Industry 4.0 at NWTC: Legislators, Business Leaders Applaud State of the College
Legislators and CEOs from around Northeast Wisconsin gathered at NWTC today to hear how Industry 4.0 technologies will affect business, government and the future workforce.
Dr. Jeff Rafn, NWTC president, gave his annual State of the College update this year with a twist: a showcase of some of the College's latest developments in advanced manufacturing technologies. Demonstrations included virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and additive manufacturing.
"My vision is to provide the tools, knowledge, and workforce necessary to maintain and grow Northeast Wisconsin’s position as a leading manufacturing region in the United States--indeed, the world," said Dr. Jeff Rafn, NWTC president, in his opening remarks. "To accomplish this, we must continue to increase producitivity through the use of a smaller, highly-skilled workforce."
NWTC is already working to provide technicians who can help Northeast Wisconsin companies take advantage of these technologies by providing ongoing training and updates to faculty, investing in new equipment and building Industry 4.0 into curriculum for engineering, energy and IT degree programs.
"It was absolutely amazing," said Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Radke. "You hear about the technology or read about the technology, but when you are actually able to walk through and have hands-on and really see it personally, it changes your perspective and it becomes very real." She added that the event provided "a keen awareness of the type of students who are graduating and the skills that they're bringing forward, and really that NWTC is on the cutting edge of technology."
The College is focusing on three new technology areas:
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
Increasing the collection of and use of data to predict and address opportunities to avoid problems and/or continually improve productivity in manufacturing processes and machine operation. This combines increased use of sensors and broader instruction in data analytics.
Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing
Increases ability to quickly modify and customize production to meet unique needs of each customer. Although there are small-scale 3D printers in Northeast Wisconsin, NWTC's goal is to implement production-level 3D printing and to integrate it with key programs which will be affected, ranging from manufacturing to health care.
Incorporation of Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality Tools
VR and AR are expected to affect not just what the College teaches, but how. The tools can allow users to see inside systems and visualize how designs may affect each other, which can help with error reduction and training in industry and can enhance learning at NWTC.
NWTC is committed to being Northeast Wisconsin’s technology college. In some industries, NWTC already provides 25% or more of the trained new workers for the state of Wisconsin. Already, providing that workforce includes producing Prototype and Design graduates with 3D printing experience for custom manufacturing on demand. It includes teaching Energy Management students how to use building intelligence systems to reduce facility costs. It includes bringing experts in to talk to our instructors so we can adapt to new practices quickly. It will drive our continued growth — for employers and employees.
The Trades and Engineering atrium, located in the Engineering Technology Center on the Green Bay campus, is about to get a major facelift.