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Is your issue a skills gap or a knowledge gap?

You may have received a call to action to address the skills gap, which might feel making a bridge across the Grand Canyon with a few sticks and some string. The overarching term, “skills gap,” encompasses a variety of workplace topography with very different types of solutions. Perhaps, because of its large scale “skills gap” doesn’t come close to identifying the specific scope or the needs of your organization. The problem may lie in defining what the problem really is.

How do you define a skills gap?

There are a variety of reasons for the rift between matching people with available jobs. 

The Technology Gap

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies may pose one of two types of concerns. Either your facility is expanding toward the future and your people have skill shortages, or your facility is crawling toward these endeavors and you can’t keep your people from being lured away.

“The types of skills that employees need to possess are rapidly evolving, and it seems increasingly difficult for the workforce to keep pace.

If your facility has embraced AI and robotics in the workplace, educational bridges for these gaps may already be started. If this technology is still in a galaxy far, far away, perhaps first laying a foundational understanding of the basics the technology is addressing is a timelier approach for your current workers.

The Perception Gap

Misconceptions of what a career in your industry involves could be adding to your labor shortage. “It’s these misperceptions that exacerbate the skills shortage we’re facing, as young people, their parents and guidance counselors don’t see manufacturing as a viable career path.” 

Get onboard with an organization that is tackling the manufacturing myth for the workforce of tomorrow or start your own. Host a manufacturing day with a local school or community college and find ways to get employees involved. A group of like-minded change-makers can more readily organize and propose a paradigm shift, even if it is just within your facility or town.

The Knowledge Gap

Aging and subsequent generation identity are important issues in the world of manufacturing. Knowledge and experience are leaving and may not be handed off. A new generation of workers grew up with a very different landscape of tools and methods of learning. In training, these new learners may struggle with a mentor approach that can be sporadic in conveying information.

How do you make strides across the knowledge gap?

Laying a strong foundation of training in the basics for your industry can be an important supporting tool for bridging the gap. If the chasm you are facing is related to the preparation of various levels of experience, THORS courses can help.

The first thing taught is terminology. “From there, we build an understanding of the process and then cover how to apply the knowledge,” Kumar says.

Kumar says, “many training programs focus on teaching how to do something, but the “what” and “why” are crucial to understanding an entire process.” The understanding of the foundation allows for more creative problem-solving.

Skills Gap, Knowledge Gap

Once workers understand the terminology outside of their immediate responsibilities and department, they can have more effective conversations and collaboration with coworkers—“because now they understand what’s going on upstream and downstream from what they do,” Kumar says.

Perhaps by addressing the specific and relevant gap being faced, building a bridge across the skills gap can feel less like a daunting canyon and more like a manageable span over a narrow gulley.

We want to hear from you! Let’s discuss how THORS can aid in identifying and being a resource in your training operations.

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Course Highlight GD&T

GD&T: 3 Factors that Affect Understanding

Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) is a complicated and complex standard that can lead to reading and interpreting errors. On drawings, GD&T is used as a point of reference in order to easily and effectively manufacture products that meet the fit, form, and function requirements of the part.


Due to the complex nature of the standard, GD&T can be incredibly difficult for users to understand and interpret, potentially leading to a disconnect between the design, manufacture, and inspection of parts.

DATUM Reference Frame GD&T

Render of a datum reference frame fully constraining a part in all degrees of freedom.

To better comprehend why GD&T is such a difficult concept, the following are common factors that can limit one’s understanding and interpretation of GD&T:

Prerequisite knowledge:

GD&T is an advanced-level concept that assumes the user has a full understanding of the rules, conventions, symbols, and associated terminology of print reading. Users who have not mastered the basic concepts found on a drawing are woefully unprepared to understand the complexity and technical intricacies of GD&T.

Language fluency

In its simplest form, GD&T is a language comprised of symbols used on prints that offer an enhanced version of a drawing in order to clearly convey the design intent for the part. Thus, as a language, there are levels of fluency a user must acquire. Until a user is fully fluent in the language of GD&T, much like a native speaker in their mother tongue, they will not fully comprehend the dynamics and relationships between the part’s features expressed on a print.

2D vs. 3D perspective

In addition to the prerequisite knowledge and levels of language fluency, a user must be able to mentally conceptualize the relationships expressed on a drawing between the features of a part. Individuals who are not familiar with print reading and how a two-dimensional drawing translates to a three-dimensional part will find GD&T incredibly difficult to navigate and elusive to grasp.

Due to the limitations imposed by the standard on the understanding and interpretation of GD&T, the following crucial areas in an organization could be affected:

  • Bidding process
  • Prototyping process
  • Product quality

Bottom-line profitability can be drastically affected by issues in any one of these critical areas. However, organizations and individuals who dedicate themselves to mastering the basics of print reading, developing their GD&T language fluency, and shaping their 2D/3D perspective have the greatest potential for understanding this fundamental industry concept.

Kavita Krishnamurthy is an ASQ certified Six Sigma Black Belt with over 15 years of experience in the field of process improvement, manufacturing engineering, and quality management in the automotive and gear industries. She is also the subject matter expert of our GD&T Fundamentals course.

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Castings

Green Sand: A Classic Casting Recipe

Casting Chronicles

The history of humanity is defined by man’s relationship with the material world. Man’s ability to make tools from metals has changed our historical trajectory.

A copper frog from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) dating back to 3200 BCE is the oldest known casting. Farm tools made of cast iron were used in China in 600 BCE. In the Middle Ages, metal casting was widely used for making bells and artillery. Fast forward to the nineteenth century, iron and steel manufacturing underpinned the industrial revolution.

According to recent estimates published by the American Foundry Society (AFS), most people in the United States are rarely more than ten feet away from a metal casting: metal castings continue to permeate our lives in the Age of Plastic. Metal castings are indispensable to our engineering feats—automobiles, aerospace, construction equipment, machinery, house-hold appliances, medical devices, hardware, water industry, and other infrastructure. This year, in the United States, sales of metal castings will generate thirty-three billion dollars in revenue.

Casting: A Kaleidoscopic View

A casting is a metal part made by pouring molten metal into a mold, allowing it to solidify, and extracting the final casting. Metal castings are predominantly produced in sand molds. Sand molds are expendable, or single-use, molds that are destroyed after retrieving the casting.

Green sand is the most used molding medium; green sand is moist foundry-grade sand. Interestingly, green sand is not green in color.

Green sand molds are made from three ingredients—sand, water, and clay binders. The molds are fabricated by compressing the sand mixture around the pattern. Ferrous metals including various types of iron and steel are primarily cast in green sand molds. Non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum, copper, bronze, magnesium, and zinc, can also be cast in green sand molds.

What makes casting in green sand molds a timeless technology?

  • Versatile:  green sand can be molded to produce complex castings with extensive gating systems.
  • Tougher:  green sand withstands high temperature; the molds retain their shape when the molten metal is poured
  • Greener: casting with green sand is a sustainable process; the sand is recovered and reprocessed after every casting cycle and the metal scraps are recycled in an endless loop.
  • Leaner: the abundance of sand makes the process cost-effective.
Green Sand

Sand casting is constantly evolving, the new wave in the field is 3D printing smart sand molds. Additive manufacturing or 3D printing of sand molds is in its infancy and promises great potential. By all indications, sand casting is here to stay!

Casting (De)coded

A sound casting begins with a flawless mold. Green sand mold production is a world of contrasts—Simple, yet sophisticated; Mundane, yet masterful.

At THORS eLearning Solutions, we create courses that encapsulate the rich lifetime experience of our experts and provide valuable insights on mold making and producing quality castings. We offer a suite of high-quality casting courses presented in a visually rich, interactive, and engaging fashion. THORS is a trusted training resource to maximize the potential of your workforce.

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Castings

Aluminum: Driving the Decade

The first two decades of this century witnessed the dramatic fall and rise of the automotive industry. We cruise into the new decade with technological advances defined by fuel-efficient and autonomous vehicles.

Emission regulations and fuel economy mandates are defining the design parameters of the mobility market.  Automakers are increasingly adopting the production of lightweight vehicles for improving fuel efficiency. Aluminum—durable, lightweight, and high-strength material that can be infinitely recycled­—emerged as the “material of choice” for automobile components.

Permanent Mold Aluminum Castings

Aluminum and the Auto Industry: Past Milestones and Future Prospects

  • Dürkopp introduces the first sports car with an aluminum body in 1899
  • Carl Benz develops a car engine with aluminum parts in 1901
  • British Land Rover produces V-8 engine blocks with aluminum cylinders in 1961
  • Audi mass produces full aluminum body cars in 1994

Today, necessity and innovation have accelerated the use of aluminum in vehicle construction than ever before. According to a report published by Mordor Intelligence, the demand for die-cast aluminum parts is projected to reach USD $59,741.23 million in 2024.

Aluminum: Metal to Manufactured Solution

To meet the auto industry’s ongoing demand for aluminum components, about $2 billion has been invested in the aluminum casting industry since 2013. The casting process transforms the raw aluminum into a usable component. The common methods of casting aluminum include vacuum process, investment casting, permanent molds, and die casting techniques.

Vacuum process and investment casting are expendable casting processes where the mold is destroyed after each casting cycle. Vacuum process, or V-process, is a modified sand-casting process where the mold sand is held together by vacuum, instead of conventional binders. The parts fabricated using the vacuum process have excellent dimensional accuracy and superior surface finish. Investment casting, or lost-wax casting, involves controlled removal of pattern material from the mold and replacing it with the molten metal. Intricate parts that meet tight tolerance requirements are manufactured by investment casting technique.

Permanent molds and die casting methods use reusable molds. Permanent molds, or gravity die casting, harness the potential of gravity to gradually draw the molten metal into the mold. Low pressure and high pressure die casting methods to employ controlled pressure systems to force the metal into the mold. Castings manufactured by permanent mold and die casting methods have a finer surface finish.  Permanent mold casting and die casting methods are more popular as they have a high production rate.

The footprint of the vacuum process is on the rise!

eLearning Meets Manufacturing

In addition to its application in the auto industry, aluminum castings are integral to the airline, military, medical, and energy sectors. This surge in demand for aluminum castings has led to a corresponding job growth in the manufacturing segment. THORS eLearning Solutions offers a series of Aluminum Casting Courses that are an asset to casting manufacturers. The appealing visuals and interactive content support workforce training and skill development on the various casting operations.

Visit THORS Academy to see a full list of current courses.

Contact us, We would love to hear from you and discuss your training needs.

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THORS Effectiveness Survey Results

In 2019, a US-based turbine company identified that they had a skills gap developing within their organization. They recognized the need for organized training and decided to make training an area of focus for 2019. Subsequently, they decided to sign on with THORS eLearning Solutions for a 1-year corporate subscription.

Recently, our THORS team conducted an anonymous survey with turbine company employees that had taken the THORS courses. The survey audience consisted of 75% technical employees and 25% commercial employees. Employees with prior subject knowledge included 17% advanced and 58% intermediate levels while the novice level was 25%. We wanted to understand the impact THORS training was having on them and how it addressed the skills gap the company was experiencing.

In our survey, we explored beyond the standard questions, such as “Did you learn something from this course?” and asked questions, such as “Would this course have shortened your learning curve when you moved into your current organization or job?”. This type of question provided some excellent insight into our effectiveness in achieving one of our core goals. The results breakdown was as follows:

The THORS methodology takes a multi-sensory approach to learning that consists of a combination of interactives, animations, and quizzes that make our courses easy-to-understand and engaging. The results breakdown for the question “Did you think the course was intuitive, engaging, or both intuitive and engaging?” was as follows:

For the question, “Were the graphics, animations, and activities enlightening, and did they positively contribute to your understanding of the subject?” 100% of the respondents said yes.

We at THORS work with our customers to make sure the courses offered to their employees are relevant to their job.  To this effect, our newly launched customer success team will work with you, the customer, to help you get started. Our customer success team is there to gain an understanding of your training goals and build curricula relevant to your needs. This ensures your employees only spend time on necessary training. An example of this, when we asked the question, “Did you find the courses to be relevant to your work?”, 83% responded absolutely, while 17% responded with either probably, maybe, or not at all.

Even though continuous training is something that every company considers important, taking time away from the job for a seminar/classroom session is always a challenge given schedule differences and potential loss in productivity. THORS aims to be a solution to that problem, with training split into modules, minimizing company downtime. Our customer success team can prescribe and help tailor the curricula, be it courses from our standard library or our custom course offerings, specifically for you and your company. The year 2020 is right around the corner! If you’re looking to identify and fill your skills gaps and would like to expand your training program, contact THORS eLearning Solutions.

We are here to help.

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How to Implement IoT in Your Company – Part 1  

The Internet of Things is changing and improving our lives and work in more ways that you might realize. From tracking heart rates, monitoring machines on the shop floor controlling devices at the home or office, to sensing changes in an environment, IoT is revolutionizing the way we interact with the world around us.

There were around 500 million devices connected to the Internet in 2003. Jump to 2010 and, with the advent of smartphones, the number of connected devices increased to 12.5 billion. Research and advisory company Gartner, Inc. predicts this number will increase by the year 2020 to 20 billion devices. Most of these connected devices will be generating data. And when analyzed properly, this data can help companies make better business decisions, improve customer experience, reduce operational costs, and create new revenue opportunities.

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Manufacturing Industry Trends to watch out for in 2019

The manufacturing industry is changing at an unprecedented speed. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) “Manufacturers of every size and shape are changing rapidly because of new digital technologies, new competitors, new ecosystems, and new ways of doing business.” Customers today are also much more aware, demanding improved efficiency and innovative products. Technology is the catalyst behind this disruption. And organizations will only survive if they adapt quickly and stay abreast of the current manufacturing industry trends.

engineer-tablet-robot-factory-industry-trends
Manufacturing Industry Trends: Cobots

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5 Reasons Why a Culture of Learning can Lead to Success

Learning is continuous. After all, there are always new skills to learn and techniques to adopt. A culture of learning in an organization can also improve business performance, increase profit, and boost the morale of a workforce.

As per the study “Are SMART Goals Dumb?”, only 42% of workers say they are always or frequently learning on the job, while another 39% percent say they are never or rarely learning. This is because many organizations believe that an investment in learning and development is not only expensive, but it may also lead to a delay in the completion of projects. It is time we bust these myths. Learning and development not only provides the company as a whole and individual employees with greater benefits, but it also makes cost and time a profitable investment.

Group of employees learning and talking with each other
A culture of learning will improve your company’s bottom line.

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Beyond Symbols: Fluency in GD&T Decreases Cost

Due to the complex nature of the geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) standard, a company’s bottom line profitability can be affected as a result of reading and interpreting errors. Users who have a lack of knowledge concerning the rules, symbols, conventions, and associated terminology of GD&T are more likely to make incorrect decisions.

Render of a projected tolerance zone

Render of a projected tolerance zone

One such area where a deficit in GD&T language fluency and comprehension can impact manufacturing is in the prototyping process. Situations where a limited understanding can affect this crucial process include the following:

Ineffective design: Designers who do not fully understand the concepts of GD&T may not include GD&T on a print where it would be beneficial. As a result, the part is now much more difficult to manufacture as required information, such as position tolerances, was not provided to ensure the part met fit, form, and function.

Inaccurate manufacturing: Even when GD&T is effectively provided on a print, it may not be understood by the manufacturing team. As a result, there is a higher chance that the part will not be manufactured to the print’s requirements, thus impeding the assembly process. Inaccurate manufacturing means wasted materials, time, and money.

Increased timeline: A limited understanding of GD&T in design, manufacture, or both can lead to multiple back and forth cycles in the prototyping process. With every additional cycle, the time it takes to bring the part into production increases, causing the prototyping timeline to grow longer. Longer timelines equal higher costs, which will ultimately affect bottom line profitability.

The inability to understand and interpret GD&T at any stage of development can have a huge effect on a company’s track to production. Therefore, it is essential for individuals within an organization’s design and manufacturing teams to all be well versed in the language of GD&T in order to have the greatest potential for success.

In the next installment of our GD&T series, we will discuss how an incomplete understanding of GD&T can impact product quality. We at THORS are also happy to announce that our GD&T Fundamentals course has launched!


Kavita Krishnamurthy is an ASQ certified Six Sigma Black Belt with over 15 years of experience in the field of process improvement, manufacturing engineering, and quality management in the automotive and gear industries. She is also the subject matter expert of our GD&T Fundamentals course.

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Robotics & Automation Trends Driving the Manufacturing Industry in 2018

The manufacturing sector has been greatly impacted by the Industrial Revolution and the world has moved towards automation and, finally, digital transformation is here to change the world with areas full of unexplored opportunities, IoT (Internet of things), and AI (Artificial Intelligence). The impact has been a customized production model instead of mass production. Digitization is happening on a rapid scale as customers’ demands and expectations are on a rise, leading to the integration of AI in electronic devices that see day-to-day use, making the entire operation automatic. The advent of artificial intelligence has meant a machine’s ability to learn and adapt to human behavior, which in turn led to robotics. Robotics is not a new concept; traditionally, robots were confined to performing repetitive tasks on the assembly line. Presently, robots are much more capable of identifying human behavior and are highly collaborative with different devices.

Robotic automation system at a factory.

Robotic automation system at a factory.