G. Schuh, K. Kuhlmann, H. Ziskoven, M. Pitsch

RWTH Aachen University (GERMANY)
Tool making takes up a key position within the production industries of most major economies. This crucial role arises from their responsibility for the entire industrial value chain in terms of time, cost and quality. A tool’s abilities have significant influence on production quality and cycle times, thus having a tremendous effect on the manufacturing costs. Today’s turbulent economic environment confronts the tooling industry with serious challenges. Cost competition and the high demands of globalized value chains put pressure on tool makers. At the moment European tool makers still outperform companies from low wage countries in matters of productivity and quality of their tools, but the gap is decreasing. Therefore the tool and die industry in high wage countries has to create a knowledge advantage to preserve international competitiveness.
Only by regularly qualifying and educating their employees in the fields of technology, economical principles and self-development a long term advantage can be achieved. 80% of the German tool and die makers have less than 20 employees. It is therefore difficult to offer their employees further education using existing education methods and programs. Due to restricted resources the absence of high skilled workers over a full period of two or three years is almost impossible. A solely theoretical education has moreover proven to have little return for the mostly practically oriented tooling experts.
The tool and die industry needs further education which is independent from a fixed time frame and especially tailored to the needs and learning habits of the high skilled workers. To address this need a flexible and modular structured master’s program in tool and die engineering has been created. The program is exclusively part time and contains twelve modules including the master’s thesis. Since each semester contains two modules the program can be passed in three and a half years. This program entirely focuses on the needs of the tool and die industry and is unique in Germany.
The paper will show up an effective and promising concept of educating employees in tool making by a wide offer of different and to the specific needs of the individual companies adaptable and flexible education programs, so that the required knowledge advantage can be realized. As a consequence not only tool makers would profit, but also the complete industry relying on high performance tools by European tool makers.