Extraordinary Skills Gap
In today’s marketplace, the demand for skilled workers well exceeds supply. And the need for competent technicians to maintain warehouse, distribution and other operations that support the supply chain is particularly acute.
“Even before the pandemic, there was a huge spike in the number of job openings for distribution center technicians,” said Kent Powell, vice president of sales, Amatrol. “The pandemic took that up another notch as online purchases soared.”
To meet consumers’ increasing expectations for expedient – often next day – delivery, companies ramped up warehouse and fulfillment center construction. But technicians who could operate and maintain the automated material handling equipment at the heart of the operation were difficult to find.
This industry challenge provided a unique opportunity for Amatrol, a leading provider of skills-based interactive technical training. Located in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Amatrol delivers engaging learning solutions to technical schools and industrial customers worldwide.
Collaboration Builds Industry-Aligned Solution
Behind every Amatrol training solution is a collaborative effort with industrial companies, standards organizations and educational institutions.
“We really take what industry tells us their skills deficits are – and we try to address those with an all-inclusive training product,” Powell explained.
To meet the skills gap in the warehouse and distribution space, Amatrol worked closely with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC). The MSSC is an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system. The Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA), Material Handling Institute (MHI) and National Center for Supply Chain Automation (NCSCA) were also engaged in the process.
Leading e-commerce and transportation companies were consulted throughout equipment design and testing to ensure critical technologies were embodied in the training solution.
“We discovered that a supply chain automation technician requires a unique skill set that includes the traditional equipment disciplines – plus thorough knowledge of IT networks,” said Karl Prinz, marketing operations team leader, Amatrol.
The Amatrol solution, Skill Boss Logistics, encompasses all relevant disciplines to prepare workers to support automated material handling equipment. It aligns with three separate MSSC Certified Technician in Supply Chain Automation (CT-SCA) certifications focused on:
- Equipment/system maintenance: CT-SCA-EM
- Equipment/system troubleshooting and repair: CT-SCA-ER
- Basic controller and network troubleshooting and repair: CT-SCA-NR
How It Works
Skill Boss Logistics training includes both an online e-learning component – and a hands-on training and assessment workstation. Amatrol also provides written materials and instructor training. Each of the three training programs consists of 150-200 hours of training.
“We introduce and teach each topic through interactive e-learning and simulation,” said Powell. “Then, students practice those skills on the equipment to prepare them for the certification test.”
The Skill Boss Logistics workstation draws upon 100 skills from MSSC’s list of industry-defined and nationally validated CT-SCA standards. A compact, table-top device, the workstation performs supply chain functions ranging from barcode package tracking and various sorting methods to gap optimization and package recirculation.
Most important, the workstation features industrial equipment that supply chain automation technicians will encounter on the job, including multiple conveyor types, discharge chutes and sensors. And a control system based on a Rockwell Automation® platform featuring an Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ 5370 controller and PowerFlex® 525 AC drive – integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network.
“The system runs FactoryTalk® View software on an all-in-one touchscreen PC for the HMI,” said Powell. “The HMI also includes an alarm section and is consistent with what workers would see in a plant environment.”
Independent of the HMI, Skill Boss Logistics also runs Amatrol FaultPro fault insertion software. FaultPro allows instructors to insert more than 45 real-world faults to enable learners to practice troubleshooting and maintenance skills.
Proven Results. Impressive ROI.
Less than three years after the initial launch of Skill Boss Logistics, hundreds of systems are in use by technical schools and industrial companies.
“Our industrial customers measure success based on return on investment (ROI),” said Powell. “With Skill Boss Logistics, customers have reduced average technician training time from about two years to six months or less.”
On the plant floor, the trained technicians significantly decrease downtime – leading to an estimated two-year payback period for the system.
“I believe our success is based on the all-inclusive nature of the training,” said Powell. “I can’t think of another company that provides written material, supported with interactive e-learning – plus a hands-on workstation to practice and assess skills.”
The Next Steps
To keep pace with the latest developments in automation technology, Amatrol teams closely with Rockwell Automation.
“We are starting conversations to determine how advanced analytics and augmented reality (AR) could fit into the teaching cycle,” said Powell.
In addition, Amatrol is working to develop equipment to support the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing (AAM), a joint initiative of Rockwell Automation and Manpower Group to provide U.S. military veterans with the upskilling they need to succeed in advanced manufacturing roles.
“Our relationship with Rockwell Automation is unlike any other supplier relationship we have,” said Powell. “It’s working with world-class manufacturers like Rockwell Automation that allows us to meet the needs of clients as they prepare the next generation of workers.”
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