Addressing Automation & Robotics Skills throughout the Region

Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Forecast

The Oregon Employment Department projects the state's manufacturing sector will grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029 (9,900 jobs). And yet, many manufacturers are unprepared and lack the skilled workforce they need to meet client demand.

Oregon’s manufacturing sector has experienced faster long-term growth than manufacturing across the nation

Gaps have been created with a large population in the workforce retiring (or near retirement) and a limited pipeline of workers coming into the advanced manufacturing sector.

Many manufacturers are either thinking of implementing automation, expanding an installed base to meet capacity requirements, or augmenting existing automation with robotic functions. This has created a demand for up-skilling of frontline workers.

Additionally the disruption of the supply chain is one of several impacts Covid-19 is having on the manufacturing industry. Many of those manufacturers that process materials (i.e. metals machining, die casting, injection molding, textile processing, wood products, food processing etc.) are looking to automation to address both capacity and supply chain management.

"The disruption in the supply chain has led manufacturers to re-evaluate logistics to mitigate risk by considering onshore or near-shoring solutions, moving production closer to their customer base and allowing for quicker service and minimized breakdown in supply. However, moving production is not an easy task, and manufacturers need to evaluate an available workforce, location and transportation logistics." SDC Executive

“ As manufacturing companies embrace the fact they are vital cogs in the supply chain of goods, onshoring or reshoring are being considered to mitigate risks of interruptions in the supply chain. This onshoring of work will drive a higher need for a skilled workforce.  However, a troubling reality is that there is a lack of skilled workers to fill positions now. How can we fill this increased demand? There is a solution; automation and robotics will be the technology we utilize to meet and succeed with this challenge.”

Paul J. Wanner,  MFG. SME Clackamas Community College

 Manufacturers' concerns

Companies in the manufacturing sector are struggling to:

  • fill openings for frontline workers
  • train/grow employees into level II and III positions
  • recruit replacements for an aging/retiring workforce
  • develop technical, operational, and maintenance support
  • optimize machine “up time” and efficiencies

When companies have frontline automation workers stop production and escalate issues to manufacturing or maintenance technicians (due to a lack in skills & competencies), they can experience bottlenecks that negatively impact productivity, on-time deliveries, and cost.

“...consultants say that almost every factory loses at least 5% of its productivity due to downtime, and many lose as much as 20%.”

There is a growing need for training to increase skills and competencies for the complex automation and robotic (Auto-Robo) technologies being utilized. The skill gap begins with part start-up & qualification, expands into parts processing, and becomes even greater when measuring & qualifying parts against customer/engineering specs. Further skill gaps continue into material handling and inventory control methods. Automation can improve productivity in all of these areas, but only IF line workers are provided the skills to keep it running.

Identifying Skills & Competencies required

Recently Clackamas Community College (CCC) hosted an Automation & Robotics Summit and invited a group of 18 regional manufacturing employers to campus. We facilitated a work session to identify the skills and competencies required.

The recurring theme in the session was all frontline automation machine operator positions need mechanical, electrical and computer skills; therefore, the skill sets required in today’s workforce requires a cross section of all three disciplines (coupled with troubleshooting skills) to be successful.

The CCC Auto-Robo Advisory Council has identified 10 areas of competencies required to improve productivity, safety, quality and troubleshooting to alleviate the “shut-down and escalation” process.

  • Basic shop math
  • Print reading
  • Quality control (inspection)
  • Safety awareness (environmental risks)
  • Basic computer skills
  • Reading/navigating basic controller programming
  • Basic robotic controls
  • Troubleshooting
  • Equipment start-up & shut-down
  • Fixture set-up & change over

Although training & onboarding new hires is achievable with your existing workforce, proficient training to a level II or level III operator requires technical training and troubleshooting at a system level of thinking.

Training machine operators should be the first line of offense for employers to consider when optimizing machine “uptime”, quality, and productivity (e.g. efficiency).

Available Training

At CCC the Customized Training Dept. has worked with the industry led Auto-Robo Advisory Council to develop the Frontline Automation Machine Operator training program for the identified skills and competencies necessary for frontline workers of automated machinery and production/assembly lines.

This training is targeted for machine operators that have at least 3 mos. on the job experience and will benefit from technical training, pertinent to automatic machine operators, to enhance productivity, quality, and safety.


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Contact us for more information or if you are interested in enrolling a group of participants for your company.

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