May 2009 - Starting April 1, the National Institute for Metalworking Skillsbegan offering two national certifications for CNC machine operators. This level of accreditation is meant to reduce costs in a high-skill area for many manufacturing companies while boosting an aging workforce with new, properly trained operators.
"Many experienced CNC machine operators are retiring," said Steve Mandes, executive director of NIMS, in a press release. "Our stakeholder organizations have highlighted this as being a serious problem. As people retire, finding qualified applicants is very difficult. Evaluating a person's ability in this area is difficult without some common standard that is industry-validated. It costs manufacturers a lot of time in evaluation, they have mixed success with their applicants at best and ultimately can potentially have product issues when skills are not consistently applied."
The certifications are for CNC milling operations and CNC lathe operations and contain both knowledge exam and skills demonstration portions. The certifications are also designed for new employees and current employees alike, for the purpose of attaining consistency across a company's entire CNC operations.
Through the program requirements, NIMS certification includes CNC setup and operation, tool identification and setup, machining processes, statistical process control, quality and cycle time optimization, troubleshooting, precision measurement and print reading. Steps to obtaining certification include skill demonstrations and assessments, registering with NIMS and an NIMS knowledge exam.
In conjunction with NIMS' certification standards, Amatrol Inc., Jeffersonville, Ind., a provider of comprehensive learning systems for technical education needs, has been officially endorsed as the preferred training program for CNC operator certification. The company's CNC machine operation program includes virtual simulators that act like real CNC machines, allowing users to learn part measurement and gauging, CNC interfacing, tooling choices and how to react to malfunctions. The software also uses animations, interactive exercises and video to further capture real-world operating conditions and issues.
The partnership with NIMS grew from Amatrol's previous relationship with a worldwide manufacturer that Amatrol had worked with to build a comprehensive training program. The manufacturer wanted its workforce to be certified, leading to a collaboration with NIMS, which subsequently recognized Amatrol as a training tool that covered the breadth of its CNC certification requirements.
"We've created a virtual environment so that individuals can do anything online that you can do on the actual equipment," says Joe Reid, vice president of sales and marketing for Amatrol. "The NIMS' certification is a way for the industry to demonstrate that they have a high-performing team while using this as a standard measure for the quality of the people they plan to hire in the future. This can result in a significant reduction in the typically high cost of recruitment because they can trust the certification. The Amatrol online training creates a consistent, engaging approach to preparing individuals for the certification tests."
For Amatrol, being associated with NIMS perpetuates its mission of helping companies ensure their workforce is as skilled as possible and further validates its e-learning software as an effective teaching aide.
"It's a real honor to be associated with NIMS because of their recognized competence and certifications that they've had for many years," says Reid. "We're very excited about it." MM