By   Penny Brown, Public Affairs Director

In our industry, there’s one question that seems to come up time and again: In a continuously evolving world of technology, and with products and customer demands changing all the time, how much should manufacturing focus on the preservation of old-school craftsmanship?

While manufacturing increasingly has become the milieu of automation, at the heart of it continues to lay the art form as carried out by the people on the shop floor. The current skills gap illustrates that we have a broken system when it comes to instilling these types of skills in young people, and also in inspiring those same young people to want to learn those skills. 

During the holidays I found an interesting video clip from a Japanese show called Supreme Skills. (You can find a few episodes by searching for the show title on YouTube.) The challenge was issued to two teams: Build a “miracle top” that can spin forever (or at least a really long time). One team was comprised of engineers who utilized high-powered computing and other advanced technologies. The other was made up of craftsman with years of experience who build everything by hand. 

I won’t give away the ending, but I thought the intersection between the two was fascinating, and illustrates the issue we face all the time: How can we maintain a culture of “craftsmanship pride” – and even instill it into future generations – while also embracing the new high-tech revolution that has swept manufacturing?

Our industry strongly needs both. The digital revolution is creating new opportunities for our industry that were previously only the stuff of imagination. At the same time, the passion for making something great is what will keep our industry thriving. I would love to hear AMT members’ thoughts and experiences with this.

And speaking of the intersection between old and new …

Deadline extension for MTConnect Student Challenge

In the new digital industrial revolution, many manufacturers have radically transformed their businesses to become more profitable, innovative and flexible than ever before. However, small- and medium-sized enterprises have often struggled to keep up. The MTConnect Student Challenge seeks to bridge that divide by bringing together student innovation and real-world manufacturing challenges.

The deadlines have been extended for submissions to both the idea creation and application development competitions. Open to any U.S.-based college student, the deadline for idea creation submissions is now March 15, and the application development competition is now July 15. Visit the MTConnect Student Challenge landing page for more information:

This challenge is a great way to introduce students to the world of manufacturing, and show them the opportunities that exist in the industry for innovation and technical know-how. Spread the word!

Questions? Thoughts? Reach me at