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Training a Designer for the Component Manufacturing Industry

In recent days I have read several articles about a lack of centralized training for designers associated with the component manufacturing industry.  Many of these articles refer to the lack of any real centralized, coherent, and standardized training. An example given would be that of the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. Mechanical Engineers and Engineers of any discipline have a common group of subjects they are exposed to before specializing in a variety of specific engineering disciplines.

training-truss-designers

What would most Component Manufacturer’s say would be a similar group of subjects that a designer for the component  manufacturing  industry need?

  • Math
  • CAD
  • Basic (or better) computer skills
  • MS Office

How about real-time field knowledge and applications, such as:

  • Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Common building practices
  • Building codes
  • The ability to look at a two-dimensional set of construction drawings and be able to visualize those drawings in 3D

In a recent article, a colleague of mine at Gould Design, Inc. made reference to apprenticeships coupled with college level training. You can view the entire article here. While in agreement, I would postulate that our industry is a one where while college level training can and should be of benefit to designers.  Fact is: It is only one part of what a good designer really needs to know.

Anyone can read about best practices, but not everyone will come away retaining the knowledge of what those best practices are and why those practices are the best? How do you teach someone to visualize and think in three dimensions? Anyone who has been associated with the component manufacturing industry for very long has heard the phrase “it looks good on paper”. This means that what appeared to work well in an office preformed quite the opposite in the field. Many would call that “experience”.

While no one is perfect, our goal is perfection, and experience like that in our industry results in lost profits, and time spent repairing / correcting problems and professional relationships. What then is the answer?

I would propose that designers for the component industry require a broad set of diverse skills that cannot and should not be learned in a classroom environment alone. Like the machinists of referred to in the GDI article, would it not be highly beneficial for component designers to actually work on buildings and experience firsthand how things go together?

To visualize first-hand what various assemblies and processes look like on a building site and to watch a patch of dirt be transformed from a two-dimensional set of drawing into a completed structure. A picture is worth a thousand words, so how much more would practical hands on experience expand the knowledge of a designer?  It is my humble opinion that the vast majority of designers and by extension component manufacturers would benefit greatly from experience of this type.

Several of the companies that I have experience with combine both factors:

  1. Component manufacturing
  2. Skilled building site labor

An apprenticeship that would include time spent actually working on a building site coupled with traditional classroom training, and office training could prove to be the answer. The problem is that this type of apprenticeship would still be company specific, not industry wide. While most of us do have the ability to use several different component design programs not all do, and a company specific training format would teach the program more than the essential skills that a designer for the component manufacturing industry would need in general.

The answer for component manufacturers might be establishing relationships with skilled labor contractors that would allow apprentice designers to do both while earning a living and attending classes. Such an approach should benefit all involved.

Does your company have a proactive solution? We would love to hear about it!

Bill Tucker – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.