🚜ESE Newsletter #8: Drop the Shovels, Grab the Controls🐮
Soaring Food Prices and What We're Going to Do About It
Howdy, you trailblazer of Industry, you cultivator of the mind!
You and I both know of the supply chain issues and rising food costs but that’s not why you’re reading this newsletter. You and I are here for solutions. Not how, but when. Let’s energize America’s Farmforce!
You know that I’m a car guy but recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about farming, partially due to watching car-guy-turned-farm-guy, Jeremey Clarkson’s, Clarkson’s Farm. In the first episode, Clarkson buys a tractor. Not just any tractor but, a Lamborghini! ✨
Clarkson is mocked repeatedly for his Lamborghini tractor but, Lamborghini was originally, and still to this day, a tractor manufacturer. Throughout the season, Clarkson learns just how complex it is to be a farmer.
A farmer is a mechanic, a meterologist, a scientist, a machine operator, an agronomist, a computer operator, and an animal caretaker. I’m sure I’m missing some things!
Who is this farmer? This farmer is a highly-skilled individual — an automation engineer, a roboticist, an industrial maintenance technician, a programmer.
In Clarkson’s Farm, Clarkson is tasked with creating tramlines when tilling the soil. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what tramlines were either.
Well, “tramlines” refers to seasonal wheel tracks that are commonly used for spraying crops for several feet in either direction. Rather than doing it methodically, like a trained person would do, he tried to make shortcuts and made a mess of it which was good comedy but not good farming.
Here’s where you come in. The College of Agricultural Sciences was the first college established at Penn State and awarded the nation's first baccalaureate degrees in agriculture in 1861. Pennsylvania has a history of being at the forefront of these issues — sustainability and food independence.
Festo is working to meet the challenges that Pennsylvania and the world are facing right now so I invited Tony Oran, Vice President of Sales for Festo Didactic, to answer some questions for our Highlight (below.)
So, rather than waiting six months for National Farmer’s Day, on October 12th, let’s thank these multi-faceted, multi-skilled, industrious entrepreneurs today!
Highlight From Our Region
A farmer doesn’t buy a tractor because they want to buy a tractor. What they really want is a successful crop.
It’s far too easy for myself and our educators to get caught up in the details of “the latest and loudest” problems without giving ourselves the chance to step back and see the big picture, the real goals that we are trying to achieve. In doing so, we sometimes miss out on the whole story.
Throughout our day-to-day conversations, what is the story that may be all too easy for us to overlook of how Festo shapes not only industry, but education as well?
Well, using your analogy, I would answer that in this way.
First, who is Festo? What do we provide?
We sell Components, Systems, and Solutions to create and control motion.
We also sell Equipment, Systems, and Solutions to build technical skills in people.
However, what we provide is Productivity. We increase the productivity of systems and processes in industrial applications. We increase the productivity of people and organizations. We provide productivity and Employability.
Automation technology training goes hand-in-hand with manufacturing training, but what are some industries that we might not think of when we hear the buzzwords of industrial maintenance, Industry 4.0, mechatronics, automation, etc.?
Great question! Most people default to advanced manufacturing. While this is absolutely true, there are many industries that utilize these technologies. A couple that immediately come to my mind are:
*Agriculture – Farming is becoming very automated and high-tech, utilizing mobile robots, smart sensors, and many automated systems
*Logistics – FedEx, UPS, and Amazon utilize some of the most advanced automation and Industry 4.0 technologies available
With backyard BBQ season coming up, most people are about to get an immediate wake-up-call to the price increases on food if they aren’t already there.
The problems we are facing come in a variety of forms, but Festo has been working with education and workforce development to empower our future workforce to be more antifragile where we can not just be resilient to shocks and disruptions, but rather become stronger because of them.
Where have you seen the greatest success of this happening?
Interesting that you mention food. Food production and transportation is historically a very manual process.
When situations like Covid happen and the workforce is heavily reduced, we see it very quickly at the grocery store. Prices go up as the supply goes down.
Festo has been working with US food producers to implement more and more automation. Now, these farms need skilled labor to operate and maintain this equipment.
That is why we have been partnering with technical education facilities to implement Smart Automation programs geared to agriculture.
Hartnell Community College in California is a great example. They are helping to build the smart workforce for the smart agriculture industry which is allowing this industry to become much more resilient and cost-efficient – even in pandemic situations.
Where do you think we are at risk of failing ourselves in the future?
I will use the old adage of doing what you have always done and expecting a different result.
The way people learn is rapidly changing. This, coupled with the rapid changes in technology, require that education must change and do so quickly.
The skills gap is becoming a skills chasm. We must find a way to engage younger minds in industrial career paths.
If we rely only on the two-year college system to provide the workforce, we will fail.
This does not mean the colleges are doing a bad job. On the contrary. They are doing great things.
However, they simply cannot supply enough skilled people. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could be unfilled by 2030.
There are roughly 1500 two-year colleges in the US. If all of them produce an additional 100 skilled people per year – on top of what they already produce, this would equate to 150,000 additional skilled people per year.
This means it would take us until 2036 to produce enough people to fill the 2030 gap. We must find a way to engage younger students through new ways of teaching and produce technically skilled people right out of high school.
Further, we severely undervalue our technical educators. These people are literally the key to sustaining and building our economy.
How can we get started today to break out of our traditional thinking — focusing on the problem right in front of us, finding the best deal on a tractor — but instead focus on the solution, harvesting crops in the most effective and sustainable way we can?
That is a big question. I think we have to start a truly national discussion on embedding technical education very early in a student’s learning path.
We have solutions that can engage elementary students in bionics, middle schools students in STEM, and high school students in technologies that will prepare them to not only succeed in post-secondary education, but have career-ready skills to enter the workforce with substantial wages to help sustain and grow our economy.
We must focus on the life-long learning path to go along with their career path.
Three of the Solutions that Festo has developed for Industry 4.0 training are the MPS-403, the CP Lab, and the Cyber-Physical Factory.
The MPS-403 is an all-around training system for mechatronics and Industry 4.0. It provides a great introduction for students to Industry 4.0.
The CP Lab is a comprehensive, flexible platform for Industry 4.0 training. It covers all necessary topics including IT Security, Energy Monitoring, Smart Maintenance, AR, and Logistics.
The pinnacle of Industry 4.0 training is the most definitely the Cyber-Physical Factory. Hartnell College utilizes the Industry 4.0 capabilities of a custom Festo Didactic Cyber-Physical Factory for its new manufacturing, produce processing, and packaging training program.
The simulated Smart Factory includes integrated logistics, communication, mechatronics, robotic assembly, and troubleshooting capabilities. It’s fully networked and virtually integrated with HMI (human-machine interface), PLCs, Data Acquisition, Collection and Analysis (SCADA) and wireless connection networking. The factory also utilizes material handling robots with infrared vision capability for advanced robotic training.
Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Annual Conference, May 4th - 6th
This year’s PWDA conference features keynotes by Van Ton-Quinlivan, author of Amazon best-seller, WorkforceRx: Agile and Inclusive Strategies for Employers, Educators and Workers in Unsettled Times and Mark C. Perna, author of the award-winning, best-selling, Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in Younger Generations.
I’m excited that ESE is sponsoring this event and I look forward to connecting with so many passionate people looking to expand workforce development in Pennsylvania!
Learn more about the speakers and the workshops here.
The Balancing Act: Connecting Life, Leadership and Wellness, May 18 - 20, 2022
My colleagues, John and Kurt will be at the New Jersey Association of School Administrators’ annual Spring leadership conference at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City, supporting.
Enjoy your time on the boardwalk and say hi to John and Kurt for me!
The Smart Manufacturing Experience, June 7th - 9th
I’ll take any excuse to visit the David L. Lawrence Convention Center with its suspended roof and column-free interior. (Columns are for spreadsheets!)
This time, however, I’ll be going to hear our friend and Industry 4.0 expert, the enthusiastic Mike Nager, speak on the first day of the event.
His session, Workforce Development and Education in the Industry 4.0 Era: How, Why and Who is Doing it! will explore the importance of industry certifications and industry partnerships in changing the view of manufacturing as dirty, dark, and dangerous to a rewarding career.
Over on LinkedIn, I try to post any and all help I can find as far as webinars and workshops go, to get you the funding you and your program needs. The money is there. Let’s get it for Pennsylvania.
The Employment and Training Administration has announced $45,000,000 up for grabs for community colleges “to meet the skill development needs of employers in in-demand industries and career pathways, as well as the skill development needs of underserved and underrepresented workers.” There’s a free webinar for prospective applicants. Is that you?
$500,000 is available from the Pennsylvania Ag & Youth Grant Program. Would you like to use automation technology to support agricultural training endeavors? Let’s talk.