Freudenberg and Plymouth State Collaborate on Robotics Training

Freudenberg and Plymouth State collaborate on robotics training

The numbers are troubling:  A new study by Deloitte and the US- based Manufacturing Institute finds that as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the U.S. by 2030. Those missing jobs could potentially cost U.S. companies $1 trillion in lost revenue by 2030. In the past six months alone, 500,000 unfilled U.S. manufacturing positions have gone unfilled.

With employers across the US and around the world feeling the burn from such an acute worker shortage, innovative recruiting strategies are at a premium. Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has used multiple tools to recruit suitable employees. But a growing relationship between the company’s Ashland, NH, manufacturing facility and Plymouth State University is promising to add more recruiting inspiration to the mix. Ashland has launched hands-on manufacturing robotics demonstrations for the University’s junior and senior robotics students. In the process, the plant has generated excitement among the students and recognition across the state.

“Finding the right talent for our organization is increasingly difficult. Exposing local students to the many opportunities in New Hampshire—and beyond—is key in our recruiting model,” said Ben Learned, Freudenberg Sealing Technology’s HR Manager in Ashland. “I’m fortunate to benefit from the high level of collaboration between the Freudenberg New Hampshire sites, who are more than happy to tackle this tall task with me.”

Plymouth State University recently received a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to invest in its robotics laboratory and program. The laboratory has robots and other industrial equipment that robotics students can use while they finish their education.

Even with the availability of the laboratory’s robots and machines, however, the students are finding that real-life examples of the skills they were taught does wonders to generate excitement, enthusiasm, and anticipation for graduating and finding new jobs. On a recent trip to the Ashland plant, they were fascinated to learn the extent of the robots’ work tasks on the shop floor.

 “There’s an awe to it,” said Bret Kulakovich, director of the Draper & Maynard Makerspace and robotics laboratory. “We have a few industrial robots, testing equipment, 3D printers, and so on, but until you actually go to a production floor, you don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

 Kulakovich’s aim is to serve the region by interweaving the old and the new—offering upskilling or retraining options for experienced employees using the innovative approaches and systems of the makerspace, while bringing students closer to manufacturing careers at established companies such as Freudenberg Sealing Technologies.

 For its part, the company is delighted to have the University robotics program so near to the plant. In addition to inspiring robotics students, the robotics program will soon offer robotics courses to help current employees upgrade their skills with customized robotics training.

 “It's amazing to have such a well-run, highly funded space in our backyard,” said Learned. “As implementing automated processes becomes increasingly important on our shop floor, we'll be able to lean on this relationship with Plymouth State University to offer customized classroom learnings for our engineering staff around various PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to help them upgrade their skills and get the most out of the technology in our plant.

 “This is a true win-win for Freudenberg Sealing Technologies and Plymouth State University,” Learned concluded.  

Credit: Freudenberg-NOK sealing Technologies