(TNS) — Alabama economic development leaders rolled out a plan Tuesday to keep the state competitive in a new global manufacturing revolution.
“The manufacturing world is changing rapidly and we in Alabama, all of our workforce resources, have to answer the bell on that topic,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ed Castile said in Decatur. “For us to not only stay competitive, but to help our customers (Alabama industries) remain competitive in the world they work in.”
Castile and other state leaders came to the Alabama Robotics Technology Park near Decatur, where employees are trained now to work in modern production systems featuring robots and other advance technology. They unveiled RTP 2, a new plan to focus future training at the park on automation, robotics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, data analytics and 3D printing.
Some new technologies – 3D printing, for example – are as relevant to auto plants as aerospace plants, Castile said. “The vehicles are going to have the technology in them,” he said, “and building them will have technology in the processes.” He gave new “advanced joining technologies” as an example. “Cars today – welds are certainly there – but many of them are being glued together, frankly, and some of the technology that surrounds that is phenomenal.”
The plan includes new equipment for the Robotics Technology Park, including laser welding tools, and training in such skill areas as producing Automated Guided Vehicles and combining technologies with materials.
Responding to the challenge starts with making sure graduates of Alabama training programs understand basic manufacturing, the leaders said. New technologies and processes will keep coming, but workers first need a general foundation in how plants operate.
State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) praised the state’s commitment. “Too many times in state government, we start something and then allow it to drift, get stagnant, get stale, become less and less effective and the world around it changes,” Orr said. “We do not want that to happen here at the robotics park.”
Brooks Kracke, president and CEO of the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, said the robotics training center “helps us immensely” in recruiting new industry to the state.
“In 2020, there will be 2 million robot systems sold worldwide,” Kracke said. “Some of those will be handled here at the Robotics Technology Park.”
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