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Master the skilled labor challenge


06/05/2024

Many production companies face a shortage of experienced plastic processing equipment staff. This often results in inefficiencies, errors, and increased waste. At the NPE2024 in Orlando, Florida, the injection molding machine builder and system solution provider, ENGEL, is presenting solutions to empower its customers to optimize productivity and enhance quality through their certified training programs, advanced digital solutions, and automation systems.

Shape success: World-class training for injection molding innovators

ENGEL's comprehensive training courses cover all aspects of equipment operation, preparing molders with the necessary skills and industry-recognized certifications. Customers benefit from training programs tailored to meet specific organizational needs and challenges. More than 70 certified trainers at 22 ENGEL training centers worldwide are helping injection molding processors get up to speed in machine operation, process technology, digitalization, and maintenance. Whether customers are looking to upskill new employees or advance the capabilities of seasoned professionals, the training is designed to address their specific goals.

In addition, ENGEL partners with nearly 20 colleges and universities to train the new generation of professionals. ENGEL offers free, state-of-the-art equipment and hands-on, tailored training programs, creating a pipeline of skilled workers.

Mold future professionals: ENGEL's apprenticeship program

ENGEL recognizes the importance of an apprenticeship program as a mid and long-term strategy to ensure expert support for customers. With skills that are often hard to find in the labor market and a lack of available training programs in the industry, investing in apprenticeships is crucial for building the next generation of service technicians. Therefore, ENGEL North America runs a comprehensive paid apprenticeship program that teaches students the ins and outs of injection molding. The company has received over 6,000 applicants while recruiting for the program, highlighting the interest of talent in this type of education and the great potential.

The fully paid apprentice program is certified and registered within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, recognized federally, and lasts four years with a combination of on-the-job and classroom-based instruction. The Swiss, German, and Austrian Embassies have also applauded the program. Graduates of the program will receive an offer of full-time non-exempt employment at ENGEL, as well as the nationally recognized Journeymen's certification.

Feedback from those involved in the apprenticeship program has been overwhelmingly positive — citing the family-oriented atmosphere at ENGEL, comprehensive hands-on training, knowing that they are making a difference, and competitive pay and benefits as major reasons for joining the ENGEL team. Also, their trainers and mentors are delighted to share their expertise and years of experience with their new teammates. The extremely high retention rate of apprentices speaks for itself.

The program is now in its 4th round, with 14 apprentices in both Field Service and Automation, with an additional five apprentices being added in September 2024. Apprenticeship programs have been an essential pillar of ENGEL's workforce development for many years, with currently 240 apprentices in Austria, 72 in China and the Czech Republic each, and 9 in Germany.

Innovate or stagnate: New training center for ENGEL field service techs

By equipping technicians with enhanced troubleshooting skills and expanding service offerings to include preventative and predictive maintenance services, ENGEL aims to provide unparalleled customer support, solidifying its commitment to delivering exceptional service and technical expertise.

ENGEL North America has recently opened a dedicated training center aimed at ENGEL’s own field service technicians, catering to a diverse array of machinery, including 2-platen, tie-bar-less, and all-electric toggle machines, as well as robots and automation systems encompassing both linear and 6-axis configurations. The primary objective of this initiative is to furnish comprehensive hands-on training for new technicians and seasoned professionals seeking advanced specialization.

The training program spans eight weeks and is conducted in York, PA, under the guidance of a highly experienced trainer with extensive field expertise. The curriculum covers various topics, including utilizing ENGEL support tools and systems and foundational theoretical concepts like hydraulic system functionality. It also emphasizes practical, hands-on methodologies such as repair and troubleshooting techniques.

Each training session accommodates a maximum of five students, ensuring personalized attention and effective knowledge transfer. Participation in this program is mandatory for all new technicians, constituting a pivotal component of ENGEL's broader strategy to bolster its service technician workforce nationwide.

ENGEL care: Elevating maintenance from routine checks to proactive strategies

The lack of skilled labor, especially in maintenance departments, plays a significant role in increasing downtime and reducing productivity. Regular maintenance schedules cannot be performed. This might not be evident in the short term but will lead to massive problems over time.

ENGEL supports its customers in the maintenance of injection molding machines and linear robots with a variety of maintenance packages named ENGEL care. These packages leverage the expertise of ENGEL service engineers, empowering processors to optimize machine uptime and reduce maintenance expenses.

From simple inspections, including a safety check, to predictive and proactive maintenance, the care packages differentiate in terms of the maintenance scope. All are precisely tailored to the needs of the respective plant. The overall goal is to boost machine availability and avoid unscheduled machine downtime. Irregularities are detected early and can be eliminated on a scheduled date, reducing maintenance costs and improving productivity. When maintenance measures are carried out regularly, safe working conditions for production staff can be guaranteed.

Digitalization of molding: Precision and efficiency at your fingertips

ENGEL's digital solutions are designed to support and alleviate the workforce's workload, assisting with part design, mold sampling, production, maintenance, and service support. By leveraging these digital solutions, customers can optimize productivity and enhance quality while enabling machines to handle tasks more efficiently. Many companies also need help to make informed decisions due to the overwhelming volume of data their operations generate. Without advanced analysis tools, they may be unable to identify inefficiencies or areas for improvement within their processes.

One example of ENGEL's intelligent software solutions is called iQ process observer. Hundreds of process parameters can be monitored continuously and effortlessly across all four phases of the injection molding process: plasticizing, injection, cooling, and demolding. The smart monitoring tool enables fast identification of fluctuations by intelligently analyzing and processing hundreds of parameters displayed on the injection molding machine's CC300 control unit. As a result, downtime can be effectively reduced. The software solution also has intelligent drift detection to indicate process changes proactively. Reject rates can be greatly reduced.

By continuously comparing the determined values with the previous cycles, the iQ process observer automatically detects significant changes in the process and points them out to the operator. In addition, the process data analysis compares all target and actual values with a defined reference status to detect long-term changes. Finally, the system shows possible process improvements or unfavorable process settings and conditions. Often, the potential causes are determined automatically, as are possible solutions.

Transparency of production with real-time data acquisition

By offering real-time insights into production processes, ENGEL's Manufacturing Execution System (MES), authentig, empowers shop floor employees and production planners with intuitive dashboards, facilitating informed decision-making and ensuring seamless quality control. As transparency of production with real-time data acquisition is paramount in today's manufacturing landscape, ENGEL delivers just that with authentig, a meticulously tailored MES for any plastics injection molding machine brand. This cutting-edge software facilitates seamless and efficient monitoring of injection molding production by harnessing digital machine data acquisition capabilities.

Customer calculations show that the purchase costs for authentig pay off in 5 to 12 months. The savings in reducing the set-up time and rejects are particularly significant. authentig boasts a vast network of 12,000 machines worldwide, serving 400 customers. It can evaluate 50 machines in real time within just 15 minutes, recording 100 parameters per machine.

Efficiency unleashed: Automation can significantly mitigate labor shortages

Automation plays a pivotal role in addressing labor shortages in the injection molding industry through strategic approaches:

  • Enabling 24/7 operations without human intervention significantly boosts output.

  • Allowing swift changes in production lines to accommodate diverse products or designs, supporting business growth and market adaptation.

  • Undertaking complex tasks requiring specialized skills addresses the challenge of skilled labor scarcity.

  • Enhancing material and energy efficiency, reducing waste, and promoting sustainable manufacturing practices.

  • Facilitating precise control over the injection molding process for optimal material use and energy consumption, fostering environmentally friendly operations.

ENGEL designs and manufactures critical components for the automation of injection molding cells. This includes articulated robots and custom solutions, such as degating stations, label systems, conveying technologies, safety enclosures, feeding devices for insertions, quality inspection systems, cooling stations, end-of-arm tooling (EOAT), and assembly lines.

ENGEL's commitment to automation is reflected in its robust performance in North America, with over 38 million USD in robot sales in the last fiscal year. This means that ENGEL delivered 400 robot and automation products to the market, demonstrating its strong presence and reliability. With over 40 years of experience in injection molding automation, ENGEL has installed over 25,000 robots and automation solutions globally, supported by four global automation centers.

ENGEL's CC300 machine controller allows for the complete integration of robots, automation, and peripheral equipment, which means less training needed and faster start-ups. The joint parts data management for the robot and machine also enables faster modification and minimizes errors.

ENGEL's comprehensive training courses cover all aspects of equipment operation, preparing molders with the necessary skills and industry-recognized certifications. (Picture: ENGEL)

ENGEL North America runs a comprehensive paid apprenticeship program that teaches students the ins and outs of injection molding. (Picture: ENGEL)

ENGEL supports its customers in the maintenance of injection molding machines and linear robots with a variety of maintenance packages named ENGEL care. (Picture: ENGEL)

With iQ process observer, hundreds of process parameters can be monitored continuously and effortlessly across all four phases of the injection molding process. (Picture: ENGEL)

ENGEL's commitment to automation is reflected in its robust performance in North America, with over 38 million USD in robot sales in the last fiscal year. (Picture: ENGEL)

Tobias Neumann

Public Relations Manager

+43 50 620 73807

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