connections

The program often takes students on field trips to tour local manufacturing facilities. There, students see what goes on in the day-to-day of a manufacturer’s career. Concepts learned in math and science courses are clearly present during the tours: measurement, geometry, coordinates, and circuits, for example. But lately there has been a disconnect between classroom concepts and practical skills. When employees started talking about mechatronics and Programmable Logic Controls, they were speaking a language the students couldn’t understand.

ISD 917 students gather around the Amatrol Skill Boss

“We were seeing advanced manufacturing processes in the Amazon plant nearby,” said ISD 917 Principal Eric Van Brocklin. “So we thought, how do we get this into the schools?”

The school board set out to refocus some of their curriculum. They began to ask a few key questions, like what do businesses want students to be able to do when they leave the program?

With industry on the verge of its fourth revolution, technology and connected systems are advancing rapidly, and employers are looking for workers who are familiar with these concepts. Students need hands-on learning using robotics, mechatronics, and PLCs as early as high school to secure these skilled positions.

The school board concluded that advanced manufacturing curriculum and trainers would give students a baseline for a successful career in industry.

This summer ISD 917 acquired an Amatrol Skill Boss and an AC/DC trainer, and they implemented Amatrol’s eLearning platform in several classrooms. Now, when classes visit a manufacturing facility and hear employees talk about mechatronics or PLCs, the students can envision themselves in these jobs because they already have hands-on experience with the same skills.

This is the school’s marker for success: “The biggest hope we have is that our students will be confident when they leave here about their career opportunities,” said Van Brocklin.

Industry 4.0 in the Classroom

Lynn Morris and Dale Engman are the two ISD 917 instructors currently implementing this technology in their classrooms. They attended the first-ever Industry 4.0 Train the Trainer event at Gateway Technical College and are excited to watch the program develop in its flagship year.

Morris, a math teacher, is able to use the equipment in her classroom to give kinesthetic learners a visual representation of math concepts.

“The portables are great because they are hands-on, and students can learn hard skills on things they’ve never seen before,” says Morris.

ISD 917, FANUC robotics, and Amatrol Skill Boss

She also teaches a Geometry in Construction course where students apply math concepts to actually building a three-bedroom home. She looks forward to adding more Amatrol portables, like Precision Measurement, to supplement this course.

Engman teaches several Computer Science courses and focuses on the Industry 4.0 curriculum, as connected systems, data analytics and algorithms are the cornerstones of IIoT.

“The network piece is blooming, and with the Internet of Things, there’s a huge niche for Industry 4.0 to be incorporated into Computer Networking,” he said.

Launching New Programs

This is just the beginning for ISD 917. They have big goals in mind for long-term.

It’s all about building momentum. When students get excited about advanced manufacturing technology, they share this with classmates, parents and teachers. Excitement builds enrollment, and soon other local high schools, technical colleges, and businesses will see the relevance of teaching Industry 4.0 skills.

“We’re hoping to expose more students to this program and to be on the forefront for other schools,” remarked Morris.

Long-term, the school hopes to build a full industry program with classes that cover all things manufacturing and Industry 4.0. They would also like to see more technical colleges continue to build up their advanced manufacturing programs so ISD 917 students have a clear next step in their education pathway.

High schools and technical colleges all across the Midwest are starting to catch wind of the importance of advanced manufacturing education, and ISD 917 may just be the spark that ignites momentum in Dakota County.

Develop your own Advanced Manufacturing Program!

Fill out the form below with any questions, and we’ll be in touch with how we can make this happen in your district.