Developing a Multidisciplinary Best Practice Manufacturing Education and Research Laboratory for 21st Century Competitiveness
Type of Degreedissertation
Industrial and Systems Engineering
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In the last decade both industrialists and educators have acknowledged the presence of competency gaps in graduates entering manufacturing careers. As a result, the United States is presently faced with a crippling skills shortage in the manufacturing sector that is adversely affecting relative growth of the manufacturing sector and thus the relative decline in its share of the Gross domestic product (GDP) over the years. Despite the depression and record high unemployment rates in many states, it is widely reported that manufacturers are currently finding it difficult to fill critical manufacturing jobs that are needed to meet customer delivery dates, maintain margins and plan for future expansion. Recent studies have attributed this difficulty in filling manufacturing positions to the skills gap phenomenon. In the early in the 19th century, Engineering had been taught primarily as a hands-on subject. However with advances in science, beginning in the 19th century, the pedagogical emphasis in engineering education shifted more towards classroom and lecture based instruction with less emphasis placed on hands-on education. Researchers in education have shown that despite the emphasis on classroom/lecture based instruction; Engineering students tend to favor sensual, visual and active learning styles. Competency gaps have emerged due in part to incompatibilities in teaching and learning styles. The manufacturing industry is a dynamic industry that has seen advances in Information technology (IT) and continual emergence of new technologies. These changes in manufacturing require a new breed of manufacturing engineers who are less understood by today's educators. Today's manufacturing engineer needs to be versatile and have the ability to take a systems view of the manufacturing environment. In this research we attempt to provide answers to the questions; what are competency gaps of entry level graduates viewed from both an educator's and industry perspectives, and what methodologies need to be applied to bridge these competency gaps. As an initial step toward bridging the competency gaps in manufacturing, a meta-analysis was conducted to uncover the competencies that are considered important in the manufacturing industry. This was accomplished through an extensive literature review in addition to a manufacturing industry survey. Once the competency gaps have been identified, there will be a need to prioritize them in order to establish what components/elements should be made part of a hands-on manufacturing laboratory, whose goal is to bridge the gap between industry needs and a manufacturing curriculum. The objective of this research is to make a contribution towards the development of a taxonomy that could be used as a general best practice for manufacturing education. This research documents two years of experience developing a hands-on manufacturing teaching laboratory. The foundation for this research is based on the development of a realistic manufacturing environment that mimics the intricacies of a real world manufacturing environment. This was accomplished by designing and building a model factory/learning factory called Tiger Motors. By mimicking realistic problems commonly found in a manufacturing environment, students' experiences in the lab would lead to a conceptual understanding and reinforcement of theoretical concepts taught in class. In addition, Tiger Motors provides a test bed for students to experiment and validate various theoretical concepts in a practical setting, as well as allowing students to put into practice the various manufacturing/industrial engineering tools used for designing and analyzing of manufacturing systems. Reaching a consensus on whether the use of engineering laboratories is effective in achieving student outcomes in manufacturing education has remained a contentious topic among academia, and is subject to ongoing research. As contribution to this cause, several interdisciplinary manufacturing labs were developed for junior, senior and graduate level instruction in industrial engineering. To evaluate the effectiveness of hands-on labs with respect to student outcomes, student surveys were conducted at the end of the semester to establish students’ perceptions on the value of hands-on learning. In addition, a post-only experimental design was created in which the performance of a control group was compared to the performance of a treatment group. A total of three different treatment groups received hands-on training in the lab in addition to participating in the lecture. The control groups in all cases participated in just the lecture. The hypothesis for this experimental design was that the treatment group's performance on a post test would be significantly better than that of the control group. Results indicated statistical significant differences for the overall score related to the subject matter tested, thus supporting the hypothesis that students hands-on labs do add value to student's learning. Assembly line balancing (ALB) is one the most important problems in assembly work associated with manufacturing environments. This problem has been studied for many years with several methods and heuristics techniques being proposed. An important input to the ALB problem is the standard operation time which can be established using stopwatch time study method or any one of the many available predetermined time study methods. Predetermined time and motion studies are an alternative method for establishing standard operation times and can be used for existing or yet to be built assembly lines. Despite the significant amount of research on ALB, little has been mentioned on what methods were used for establishing standard operation times used as input in ALB problems. It is logical that the quality of the line balancing solution can be affected by the standard operation time used. Since standard operation time used in ALB is dependent on the method used, the research question to be addressed is what method would yield a better line balancing solution. A study of the efficacy of the method used for establishing standard operation times for use in an ALB problem was conducted. Results indicated that predetermined time study underestimated the actual time spent on an assembly task. Despite the difference in task times between the two methods, the quality of the line balancing solution seemed unaffected by the method used to establish the time standards.