Autodesk sponsor Aarkel Tool & Die Inc. and St Clair College to train students on PowerMill


Tool & Die company, Aarkel have taken on an exciting challenge with the help of Autodesk, at their headquarters in Wallaceburg, Ontario Canada. Coupled with a local college, St Clair’s college, Aarkel Tool & Die Inc, are beginning a training scheme for students, with the hopes of retaining this workforce in years to come.

Aarkel have multiple licenses with Autodesk PowerMill and Autodesk Powershape, which they put to use across the globe, with plants in Mexico, USA, tool shops in Spain and Portugal and partners in China. Meanwhile, the students at St Clair College are already being trained on technical programming with PowerMill, Powershape and PowerInspect, so the transition to the training being provided with Aarkel is an exciting next step.

We spoke to CEO and President of Aarkel Tool & Die Inc, Larry Delaey about the amazing opportunity they are providing for these students.


When did you decide you wanted to do this training?

“The conversations have been going on for a couple of years now, which  Product Specialist Sales Exec. Thiago Fagionato from Autodesk, had been involved in. We knew what we wanted to do and that we wanted it to be in Wallaceburg, so we reached out to Autodesk to see whether they could assist us in making it happen. After some further discussions, we came to an agreement with St Clair College, and this is when we reached back out to Autodesk, to confirm their kindness in supporting the training.”


Why your Wallaceburg plant?

“The Wallaceburg plant is our HQ, however the main reason for holding it here is because Wallaceburg is a rural community about an hour and half to two hours away from Windsor where a lot of the mold shops are. We knew we had to do something locally, in a hope to retain the students when they go into full time work. We hope that if we do this locally, the students will want to stay with our company in years to come.”


What is your connection with Autodesk?

“We have many licenses with PowerMill and Powershape, and all our divisions use PowerMill, so that was the software we really wanted to train our students with. We have also recently purchased a large 3D printer for steel, so we hope to expand into additive manufacturing and Autodesk Netfabb potentially in the new year. The reason why we wanted to have the help off Autodesk for this project was because we believe it is all about standardisation and optimisation of the use of software. Now that we have the software across the board, we will hopefully be training future employees to have the knowledge as well.”

“Aarkel is leading with not only subtractive but implementing new technology and research for additive as well which not many people are doing in this area at the moment” Thiago added.


Why have you decide to do this now?

“Although it has been two years in the making, as I look at the aging workforce, I know I have to start predicting 10 years from now. Skilled trades are hard to find, so we are hopefully going to start training up our people, which are our most important asset. We are hopefully going to continually do a bit of training and classes each year to replenish employees and their knowledge, because we realise that as we get into an aging workforce people are going to start retiring from the business, just like I assume many other companies realise too.”


What are your hopes from the training?

“We are excited in the fact that training students means hopefully bringing some youth to our company, and with the youth comes new energy and different mindsets which we look forward to capturing. The goal is to train the students eventually to a really high level, as we go towards Industry 4.0 with automation, they will be trained using the tool changers, to program ahead or offline so that the machines continuously run, and that’s the goal.”


Is this the start of something big?

“This is definitely a pilot scheme to start with as we wanted to try something new. The way it is working is that St Clair is providing the instructors and teachers, we are bringing the hardware, and very kindly Autodesk are sponsoring us with the software, PowerMill. We have invested a fair bit into this, providing CNC machines with tool changers and all the materials. We are also paying the students to attend and come to Aarkel, from our payroll. So as a company we are really excited for something new, but even myself I am nervous. It may be short-term now but we are definitely looking for the long-term gains.”


“To add, another big reason for doing this is because when people leave the industry, I believe we have failed them because they were not trained properly. A lot of the time when people leave it isn’t do to with the money, it is that they weren’t properly trained to get their jobs done and reach expectations. So with this training, hopefully the students will be able to go into the plant and have a boost to get going, after the training we have provided.”


Where do you see the future of manufacturing?

“I believe the strong will survive. We are lucky in partnering with Autodesk and being able to listen to their advice, and to see what is changing. We have to work together across the globe, which is something we are doing. You can embrace the high-end technology and get the most out of your machines, but you need to train your people. That is where companies have to go now, and drive to move forward into the future.”

Thiago Fagionato also added, “the industry is evolving, and we are in that transition time coming from subtractive to new technology such as additive and generative. Companies like Aarkel are at the forefront of the research time, and they are going to be at the forefront of releasing this new technology to the market. Not many companies are doing that at the moment, but Aarkel is.”

For now, Autodesk, Aarkel and St Clair college are extremely excited to see where this takes the students, and manufacturing in Wallaceburg.

Ellie Rathbone

Social Media Marketing Specialist at Autodesk, managing all advanced manufacturing social channels across multiple platforms. Based in the UK.

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