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Focus Magazine | Fall 2009

Focus on Workplace Training: Waupaca Foundry

Focus on Workplace Training: Waupaca Foundry

Spring 2013

Mar 1, 2013

Training Today’s Talent

The Waupaca Foundry relies on Fox Valley Technical College to help keep its workforce skilled and competitive.

When the Waupaca Foundry decided to upgrade its assembly line with robotic arm technology, it looked to Fox Valley Technical College.

As the largest producer of iron castings in the world, the Waupaca Foundry maintains its industry leadership by investing in the latest equipment and technology. To train employees on how to operate, program, maintain, and troubleshoot these high-tech tools, the company turns to FVTC's Business & Industry Services team. Recently, the Waupaca Foundry added robotic arms to its assembly lines in an effort to enhance productivity and reduce downtime.

“We met with Fox Valley Technical College and discussed what we needed at every level of this project,” states Gordy Barth, manager of employee development and training at the Waupaca Foundry. “Then, the college helped us acquire the robots and implement custom-designed programs for several of our employees.”

Barry Degler, electrical foreman at Waupaca Foundry, was one of the 16 employees who took the two-day troubleshooting program. “I appreciated how Fox Valley Tech combined academics with hands-on problem-solving,” he says. “We learned all the necessary steps and then got to work on our own robots.”

Degler had never dealt with this type of technology before, but in just two days, he received all the training he needed. “The instructors did an outstanding job of preparing us,” he states. “For example, they would intentionally mess up the robots to have us figure out how to fix them. They understood that the more hands-on work you do and the more problems you solve, the better you develop your skills.”

Degler is confident he can keep the robotic arms running smoothly. “The arm picks up the part, dips it into the wash, and then puts it on the conveyor. It does this about 400 times per hour—much faster than we could ever do by hand,” he says. “If the arm stops working, I make adjustments and reset it.”

Barth has once again been impressed with the effectiveness of FVTC’s approach to training. “The outcome has been fabulous,” he states. “Barry laughs about this, but I now call him the brains behind the robots.”

The new robotic arm technology combined with solid staff training has been very successful for the Waupaca Foundry. “It’s unbelievable how much it has helped us improve the entire manufacturing process without sacrificing any jobs,” says Barth. “Our employees are our number one asset; we will always invest in educating them. Working with Fox Valley Technical College is one more way that we can continue to produce best-in-class castings.”

State’s Manufacturers Need Technical Colleges

A 2012 survey asked Wisconsin manufacturers how they are addressing their industry’s skilled labor shortage. The second most frequently cited strategy on how to resolve this problem states, “Collaborative training programs with technical colleges.”

Survey conducted by Schenck, CPAs. Read the complete survey at www.schencksc.com