PW: What is the idea behind the center for excellence?
Ryan: Much of what’s happening in machinery today is all about servos and information technology. To remain competitive on a global scale, packaging machinery OEMs in this country and the packaged goods manufacturers who are their customers will have to implement these technologies. For this to happen, the next generation of packaging machinery technicians must be properly trained and educated. The center for excellence will be a focal point for their training and education. Benefitting will be packaging machinery OEMs, automation technology suppliers, line integrators, and packaged goods companies.
PW: How do you build the center and where will it be located?
Ryan: In building it we see three key stages. First, survey the primary stakeholders to learn their needs where technician skills are concerned. Second, inventory the educational institutions purporting to train people in packaging machinery automation technology to gain a clear understanding of what they are doing to meet the needs. And third, develop curriculum to fill the gap between what’s being provided and what is truly needed. As for location, I believe it should be more web-based than physically located in any particular facility. The curriculum will be disseminated nationally. However, the center itself will be brokered by the Center for Automation and Motion Control at Alexandria Technical College.
PW: How will this be funded? Can PW readers get involved?
Ryan: We are submitting a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for the planning phase of the center. We calculate that it will require between $2.3 and $2.8 million to develop and disseminate the curriculum needed. NSF supports the goal of a center of excellence, but they are asking for more evidence of industry support. So what we need are letters from packaging machinery OEMs, packaged goods companies, and integrators. Those interested in writing such letters should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. —PR