The role of the manufacturing engineer has been quite controversial over recent years. A role that was originally formed to bridge the gap between engineering and the manufacturing floor has now started to become something quite more. Many consider manufacturing engineers to be non-value added and primarily fire fighters who don’t add much to improvement efforts and in many cases that holds true. “If the design engineer had built the parts right the first time, we wouldn’t need a manufacturing engineer.” some people would say.
However, with the invention of lean six sigma and modern robotics, the manufacturing engineer can have a much greater impact on the production world than ever before. Having served as a design and manufacturing engineer, I am going to highlight some of the skills a modern manufacturing engineer needs to have to truly change the production eco-system and dare I say become ‘value-added’:
- Continuous Improvement: The goal of the manufacturing engineer needs to be coming up with creative solutions to make production processes simpler, faster and less variable. Therefore it is almost imperative for them to be trained in lean six sigma prinicples properly. The word “properly” needs great emphasis here as in many cases people get trained in lean six sigma, but don’t understand how to apply the concepts to real world problems in an effective manner and end up causing more harm than good.
- Data Science: Data Science is a very modern concept and one that took me a while to wrap my head around. I could never understand the difference between data analysis and data science, what makes this field a ‘science’ is what I always wondered. Having gone through this subject in detail in recent times, I have begun to appreciate the field a lot more since the science is coming up with creative ways to study and look at your data. This is a great area where a person trained in lean six sigma could utilize his skill-set to come up with innovative ways to improve processes by simply analyzing data in ways no one has thought of before.
- Automation: This skill is almost necessary for a manufacturing engineer these days and puts them way ahead of the pack. Whether hardware or software automation, this is where processes can gain the most efficiencies through pure automation. It is a well known fact that automating processes makes them more efficient and less variable as machines/sensors are more predictable than human beings. Now this doesn’t mean replacing human beings, it is more a tool to aid workers to become more efficient and automate redundant tasks. Automation can make the dangerous jobs far less risky simply by removing the human being and replacing them with a machine. Manufacturing engineers should master modern software and sensor technologies.
- Machine Learning & Predictive Analytics: These are the biggest buzz word these days but if understood properly can have massive benefits to not only production operations but an entire organization as well. In simple terms by applying predictive analytics and machine learning concepts where applicable, the outputs and inputs to processes can be predicted to see where improvements can be made based on current conditions. You can respond to market changes faster purely using statistics and have a better idea of the impact on overall revenue. Companies can now finally get a good idea of upturns and downturns in the market or at least an estimate of where the market is headed, to plan better and eventually helping save jobs.
- Leadership: The last and most important skill of all is knowing how to listen to people and take their feedback for improvement projects. Most manufacturing engineers forget that they are leaders in charge of processes on the manufacturing floors and need to solve production problems for people who are in the line of fire day in, day out. Therefore the soft skills are as important as the technical skills in order to truly excel at your job.
I hope you guys enjoy reading this article and we would love to get your feedback. At RigBasket we aim to create a better ecosystem for companies to effectively manage their internal operations and optimize using the latest technological advances.