Potomac Celebrates MfgDay By Exploring Advanced Manufacturing Career Options
Each October manufacturers, led by the National Association of Manufacturers, focus on the career opportunities that manufacturing brings to a wide range of industries. This year Manufacturing Day is October 2 and while plant tours and other in-person activities are not feasible, we can learn more about jobs at companies like Potomac Photonics.
This Isn’t Your Father’s Factory
3D Printed PDMS Mold
In the last few years, cool new technologies like 3D Printing, artificial intelligence [AI], robotics, virtual reality, and lasers have become mainstream on the clean 21st century factory floor. Furthermore, this “smart” manufacturing integrates many of these tools to create a complete system that takes products from design to fabrication to quality control to customer feedback.
Potomac President and CEO Mike Adelstein explains that the company has continually invested in technologies previously only seen in science fiction to keep the plant at the forefront of solving tough customer problems. “Although we were pioneers in laser micro-machining, our production facility today is a model for advanced manufacturing. We’ve added high resolution 3D printing, sophisticated micro-CNC machining, machine learning and AI, simulation, and in-process quality control, among other advancements. Now, more than ever, companies like Potomac offer high tech jobs to anyone with an interest in the manufacturing industry.”
The Future of Work
UV Mask Alignment and Exposure
Smart factories need smart digital workers who can program, operate and repair machines. But not all of these jobs require a college degree. IBM’s Executive Chairman Ginny Rometty says that blue collar jobs have become digital “new collar” jobs that only require specialized training. Potomac has traditionally provided that training in house, offering career pathways to anyone with a high school diploma.
John Ford came to Potomac as a laser machine operator in 2007 after a semester in community college. “I didn’t really like learning from books”, recalls John who thrived while learning on the job and applying the math skills he most enjoyed. He is now an engineer who keeps four laser labs running smoothly. As John puts it, “What’s more fun than getting to play with lasers all day at work?”
New Training Programs Today people have more training options for working with advanced manufacturing tools. Colleges like the Community College of Baltimore County Fab Lab offer micro-certifications via the New Collar Network for skills in digital design, 3D Printing, laser machining, CNC machining and more. Apprenticeships are also making a 21st century comeback and the U.S. Department of Labor recently approved a registered apprenticeship for an additive manufacturing specialist. Programs that combine on-the-job training with formal education demonstrate the highest success rates for both the worker and the employer.
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