The Hidden Value of Skilled Technicians in Manufacturing

July 1, 2017

The positive economic impact of educating and adding skilled technicians to support manufacturing industries and grow middle class jobs in the United States is a common goal across the country. But what is the impact of those multi-skilled technicians to their employers once they have entered employment? That’s a question no one could answer until now.

There is very little recent concrete information to answer this question, so Danine Alderete-Tomlin, executive director of AMTEC, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence at the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges System (KCTCS) asked her colleague, Dr. Klaus Blache, at the University of Tennessee Knoxville-Reliability and Maintainability Center (UT-RMC) to investigate.

Blache and his staff of experts provide advanced technical education, research and process improvement assistance to small businesses and Fortune 500 corporations throughout the world. He and his team of experts work with maintenance technicians, plant engineers and manufacturing leaders to educate and improve manufacturing, technical and engineering processes. It was from their large database that UT-RMC could glean solid numbers connected directly to skilled trades and skilled maintenance technician performance. In essence, the method used reverse engineering from subject matter experts and retrieved data directly related to technicians, their education and their resulting performance to keep their manufacturing processes running smoothly and with minimal unscheduled disruptions.

The 15 companies that responded to Blache’s initial request had a range of responses from $30,000 to $250,000 dollars. From the UT-RMC data of more than 400 projects/plants that employed precision maintenance technicians and engaged precision maintenance practices, corporations averaged a savings of $400,000 dollars annually per technician, or six times the technicians’ average salary of $65,000.

Precision maintenance includes specialized subject areas, such as predictive and preventive maintenance, use of specialized technologies like infrared thermography, laser alignment, lubrication sampling and analysis, vibration and ultrasonic analysis and their accurate applications in the manufacturing environment. The information clearly shows the implication of advanced technical education and training yielding positive returns on investment.

According to Blache, the data presented in his study for AMTEC represents a conservative calculation and only reflects what “could be found” in the documented data that is calculated as an annual number.

The additional benefits gained by these advanced technical maintenance skills and properly trained technicians also helps to avoid about 50 percent of the human error generated issues as found in this study. The findings provide solid evidence for the economic and educational impact that investments in advanced technical education have made for the manufacturing industry. A postsecondary institution that graduates 15 highly skilled precision maintenance technicians a year has the ability to positively affect an industry by $6,000,000 a year on the high end or $450,000 on the low end of the study range. Thus, continued investments in student and employee advanced technical education and skill development are required for the United States to be a leader in advanced manufacturing.

To learn more about manufacturing industrial technology: industrial maintenance track and similar degrees at KCTCS that teach these advanced technologies, see page 175 of the KCTCS Catalog.