Class act

Since its launch in 2009 the CNC Training Academy has expanded its range of courses, completed a major revamp of its premises, invested in hardware and software, and introduced an innovative payment scheme for customers.

The ability to manufacture high-precision, complex parts faster, smarter and more economically is critical for every manufacturer, and may mean changing –  perhaps completely overhauling – manufacturing methods and business practice. The CNC Training Academy, the training arm of market-leading machine tool specialist Mills CNC, was launched against this backdrop. Its aim is to  provide high-quality, professionally-delivered and cost-competitive CNC Programmer Training courses to UK manufacturers looking to improve productivity and performance.

Training Academy manager Jeff HartCNC Training Academy’s Manager Jeff Hart (formerly Fanuc Training Manager – Europe) explains why precision manufacturers should consider CNC Programmer Training as a strategic and cost-effective route to business improvement: “It’s a fact of life that many manufacturers fail to get the most (or the best) from their CNC machine tools. Through investing in high-quality training this situation can be improved dramatically because, by sharpening up the knowledge and skills of CNC machine tool programmers and operators, a number of commercial and bottom line benefits can be realised.”

For example, jobs can be set up and completed more quickly and more efficiently; time and resources spent checking and re-checking work is reduced, and the likelihood of having to re-work or scrap jobs is eliminated. Machine tool utilisation is improved, and production bottlenecks are avoided by being able to exploit the full functionality and potential of machine tools; and new, higher value contracts can be won more easily because manufacturers can demonstrate to their customers that they have the right people, with the right skills, to deliver on time and on budget. Also staff motivation and commitment can be improved – as can retention rates. “In short”  says Hart, “training is a recognised route to increased productivity and improved profitability.”

Mills CNC established The Training Academy to deliver the quality, in-depth training that’s required. The link with Mills is important, but it is not overplayed; indeed, a strategic decision was made to promote the Academy independently from Mills. Thus was created the CNC Training Academy brand, a separate website and a range of Academy-specific marketing and promotional materials. Says Hart: “We operate as a profit centre in our own right and, because we wanted to attract manufacturers to our courses that may not be Mills customers – it was important that we didn’t act or be perceived as merely a training adjunct to Mills CNC.’

This paid dividends at MACH 2010, with nearly 300 visitors to the Academy’s stand, ultimately generating sales in excess of £18.5k. This strong performance indicative of performance for the whole of 2010 (the first full year trading results), with sales topping £58k. ‘‘Over 110 companies selected the Academy as its CNC training provider in 2010’ says Hart “and feedback from these companies as to the quality, comprehensiveness and value of our training courses has been extremely positive.”

As well as  providing courses for individual companies, the Academy has established strong links with a number of UK industry associations such as the MAA (Midlands Aerospace Alliance) and CEME (Centre for Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence) – a joint venture which will see a number of CNC Programmer seminars and short courses being run at CEME’s facility in Rainham, Essex.

Why choose the Training Academy?

According to Hart here are a number of other reasons why manufacturers have considered and chosen the Academy for their CNC Programmer Training requirements:

* All CNC Programmer Training Courses are delivered by industry experts. Academy courses are practical and ‘hands-on’ – the emphasis being on ‘learning-by-doing’.

* Courses take place at Mills CNC’s centrally-located facility in Leamington – which allows course attendees direct access to the very latest Doosan CNC machine tools and the ability to try out their newly- learned-skills in real time and in a real manufacturing environment. A major revamp has seen over £25k invested in refurbishing the  training classroom. Since December 2010 the Academy has purchased 10 x Inspiron One PCs (64-bit processor) all wireless networked and each with a wireless keyboard and mouse. All of the PCs have been loaded with Fanuc Manual Guide i (Turning and Milling); CIMCO Edit 5 (Simulation Programmes); Fanuc PC Fapt, FeatureCAM etc.

The training room has also been equipped with a new interactive whiteboard, hi-res projector, a new sound system and comfortable chairs and desks, all contributing to a modern and comfortable training environment.

* The depth and breadth of the Academy Programmer courses: Fanuc Programmer Courses cover everything from 2-axis lathes right through to multi-axis turning centres – and milling machines through to mill-turn centres, with specialist and advanced Custom Macro A and Macro B courses also available.

Heidenhain Programmer Courses are equally comprehensive covering all aspects of 3-, 4- and 5-axis milling, and the Academy has recently added Siemens Courses (Siemens 840D Twin Turret/Twin Spindle & 840D Horizontal and Vertical 4-axis) to its training portfolio. Specialist courses for Fanuc Manual Guide i, PC Fapt and FeatureCAM are also available and will be heavily marketed this year.

* All Training Academy CNC Programmer courses are supported by comprehensive course manuals (that are the property of course attendees) and, following successful course completion all attendees receive their Academy Training Certificate that details the course they have attended and the skills they have acquired.

* During 2010 the Academy introduced a low-cost, monthly payment plan which was well received by customers and which, as a consequence, is being offered during 2011. This initiative allows customers to spread the cost of their Academy training over a 12 month period into smaller ‘bite-size’ amounts, and is designed to help customers manage and control their training costs and commitments more effectively.

To take advantage of the Training Academy courses, companies do not have to be a Doosan machine tool user or existing Mills customer. Indeed, over 40% of course attendees have been users of other CNC machine tools

Concludes Jeff Hart: “If you’re a precision manufacturer looking to do things better and differently in 2011 – investing in your people by subcontracting your CNC Programmer training requirements to the Training Academy is sure to pay dividends.”