A Knowledge Partnership for the definition and launch of the European Teaching Factory Paradigm in manufacturing education
Academic institutions are still acting somewhat independently from industry in the definition and delivery of their educational programs, often failing to meet the every day needs of the manufacturing enterprises. Development of educational curricula has not kept pace with either the growing complexity of industry or the economy, and even less with the rapid development of new technologies. Studies are often too lengthy and too general. Furthermore, it can be argued that manufacturing is a subject that cannot be handled efficiently inside a university classroom alone.
Moreover, education institutions typically invest the majority of their resources into basic and industry driven research. The outcomes of these investigations are presented in the scientific community through technical papers in scientific journals, presentations in conferences, workshops etc, without however being directly accessible to the industrial community. In this way, it is difficult for industry to comprehend and adapt the technological advances in a direct way.
Integrating the factory environment with the classroom seems to be the only way forward for addressing this problem. As stated in the “MANUFUTURE – A Vision for 2020” report, it is increasingly evident that the Teaching Factory is the required breakthrough. Within this context, the KNOW-FACT consortium, a Knowledge Partnership already partially structured in the context of the MANUFUTURE ETP activities (Manufacturing Education Work Group), aims to define both the conceptual and technological framework and the implementation roadmap for the launch of the Teaching Factory paradigm at a European level. The focus of the project pilots will be on the educational / learning aspects of delivering and utilising new knowledge on ICT for manufacturing, addressing the weak link of the knowledge triangle namely the one between education and innovation.
The breakthrough of the suggested work is the novel concept of seamlessly integrating research, innovation and education activities within a single initiative, so as to promote the future perspectives of knowledge-based, competitive and sustainable manufacturing in Europe. The concept of the Teaching Factory has its origins in the medical sciences discipline and specifically in the paradigm of the teaching hospitals, namely the medical schools operating in parallel with hospitals. Aiming to become a new paradigm in engineering education and training, the Teaching Factory initiative will have, in fact, a hybrid mission:
- Industrial training and education for university students
- Take-up of research results and training for industrial personnel
Its infrastructure will include all the required equipment either in physical or digital mode in order to realistically simulate a real-life working factory. Staff and students will work on real-life industrial projects within time and budget constraints while observing industry standards. The projects will be undertaken by multi-disciplinary teams of engineers and students on full-time project assignments. The Teaching Factory will be providing to the students the ability to access an industrial environment under real life work conditions. Students will be more practice-oriented and focused on problem solving. Moreover, the Teaching Factory will promote and facilitate the dissemination, further exploitation, and broad-take up of past and present research results, especially in view of the specific future needs of knowledge-based, competitive and sustainable manufacturing in Europe.
In support of the future launch of the Teaching Factory paradigm, KNOW-FACT will deliver
- a network of academic partners well prepared to undertake the implementation of the initiative
- a network of industrial partners committed to support the establishment of the initiative
- a complete study for the conceptualisation and implementation of the Teaching Factory
- a pilot run of the initiative operations
In order to achieve this output, the following approach will be followed:
- Extracting partners experience and networking with industry and academia to define the technological focus of the Teaching Factory and the respective operational requirements, as well as to elaborate its overall conceptual framework
- Specification of the virtual and physical entity of the pilot Teaching Factory, in terms of the required layout and its technological (IT, networking, manufacturing) infrastructure
- Development of the curriculum for the Teaching Factory taking under consideration its multi-disciplinary educational and training character, including the definition of the contents, the pedagogic approach and knowledge delivery mechanisms
- Running and validating pilot operational scenarios of the Teaching Factory in virtual / physical workspace layouts, involving academic staff, students and people from industry, using existing resources
- Investigating numerous prospects for the exploitation of the project results and preparing the implementation of the project’s study through the set-up of work groups that will bring together all major stake-holders
- Undertaking activities for the wide dissemination of the Teaching Factory concept and the project results