When the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), which has the stated aim of ‘inspiring Great British manufacturing on the global stage’, created the Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC), it wanted to deliver the best in terms of skills development. It is achieving this through the introduction of a high-technology training programme, directly employing apprentices, and investing in the machine tools the AMTC regards as the most suitable for enhancing skills.
The most recent investment comprised nine machines from Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools(www.xyzmachinetools.com
); these are being used to provide the transition from basic manual machines to CNC. Neil Fowkes, head of training at the AMTC, said: “We currently have 120 apprentices split into three groups. They are all directly employed by the MTC, and the aim is to develop their skills to a level that after their initial two years of training, they will add value to SME companies in our area — and be ambassadors of the AMTC.
“In their first year, our apprentices attend a local college and work towards their EAL Extended Diploma. They then return to the AMTC, where they work on various individual projects and team projects, while also undertaking training on the core subjects of metrology, CNC and ‘intelligent automation’.
“We feel that after this, they will be developing into well-rounded and knowledgeable trainees, which is why we work with local SMEs to make them aware of the skills available. We also enhance our apprentices’ prospects with a series of work placements. However, that isn’t the end of their training, as they have the option of extending their education and going on to study for a ‘Higher Education Programme’ if their grades and future employer allow.”
It is when these apprentices return from their time at college that they need to start making the transition to becoming knowledgeable about machine tools and the application of CNC. In order to achieve this, the AMTC needed a range of machines that would make this transition straightforward.
XYZ Machine Tools — with its range of manual machines and ProtoTrak-controlled mills and lathes — was the supplier of choice. That said, it wasn’t just the machines that swung the decision for the MTC; it was looking for a partner that understood the training environment and could work with the staff running the AMTC.
Mr Fowkes said: “We needed suppliers with which we could develop a relationship, suppliers that could accommodate our requirements as we develop our training activities. When we met with XYZ, it was obvious that the company understood the training environment and would ensure we bought the machines that were needed, not what they wanted to sell. Furthermore, XYZ’s willingness to work with us, combined with its extensive experience in the education and training sector, gave us the confidence that we needed.”
The XYZ machines installed at the AMTC comprise five manual machines — two XYZ trainer 1330 lathes and two SLV manual mills (each fitted with Newall digital read-outs), plus an XYZ 1020 surface grinder — complemented by four ProtoTrak-controlled machines — two SLX 1630 ProTurn lathes and two SMX 2000 ProtoTrak mills. They are used to machine both standard test pieces and individual parts that students (both apprentices and those on graduate programmes) have designed as part of their ‘design for manufacture’ studies. The AMTC also hosts many tours for students looking to take up an apprenticeship, and the machines play an important role in these. Existing apprentices demonstrate the machines’ capabilities, although in some cases — and under strict supervision — students can machine simple parts for themselves.
“The combination of the XYZ machines, the experience of our sector and the on-going support provided by XYZ has created an environment that is conducive to high-quality technical learning — particularly as XYZ provided a complete package that included staff training and on-going support,” said Mr Fowkes.
“An example of this is an upcoming four-day advanced course for 12 of our trainees. This will see them undergo intensive programming tuition, not only on the ProtoTrak control system but also on Siemens controls, to prepare them for the next step up in machine tool technology. This training followed a discussion we had with John Aspinall, XYZ’s education sales director; and within 24hr of our meeting, the training had been organised and scheduled.”