Siemens last week debuted a newly expanded facility to train workers on advanced manufacturing technology in America's heartland.
The German conglomerate's Technical Application Center in suburban Chicago allows workers from machine tool dealers and importers, along with some end-users of the company's technology, to train on Siemens software and equipment and see it in action — free of charge.
"This is as important as any piece of equipment that we would produce," Raj Batra, the head of Siemens' U.S. digital factory division, said Tuesday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
The Siemens TAC offers three-day courses at three training levels, and another for dealer service, on the company's SinuTrain CNC simulation software. About 240 people completed courses last year, and more than 250 are expected to do so in 2017.
The facility features 12 computers for classroom training along with a machine lab to serve as a "mini-job shop" to see the technology put into action. The lab now includes three milling machines, a turning center and a manufacturing robot.
The lab allows workers to establish a virtual replica of the entire manufacturing process, or "digital twin," and produce a physical product — which, on the day of the ribbon-cutting, was a small metal bottle opener.
Siemens' Chris Pollack added that the system allows workers to utilize "conversational programming" expertise and work with everything from design technology to Siemens' Sinumerik CNC system to its MindSphere Industrial Internet of Things platform.
The company also offers live online training and webinars — the latter of which are available to any interested individuals. Officials hope to increase the course offerings to include mixed technology operation and programming in coming months, as well as build its online offerings and digital archive.
The TAC enables Siemens to showcase its Sinumerik CNC system to machine tool makers, but officials also hope it could help put a dent in the shortage of qualified machinists in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
"There is a huge deficiency of knowledge when it comes to advanced manufacturing techniques," Pollack said.