Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robotics and Rigging Training

This month, TOOLINGU.COM is releasing two new departments to enhance our already robust catalog of manufacturing classes. Our company has created the robotics and rigging departments to offer you even more manufacturing-specific training opportunities.

The new Robotics department offers a comprehensive overview of modern industrial robotics, including installation, maintenance, the basics of programming, and more. The various components of robots are explored in-depth, including end effectors, drives, and vision systems. These classes add to the large curriculum for maintenance professionals already available on our site.

Our Rigging department is focused on some more "back-to-basics" classes that can be used with new employees at any company that does heavy lifting. This new department focuses on the proper attachment and use of cable, chains, slings, and hoists, as well as other essential topics such as proper load calculations and rigging safety.

Intro to Robotics 110
Robot Safety 115
Robot Components 120
End Effectors 125
Applications for Robots 130
Robot Axes 140
Robot Sensors 150
Robot Troubleshooting 160
Robot Maintenance 170
Concepts of Robot Programming 210
Robotic Drives, Hardware, and Components 220
Robot Installations 230
Robotic Control Systems 240
Vision Systems 250

Rigging and Installation:
Intro to Machine Rigging 110
Rigging Equipment 120
Lifting and Moving Equipment 130
Rigging Inspection and Safety 210
Rigging Mechanics 220

Greg Herlevi
Director of Content

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What do Training Regulations Mean for Your Business?

Productivity mandates, reductions in workforces and cross-training initiatives often create unintended consequences. Recently, a plant manager told me he couldn’t afford to lose production time for training and could not afford to pay overtime. Another told me that paying his people to train when others at the plant were getting laid off would send the wrong message. In both cases, I recommended they offer a voluntary training program “off the clock” – taken on the employees’ own time.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has been striking fear in the hearts of managers for 71 years, thanks to some hefty fines and legal judgments levied upon corporate wrongdoers. It has also spawned a number of state laws, union work rules and, unfortunately, several common misconceptions. Here’s the good news:

Attendance at training or educational programs normally is not considered working time and therefore does not have to be compensated if:

  • Training is outside the employee’s regular work hours

  • Participation is voluntary

  • The employee does no productive work while training, and

  • The program is not directly related to the employee’s job. If an employee on his own initiative attends an educational program, the time is not considered hours worked even if the program is related to the job.

If you would like to read the exact wording in the Dept. of Labor documents without wading through the whole book, see below. Remember that only a small portion of the FLSA, which established a minimum wage and regulated important issues such as child labor and unpaid overtime, deals with training issues.

You may, however, live in a state with stricter regulations. To the best of my knowledge, all states allow training as long as it is voluntary and does not constitute productive work. But I’m no lawyer and you’ll sleep better if you ask one to verify the standards in your location.

If you would like to become more versed in the intricacies of the FLSA as it relates to training, I recommend an online class offered by a distance-learning colleague: The Human Equation.

What about the union?
ToolingU was recently written into a collective bargaining agreement with an automotive manufacturer where union leaders embraced the voluntary initiative to learn new skills on their own time. Management responded by providing a wage incentive plan tied to the successful completion of Toolingu.com classes and arranged into three levels of accomplishment.

Another Toolingu.com customer has a strict policy of paying employees for training time. However, the company negotiated a union concession to have training hours paid in “straight time” rather than “time-and-a-half,” even though the training time is performed in addition to the work week’s 40 hours.

There’s a growing recognition on the part of both labor and management that some of the decades-old work rules do not necessarily apply to the modern manufacturing environment. Communications and openness to new ideas are benefitting all concerned to make these companies more competitive.

Senior Client Executive



§ 785.29 Training directly related to employee’s job

…Where a training course is instituted for the bona fide purpose of preparing for advancement through upgrading the employee to a higher skill, and is not intended to make the employee more efficient in his present job, the training is not considered directly related to the employee’s job even though the course incidentally improves his skill in doing his regular work..”

§ 785.30 Independent training.

Of course, if an employee on his own initiative attends an independent school, college or independent trade school after hours, the time is not hours worked for his employer even if the courses are related to his job.

§ 785.31 Special situations.

There are some special situations where the time spent in attending lectures, training sessions and courses of instruction is not regarded as hours worked. For example, an employer may establish for the benefit of his employees a program of instruction which corresponds to courses offered by independent bona fide institutions of learning. Voluntary attendance by an employee at such courses outside of working hours would not be hours worked even if they are directly related to his job, or paid for by the employer.

§ 785.32 Apprenticeship training.

As an enforcement policy, time spent in an organized program of related, supplemental instruction by employees working under bona fide apprenticeship programs may be excluded from working time if the following criteria are met:
(a) The apprentice is employed under a written apprenticeship agreement or program which substantially meets the fundamental standards of the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training of the U.S. Department of Labor; and
(b) Such time does not involve productive work or performance of the apprentice’s regular duties. If the above criteria are met the time spent in such related supplemental training shall not be counted as hours worked unless the written agreement specifically provides that it is hours worked. The mere payment or agreement to pay for time spent in related instruction does not constitute an agreement that such time is hours worked.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Other SME

Many of you are familiar with SME, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. I’d like to talk about the other SME, the Subject Matter Expert. As a member of the content team at ToolingU, I have met many Subject Matter Experts. An SME is a vital component of our training development process. Largely behind-the-scenes, SMEs validate the content of our products by testing its accuracy and relevance. From my experience, all the great SMEs possess four essential qualities: Knowledge, Experience, Accessibility, and Enthusiasm.

As the name implies, an SME is an expert in a subject. SMEs know the "theory" (from the Greek theoria, which means to view something as a witness) of our topics, and ensure our research is accurate and reflects the most up-to-date advances in a particular field.

An SME is an experienced practitioner of knowledge, putting knowledge to work in a practical manner. SMEs "practice" (from the Greek praxis, which means to enact theory) what they know, and have the ability to make our material relevant to our students. Theory and practice, or knowledge and experience, are inextricably linked.

Knowledge and experience are nothing without accessibility. An SME is accessible, which in today's world is achieved in many ways: via phone, conference call, email, and on-site visits. Being able to readily tap into an SME's knowledge and experience is invaluable.

Lastly, and incidentally my favorite part of SME interaction, SMEs enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience in order to help others and to improve the workforce of tomorrow. Enthusiasm is infectious. Every SME I know loves sharing their knowledge and experience, and is committed to the advancement and long-term success of manufacturing.

The SME contribution to our training materials is passed to our students, and that contribution is likely to stay with the student long after they log off their accounts, into the future of success in the field.

Senior Content Developer

Thursday, August 6, 2009

ToolingU.com Website Update

ToolingU.com has been updated with new features to improve user experience and simplify common user tasks.

On ToolingU.com

For Administrators:

  • Student Passwords – can now be reset by Administrators.

  • Subscriptions – a new feature has been added to allow Administrators to lookup Subscription numbers to view details and determine if the number is a valid Subscription.

  • Student Names – in the case of misspelled student names, an easy method has been created to allow Administrators to request a correction. Once set, a student name cannot be changed. However, in the situation of a misspelling a Tooling U Customer Service representative can correct the name.

  • Student Groups – a new method has been added to provide Administrators with an easy and flexible method to view and print the students that have been assigned to a group or a range of selected groups.

  • Bulk Approvals/Disapprovals for Competencies – Administrators can now select competencies as being approved or disapproved in a single click. Prior to this change an administrator was forced to approve or disapprove each request one at a time.

  • Student Templates – can now be applied to all students within a selected group.

  • Student Permission – a new permission has been added to give the Administrator the option of requiring only that a Final Exam be completed before marking a class as being complete.

  • Administrator Accounts – Administrators can now update their own account information without being required to have permissions to manage other Administrator accounts.

  • Manage Administrator Accounts – a new feature has been added which allows multiple administrators to be added to a single Administrator Role. Prior to this change, it was only possible to apply an Administrator Role by opening each Administrator account and making the change.

  • Competency Manager – offline tasks can now be applied to a class, creating a direct relationship between an offline task and a class. This shows a student which offline tasks they should be completing in conjunction with a specific class.

  • Class Goals – can now be configured to reset on a recurring role. For example an organization may require each of their students to complete Fire Safety and Prevention 101 by July 1st every year.

If you have any questions or need assistance using any of the new features please contact support at info@toolingu.com.

Web Developer

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Another Successful Sales Meeting!

The 7th Annual Tooling U golf outing took place on Friday, July 24th at Big Met Golf Course in Ohio's Rocky River Reservation. The culmination of our annual sales meeting, the golf outing is our chance to catch up and interact with team members we may not necessarily see on a regular basis. The day and night were exceptional, even if the golf skills were not.

The gorgeous-weather day began with lunch at the award-winning Rocky River Brewing Company. Granted that waiting on a large party is not easy, the food and service at RRBC were outstanding. The foursomes then assembled at the golf course for a series of tee times beginning at 1:30 PM. Despite a shortage of carts (Big Met is, after all, the busiest course in Ohio…allegedly) the Tooling U golfers managed to tee off and subsequently grind the pace of play to a near-halt. Special thanks to the starter at Big Met for his patience, cordiality, and lightness of mood.

Shooting a scorching 1-over-par, Wes Howard, Dan Pruitt, and Tom Torres managed the best score of the day. The winning team had the right combination of power drives and precise approach shots, which gave the biggest competitive advantage.

The team with the lowest number of putts consisted of Michelle Robinson, Hamid Farzad, Carlos Sarmiento, and Chad Schron. Last and certainly least, Cindy May, James Vickers, Chris Pinner, and Gretchen Schultz managed to shoot an amazing 8-over-par in this scramble. That is no easy feat. Nice job guys!

After a long day on the links, the group headed to the home of James Vickers for dinner and to claim their prizes. Individual prizes went to Tony Keating (longest putt), James Vickers (longest drive), and Tim Cunningham (closest to the pin). Bryan Knaack, Chris Petty, Carlos Sarmiento, and Aleah Kapusi took away some pretty nifty door prizes.

Once again the golf outing proved to be a great way to foster camaraderie here at Tooling U. I would like to thank everyone for their participation and enthusiasm. Lastly, special thanks to Greg Herlevi for his efforts in organizing the event.

Ben Johnson
Senior Content Developer