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December 13, 2012

Meridian reps pick up tips on visit to ASCO headquarters in Belgium

STILLWATER, Okla. — A two-person delegation from Meridian Technology Center spent 15 days in early November at ASCO Inc.’s corporate headquarters in Zavantem, Belgium, to learn how the school can better prepare students for possible employment.

Rebecca Eastham, director of business and industry services at Meridian, and Jimmy Williams, product developer and machinery instructor, worked closely with technicians and operators from ASCO, a manufacturer of high-end airplane wing and landing gear products.

ASCO Inc. is renovating the former MerCruiser factory on Perkins Road and will begin to manufacture aviation equipment in mid-2014. Eastham said ASCO will begin to hire staff for positions in the summer of 2013.

“We had four basic goals for going,” said Eastham. “We wanted to see ASCO’s equipment and processes. We wanted to see their current workforce skill levels. We wanted to understand their corporate culture. And the fourth reason was to build goodwill between Meridian and ASCO.”

Williams said the visit revealed that ASCO’s precision measurement tolerances are narrow and strict because of client specifications and safety.

“I want my students to be able to see that,” said Williams. “ASCO uses a lot of (geometric digitizing and tolerancing). It’s just a different call-out. ... My blueprints that I have now, we have just a touch of that GDT. Now we are inputing that in there. We took the prints we have now, based on some of the gauging they have over there, and we’re designing prints so we can do their tooling and do their process right here.”

Eastham said the Meridian team discovered that ASCO is using different software than what is in place at Meridian, and the vocational school will be changing some of its software to conform with ASCO’s so students are more familiar with it.

Eastham said they also observed that ASCO assembly workers were equipped with step-by-step assembly books located at each work station. She said Meridian will install a similar training aid. They also saw different measurement tools and cutting tools that Williams will implement into his classes.

ASCO’s attitude toward quality control, lean operations and professionalism was evident, Eastham said.

“It’s one thing to have an employee with the right skill set,” said Eastham. “But it’s important that they have the right attitude.

“Will they do the job, and will they do it well with others? We needed to know what that looks like in their world. They talked a lot about attitude.”

Eastham said the purpose of the trip was the same as Meridian’s outreach to local companies in the Stillwater district.

“It was just a longer plane ride,” Eastham said. “Jimmy has on his committee that shapes his curriculum companies in our district that participate.

“He goes to their shops and he sees what they are doing and learns and develops his classes. So what we did with ASCO is very similar to what we do here.

“While we certainly are here to assist ASCO and fill ASCO’s positions, we never want to lose sight of the many other employers in our district.

“We are very serious about making sure ASCO has the workforce they need, just as we are with every other company.”

Eastham said Meridian will launch a new 120-hour certification program in general manufacturing practices and methods in the spring.

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