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CSU Trains the Next Generation of Manufacturers with VKS

October 21, 2022

CSU Trains the Next Generation of Manufacturers with VKS

For companies that have yet to adopt smart manufacturing tools like work instruction software, the skills gap is still a large concern. In recent studies, the manufacturing sector expects to experience 2.1 million unfilled jobs by the year 2030 while the projected cost is in the trillions for the US alone.

Despite the dire statistics, manufacturing companies are progressively taking hold of their operations and empowering their workforce to close the gap for good with work instruction software.

But manufacturing companies are not the only ones taking measures to achieve modernization within the workforce. Universities and schools are now using smart manufacturing tools to prepare the next generation of workers.

Cleveland State University (CSU) is one of these schools.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU’s Assistant Professor of Engineering. He shared with us how CSU is taking steps to train the next generation of engineers about smart manufacturing tools and their applications. And they are doing this with the help of VKS digital work instructions.

“We use VKS to introduce the student to the concept of smart manufacturing. In the past, work instructions would be on printed paper. Or companies would use Word, Excel, or PDFs and send those back and forth. So we want to show our students a better way to improve manufacturing operations. VKS is a good example of how we can reduce clerical operations with new technologies and new digital tools.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani

Dr. Saeed Farahani

CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

CSU Trains the Next Generation of Manufacturers

With our work instruction software, Dr. Saeed Farahani and CSU are exposing students to the realities of the current manufacturing and engineering environment. In so doing, they are setting up the next generation of manufacturers to achieve excellence and inspire creativity in this new era of manufacturing.

Specifically, mechanical engineering students enrolled at CSU are given a micro and macro view of manufacturing design.

Saeed shared that future engineers need to think about design on two distinct levels.

  1. Design of the product
  2. Design of the manufacturing system

VKS helps the students understand these two levels in an expansive yet detailed way.

“The main focus of mechanical engineers in the future is going to be design. These designs can be on different levels, the design of the product, and the design of the manufacturing system.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

Learning Product Design

To teach his students about product design, Saeed uses an innovative curriculum that combines theoretical work with hands-on skills and methodology. One of the ways he does this is by giving his students projects where they have to prepare a VKS Guidebook for any particular product of their choosing.

The only criterion is that the product has to have more than five pieces. Saeed tells his students: “Look around yourself. Even a normal pen can be a good example, but be more creative.”

And the students consistently deliver on that request.

In the past year, students have created a diverse range of guidebooks detailing the base components and step-by-step assembly procedures for a variety of products. Each student was able to create efficient standardized methods, demonstrating how students/workers can use the flexible features of VKS to understand and master the concept of design and assembly.

“By using VKS, I can quickly teach and train the students on assembly and design. They can use anything and create an interactive work instruction detailing the process.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

The ability to quickly train students with the help of work instruction software extends far beyond the classroom. Engineers must constantly consider how the workforce will achieve their designs and the company's goals. And in light of the skills gap, modern engineers need to optimize every factor of production, especially the capabilities of the workforce.

learning design

As these fledgling engineers gain experience using and writing work instructions, they are more prepared to close the skills gap at their future companies.

Learning Manufacturing Systems Design

Although breaking the manufacturing process into sub-parts is necessary for their education, Saeed Farahani also emphasizes the importance of a broader view of the manufacturing operation. According to Saeed, the students need to understand how smart manufacturing tools can be used to benefit the whole operation. This past year, students were asked to consider how VKS work instruction software can be used to enhance manufacturing operations.

Students at CSU were quick to highlight how VKS helps companies quickly train inexperienced employees who need immediate expertise to complete an unfamiliar job.

When one worker takes a vacation, companies often need to scramble to find a replacement. This problem is only exacerbated if the vacationing employee was the only one trained on that particular job. However, CSU students realized quickly that with well-documented digital work instructions, every worker can perform multiple tasks and responsibilities. They simply need to follow the step-by-step procedures.

Every worker becomes the best worker within the company.

Students need to understand these concepts according to Saeed. As the young engineers graduate, they carry the advanced solutions they learned at CSU to an industry that so desperately needs them.

“With VKS, the learning process is very fast and very effective at improving the overall operation of the manufacturing system. It's crucial for students to be introduced to these concepts. The introduction of these concepts and possibilities is the most important thing for me. Instead of having a piece of paper or a work file, people can use interactive and digital tools.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

VKS helps companies and people optimize their already established production systems with flexible and easy-to-use tools. And students are seeing just how easy it is to use smart manufacturing software like VKS.

Students Learn More With Visual Tools

students learn more with VKS

Students at CSU enjoy using VKS within their educational curriculum. As we’ve seen in the manufacturing environment, people assimilate visual knowledge more quickly and easily than in any other medium. Visuals such as pictures, videos, annotations, icons, and more are invaluable tools for training and sustained standardization in a working environment.

“In a classroom, there are a variety of students, each with specific learning preferences. While some students can learn through theoretical work, most students learn best by seeing it in VKS. They can better understand the whole concept and they enjoy using VKS for that reason. The VKS tool is very helpful because it is good at preparing students for the practical work environment.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

The visual capabilities of VKS are a major highlight of success for Saeed and his students. Saeed explained that his students enjoy finding opportunities to showcase their capability to create and design processes with VKS’s visual and interactive platform.

CSU Aims To Use VKS for Research Work

Beyond the classroom, Saeed shared his plans to expand the university's use of VKS in the research facility. He wants to use VKS to improve how experiments and tests are performed by the research teams consisting of professors, undergraduates, masters, and Ph.D. students.

Similar to how manufacturers have to adjust for higher turnover rates within their companies, CSU has to adjust for the high turnover of its students.

Given that university students have a short period within the university, it can be difficult for the university to maintain its standardized operating procedures for a constantly shifting student base. Plus with long breaks between semesters, there is very little overlap between when students move onto new careers and when new students begin contributing to the lab.

“One challenge that we face is that the period a student attends our university is relatively short. This is a challenge because transferring these skills from one student to another is not easy. We want to use VKS to better organize our procedures and transfer that skill to new students. Then we can help students learn how to perform the experiments properly and generate more consistent results. Our experimental results are sometimes influenced by the operators of the testing equipment. So we can use VKS to reduce that variation and fluctuation.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

Saeed explained that within mechanical engineering labs, they perform a lot of tensile tests. For every tensile test, there is a standard procedure. But there are some factors that each person will instinctively perform differently, and this affects the final results.

If students don’t tighten the clamp enough, the specimen slides inside the grips. If students tighten it too much, they destroy the sample or the clamp fails.

However, with VKS, these issues are eliminated. The operator/student is shown the precise intended pressure at every step of the way. Additionally, students gain tips on how to align the samples and properly set up the material and components for the tests. Saeed shared that “these are all areas where we can take advantage of the capabilities of VKS.”

This future use of VKS within the lab also prepares students for real-world manufacturing environments and jump-starts their considerations about the capabilities of smart manufacturing programs. This forethought enables the industry to gain workers who are ready for the advanced processes of the future and Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0.

Is Work Instruction Software Crucial to the Future of Smart Manufacturing?

In our final question to Saeed, we asked if engineering students need to be exposed to smart manufacturing technology like VKS. He had this to say:

“Learning about these smart manufacturing tools and their capabilities during their education helps them to better find the potential applications of such tools in their career, especially if they want to pursue a career in the manufacturing area.”

Dr. Saeed Farahani, CSU Assistant Professor of Engineering

In the course of their careers, there is no doubt that the engineers graduating from CSU will come face to face with the challenges of the skills gap. But with their knowledge and experience of VKS and smart manufacturing, they have the solution to close the gap wherever they go, giving them and their companies a leg up in the industry.

Find out how IMEG Partnered with VKS to supply their customers with the best tools of smart manufacturing.