Ed Mcmenamin 2016-08-24 00:19:34
Finding Young Metrology Engineers UNC Charlotte engineering professor Ed Morse discusses the state of metrology education and the field’s visibility among young people. Much ink has been spilled on the manufacturing skills gap. The need for workers at every level, from the mid-skilled CNC machine operator to the college-educated engineer, is growing. Indeed, more than half of 3.5 million manufacturing job openings will go unfilled over the next decade, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Gap report. For a detailed look at how the skills gap is reflected in the metrology world, Quality asked Dr. Ed Morse for his take. Morse is a professor of mechanical engineering at UNC Charlotte, and was the 2016 Coordinate Metrology Society Conference keynote speaker.He is also a representative on the Precision Path Consortium. QUALITY: ARE YOU SEEING A NEED FOR MORE PROFESSIONALS IN THE METROLOGY FIELD? ED MORSE: Naturally, [UNC Charlotte] takes incoming high school graduates for the most part, and we take them through a mechanical engineering curriculum. So, with the exception of people who have been in industry, the majority of students we see don’t really have an understanding of what metrology might be, or why it might be important. I think there’s certainly a social aspect to “what is measurement and why is it important?” and “how does it affect manufacturing?” Certainly a sizeable fraction of mechanical engineering students are interested in manufacturing, as well as those who are interested in design and other analysis. But most of them don’t come in with an idea that “gee, my ability to perform manufacturing tasks is going to be limited by my ability to measure.” That’s not their fault. That’s just how our society is right now. There aren’t many advertisements you see that involve metrology. There are a few, and I notice them because they stand out. But they’re quite few and far between. Occasionally you’ll see somebody in white sitting at a CMM, or somebody peering at something while holding a caliper or a micrometer.But even those don’t always reflect the current state of metrology. IS THERE METROLOGY LEARNING INHERENT IN UNDERGRAD MECHANICAL ENGINEERING COURSEWORK? There is to a certain extent. Our students, in their sophomore year, take a course where they’re in the machine shop and they make a little air-powered, singlecylinder engine. It actually has to operate for them to get a top grade in the class.And things like the piston and cylinder interaction, they’re measuring both of those constantly as they’re doing the machining, but that doesn’t really rely on what we would think of in the metrology field as sound metrological principles. We do have a couple technical electives that involve metrology. One is a course that I teach each spring called “statistical process control in metrology.” And this fulfills their statistics requirement, but it looks at statistics from an industrial perspective. How might I use actual measurement data that I get from the manufacturing process, either in a gage R&R study, or evaluating CP and CPK for a process? How could I use analysis of variance (ANOVA) to see if one machine is performing differently from other machines? That’s been a very popular course. And because it’s also related to metrology, I also get to talk about geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. We do some hands-on measurement experiments, and the students start to get a grasp of what level of precision different instruments provide and how you might evaluate the uncertainty in the results that you get when you use these instruments. The second undergraduate course is more of a survey course in precision engineering and metrology, and this has two or three lectures taught by almost (the entire) faculty in our precision metrology center. They learn about the fundamentals of units and the SI, about uncertainty, about coordinate measuring machines, about optical methods for measurement—interferometry, for instance—and also vibrations in manufacturing processes: how you characterize those and what you can do about them. So it’s really just a survey of all the different things you might experience in doing precision manufacturing, and after a while it starts to sink in when they hear every different faculty member say that the most important thing that you have to control is temperature, because everything grows and shrinks with temperature. And in the precision world, that is usually the biggest influence factor as far as whether you will obtain the dimensions specified in the drawing. So we intentionally structure these courses to attract students, both to inform them about metrology and geometric tolerancing but also to attract them into our graduate program. IS THE METROLOGY GRADUATE POOL BIG ENOUGH FOR COMPANIES TO ATTRACT THE TALENT THEY NEED? It doesn’t seem to be, to be honest. There are gaps, I think, at almost every level.Technicians who work on doing bench calibrations and similar tasks, I think that they are in fairly high demand. There are some programs geared toward training and evaluating that level of personnel— ASQ has a certified calibration technician certificate. So there is some recognition that you have a certain skill set. Then there are people who operate metrology equipment in support of manufacturing.We think of aircraft manufacturing, there are a lot of laser trackers and laser radar and other laser scanners that are used, mostly optical devices because of the size of these aircraft. And the instruments are fairly easy to use, but an understanding of the uncertainty involved in specific measurements is a big gap. And again, there is a gap in the workforce there; there are a lot of people retiring in that field.There are some efforts; the CMSC has a certification program for people who perform measurements with these instruments.So there are some resources there, but again just the number of people who know about metrology as a field is excruciatingly small. And then at the engineering level we do get a lot of requests for engineers and researchers with experience in metrology. That’s one area where we are able to provide some names or at least make the job opportunity available to our recent graduates. And these students from our graduate program usually do find a job immediately. The fact that most of them find a job very quickly seems to indicate there is a larger demand than supply at this point. DOES THE PRECISION PATH CONSORTIUM HAVE SPECIFIC GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR METROLOGY EDUCATION? It’s certainly something we’ve talked a lot about. So going into that project, I personally had the expectation that the roadmaps that we develop would be focused around various types of measuring technology and how we expect that to evolve over the next decade or so.But the interest and discussion around workforce and workforce development is really significant. And we are moving that higher up on our list of priorities to discuss. At the moment we don’t have any guidance or any consensus, but it’s certainly something that’s very important and is on everyone’s mind—everyone from instrument manufacturers to end-users of the metrology equipment to manufacturers. The whole gamut, everyone says this is a problem. Working in academia, I see lots of smart kids all the time. And if there’s a perceived lack of skilled labor at the engineering level and above, it may be something we're doing wrong—we being the industry of metrology. In that we’re not letting people know what it is, we’re not showing people why it’s interesting; we’re not convincing people that it’s important. It may be more of a visibility problem than there aren’t any smart engineers around. WHO SHOULD LEAD THE CHARGE FOR INCREASED VISIBILITY— UNIVERSITIES OR GOVERNMENT OR PRIVATE INDUSTRY? That’s a good question. I’m not sure I have the right answer. I think that if there is a need, and I believe there is, that’s typically driven by industry, and they can reach out to their local universities and colleges and contribute, maybe contribute some previous generation metrology equipment. Maybe have some people volunteer to teach a hands-on course.But I don’t want to lay it all at the feet of industry, because those guys are working hard all the time. It’s not as if we’re all sitting in our back yards wishing we had something more to do. And certainly I feel as if I know many of the people who have interest in metrology, and I think everyone tends to be an advocate. Now, I just thought of another group out in [Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus] in Columbus, Indiana, which is partnered with Cummins. A couple Cummins people helped get the metrology program up and running at that college. They have a more hands-on technical program in metrology. So there has been an effort in industry, I don’t want to say they’re not doing anything. Both interviews were edited for length. Ed McMenamin is the associate editor of Quality. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. AN INTERVIEW WITH A GRADUATE For a look at how young metrology professionals become acquainted the field, Quality spoke with Gabriela Vergara, a former student of D Morse, and current applications engineer at Micro-Vu in Windsor, Ca - ada. Vergara, 27, graduated with a bachelor’s of science in mechan engineering from UNC Charlotte in 2011. QUALITY: HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED TO METROLOGY? GABRIELA VERGARA: I was briefly introduced to metrology in a manufacturing class during my sophomore year in college. This brief introduction was part of the general coursework of my engineering degree. I was able to learn more about metrology and GD&T in a statistical analysis elective course, taught by Dr. Morse at UNCC. WERE YOU LOOKING FOR A METROLOGY-RELATED JOB AFTER GRADUATION? HOW DID YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE METROLOGY FIELD? This is probably not the answer you want to hear, but no, I was not looking for a metrology-related job after graduation. Honestly, I did not know these jobs were available for a recent mechanical engineering grad. On the other hand, when I started looking for a job, I was just looking for experience in the engineering field and did not want to limit my search to a specific industry.A few years later, after working in metrology, I have chosen to stay in this field because I enjoy the continuous learning and discovering I do through it. It is also nice to work in a field of high importance in many industries worldwide. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR MICRO-VU? As an applications engineer at Micro-Vu, I work with customer applications and gather user feedback for constant product development. I collaborate with the software team designing software functionalities and testing new software releases. The applications team conducts trainings in InSpec Metrology Software for our sales and service partners worldwide. DO YOU SEE A NEED FOR MORE METROLOGY STUDENTS AND GRADUATES? Yes! There is definitely a need for metrology students and graduates in the field. Hopefully metrology will be given the importance it deserves in the near future, and more undergraduate engineering programs will start integrating advanced metrology courses as part of the mechanical and manufacturing engineering coursework. ARE THERE SKILLS THAT MECHANICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS CURRENTLY NEED BUT ARE NOT GRADUATING WITH? Metrology is definitely one. Electrical engineering skills are always needed. I.T., in general, mechanical engineering students should learn more about relevant software packages available to retrieve, store and process information. WHAT CAN UNIVERSITIES DO BETTER TO INTEREST YOUNG PEOPLE IN METROLOGY AND OTHER MANUFACTURING-RELATED ENGINEERING FIELDS? Universities and engineering programs could play a very important role in creating interest in the metrology field among students. Exposing metrology to students and emphasizing the importance of metrology in so many industries will create interest. Realizing that metrology is applied in a wide range of industries spiked my interest. Metrology workshops and collaborations between universities and companies could show students how metrology is applied in the field. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CURRENT MECHANICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS THAT MIGHT BE CONSIDERING A FUTURE IN METROLOGY? Do it! You would be surprised by how important metrology is in so many different industries.There are not many students that specialize in metrology; therefore this could give you an edge.
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