04/26/19 – High-tech furniture training unveiled

Posted on: April 26th, 2019 by admin


April 26, 2019


By: Garrett Stell



With a snip from a pair of gilt-edged scissors, a yellow ribbon fell away and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute President Dr. Mark Poarch welcomed a crowd of guests to what he hopes will help usher in the next generation of furniture manufacturing and education in the county.


The CCC&TI Furniture Factory Lab will simulate a factory floor, complete with sophisticated, modern equipment for sewing, upholstering and now cutting, thanks to a state-of-the-art Lectra IX Mosaic automated cutting machine.


The lab has been over two years in the making, he said.


“This is the ultimate collaboration between business, industry, and education,” Poarch announced to a crowd that had gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.


Lectra, a multinational corporation that develops equipment and technologies for the fashion and furniture industries, is the college’s newest partner and supplied the school with the new machine, which is capable of cutting through foam up to 1 inch thick and recreating intricate patterns in detail.


In an interview ahead of Thursday’s ceremony, Heather Corrigan, Lectra’s furniture marketing manager, emphasized the need to keep pushing towards the future when training workers for the furniture industry.


“Manufacturing is no longer purely manual,” she said. “As companies grow and progress, many manual tasks become automated, and those workers can be moved to higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs.”


Bernhardt Furniture, McCreary Modern and Fairfield Chair are founding partners of the new furniture lab. They worked with college staff to design the layout of the lab and tailor training to meet their needs and drive workers toward available jobs, Poarch said.


Susan Deal, who leads CCC&TI’s Mechanical Engineering Technology department, said she always emphasizes new technology when she teaches her students about the furniture industry, and the Lectra machine and its wide-ranging capabilities for cutting intricate designs is a prime example.


“I ask my students all the time, ‘Do you like video games? Drawing? Computers? Then you might like a job in furniture,'” Deal said. “When they talk about how they have been steered away from furniture by the older generation, I tell them, ‘This is not your grandma’s furniture industry.'”


When Poarch began working on the idea for the furniture lab in 2017, he was motivated by a lack of interest in furniture jobs among young people as well as deficiencies at the college in terms of facilities and equipment.


“Our employers simply deserved better,” Poarch said.


Edouard Macquin, president of Lectra Americas, said that research at Lectra has identified trends in manufacturing that he hopes to take advantage of through his company’s new partnership with CCC&TI.


For instance, the industry is changing to meet changing consumer demands, including a preference for products that are custom-made and made closer to their home. These consumers are younger and they tend not to compromise when it comes to style or timely delivery of goods, Macquin said.


He also talked about the fact that the geography of the industry has changed from the early 2000s, when so many furniture jobs were shipped overseas. During that time, the furniture industry was understood to be driven by unskilled manual labor, but Macquin said that is now an antiquated view.


“The area for competition has to become technology,” he said. “If the focus stays on unskilled labor, then there will always be another country that is cheaper.”


But shifting to more sophisticated technology does not mean future job loss.


“A shift in skills is required, but not in people,” he said. “Technology maintains workers by creating a competitive industry that can grow and improve and open the way for more jobs.”


In his public remarks at Thursday’s ceremony, he said that education is the way to keep workers ready to work with new technology.


“Calling this the furniture ‘lab’ is the right name because a lab is not standing still in time. A lab is something that evolves,” he said.


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