Hands-On Laboratory Designed to Help Better Prepare Students for Success in Manufacturing Production
ELYRIA, Ohio – April 25, 2018 – April 24 was a day of celebration for students at Colegio de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos del Estado de Coahuila (CECyTEC) – a local technical vocational school in Acuña, Mexico – as the school opened the doors to a new industrial production lab. Joining the young people in the ribbon-cutting and tours of the new lab were leaders from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and the Mexican state government, which teamed with CECyTEC to design and build the lab under a shared commitment to enhance the school’s facilities, infrastructure, and curriculum.
The 3,000-square-foot state-of-the-art industrial production laboratory is intended to increase the educational opportunities available to youth in Ciudad Acuña. It is part of a two-initiative plan with CECyTEC. In a program started last August, Bendix also provides a dual-education apprenticeship opportunity for select CECyTEC students, while delivering practical training for the students at the company’s Acuña campus. Bendix has maintained its growing manufacturing operations in Acuña, a city of 181,000, since 1988. The company recently expanded its presence in Mexico, opening a new Engineering Research and Development Center in Monterrey.
Knorr-Bremse Global Care (KBGC), Bendix/Bendix Foundation, and CECyTEC provided funding for lab construction and equipment, a total investment of almost $300,000. The dual-education program is funded solely by Bendix.
“Acuña’s growth as a city and continued expansion as a key manufacturing center are increasing the need for a qualified workforce to meet ongoing production demands. We created the dual-apprenticeship program in part to help address that need,” said Carlos Hungria, Bendix chief operating officer, who serves as project coordinator with Maria Gutierrez, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “We’re grateful for the chance to partner with CECyTEC in improving and providing additional educational opportunities for the Acuña community. These initiatives grow directly out of our company-wide commitment at Bendix to give back to the communities where we live and work – a commitment shared by Knorr-Bremse Global Care and the Knorr-Bremse Group.”
The production lab will provide an on-site opportunity for CECyTEC students to simulate and experiment on practical industrial workplace scenarios. More than 300 students enrolled in the Industrial Production vocational career at Bendix will use the facility. The company also hopes to continue partnering with CECyTEC to expand the use of the lab to offer workshops by Bendix employees and summer STEM courses for children in the community.
“We gave much thought to what will allow the students at CECyTEC – where the focus on industrial production meshes so well with Bendix – to enter the workforce better prepared for what they’ll encounter in a production setting,” Gutierrez said. “Our approach is to provide learning opportunities in a state-of-the-art industrial lab setting – to help give students the tools they need to succeed and potentially advance into leadership roles.”
Approximately half of the lab, which began construction in August 2017, is devoted to a simulated industrial manufacturing area, with a multi-use classroom and computer workshop making up the remaining space.
The industrial area holds a five-station assembly line for Bendix valves; a LEGO® assembly line with 10 work stations; machining equipment (lathe, drill, and mill); quality/metrology and warehouse/logistics areas; a safety area; and a production systems area with production boards and monitor.
In the other half of the lab, multi-use tables can be set up classroom-style or as team workspaces for training and workshops. The space is large enough to accommodate up to 45 students. A TV monitor is available for projection. The computer workshop area contains 10 CAD workstations – allowing collaboration by teams of up to 20 students – and four 3D printers. Computer stations include software for design, layout, quality control, and production systems.
The lab was built with several sustainability features, such as the use of skylights and solar panels, which will provide enough light and power for the computers and equipment in the lab. Other sustainability features include energy-efficient lighting, an insulated roof, and thermal block for the building structure. These attributes will make the building energy-efficient, reduce the operational and maintenance costs of the lab, and provide a healthy educational environment – all toward the goal of minimizing the impact on the environment.
“In the short term, the lab is meant to provide not only a theoretical-knowledge learning opportunity but now also a hands-on approach to learning,” Gutierrez said. “Medium term, we want to expand our relationship with CECyTEC while continuing to engage our own Bendix team members by hosting workshops and sharing our production systems knowledge. Long term, we hope the new lab inspires other organizations and schools to improve the quality of education and provide best practices to help the youth.”
Bendix’s dual-education apprenticeship program is the second part of its two-initiative plan with CECyTEC. The program features ongoing two-year scholarships that combine classroom instruction at CECyTEC with hands-on training at Bendix. Four CECyTEC students were selected for the inaugural class in this visionary program; four additional students will be added in each subsequent year. A total of eight students will be participating concurrently at any time throughout the program.
In combination, Bendix intends the industrial lab and apprenticeship program to help better prepare students with the skills required to enter the workforce, while also exposing them to simulated and actual manufacturing work environments.
Bendix partners with CECyTEC in other ways as well. The company offers tours of its Acuña operation, for example. Also, CECyTEC teachers can spend three to five days at the Bendix plant learning new methodologies and catching up with the latest industry innovations. In addition to its apprenticeship program, Bendix offers summer internship opportunities. For the apprenticeship program, Bendix served as honorary “godparent” for the graduating class of 2017 – and will do the same for this year’s class.
Global Care is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by the Knorr-Bremse Group, Bendix’s parent company. The organization was created to give people in need – through no fault of their own – a chance to lead more independent lives. In 2017, KBGC implemented 60 projects in 28 countries with a total funding of EUR 2.011 million. The nonprofit also aims to help increase the awareness of employees within the Munich, Germany-based Knorr-Bremse Group to support the need for greater social involvement, to encourage individuals to become active themselves, and – via Global Care projects – to offer unparalleled leadership and project management experience to its employees.
“One focus of Global Care is education,” Gutierrez said. “Recognizing the 14 percent youth unemployment rate worldwide, the program pays special attention to projects in vocational training. This includes establishing a necessary framework for young students. Through the improvement of the local CECyTEC facility – with a focus on vocational training – Bendix is part of the global strategy of focusing on youth education. The goal is a better future for our communities and the countries where we operate.”