Following high school I enrolled in The Ohio State University with the ambition of studying product design. After two and a half years of struggling through the coursework and then not getting accepted into the program, I withdrew from classes and began working full-time at a wholesale bagel company in Columbus. Since I was paid on salary, I was constantly looking for ways to make my job easier. After three years of back breaking labor, I began thinking about returning to school and that is when I found Industrial Engineering. Sounding a lot like the methodology I was applying at work, I enrolled in the IE program at Cleveland State and moved north. I graduated from the Fenn College of Engineering in May 2007. Four days after graduation I accepted a position with The Akron Brass Company in Wooster, Ohio.
I am an Industrial Engineer with The Akron Brass Company in Wooster, Ohio. Akron Brass is the leading manufacturer of high performance firefighting equipment and holds their market share by custom building their products. Akron Brass is an over-sized job shop that produces a wide variety of products from couplings and hose caps to nozzles and turrets; without our products firefighters couldn't do their job.
As an Industrial Engineer I have my hands in just about everything. Working mostly with the assembly of products to continuously improve our processes, we have started our Lean manufacturing journey and are currently debugging the operations that make up the assembly cell. This project provides ample opportunity to experience all those wonderful IE tools in action, such as time studies and line balancing. You actually get to see the real impact they make in defining a process.
I also am in charge of organizing capital investment projects. Writing up what is known as an Appropriation Request, it is my job to financially justify large projects. I have to meet with vendors and sub-contractors, define the scope of work, and understand the entire process so I can present accurate information to those who make the final decisions.
When I started the job there really were no surprises. The curriculum at Cleveland State provided a solid foundation for the tools and theories applicable to any manufacturing environment. The challenge, however, is taking the tools and theories and incorporating them into an established infrastructure. Gaining support for implementing change is always a struggle, especially in a highly dynamic environment such as Akron Brass.
The best advice I can give to students is to immerse themselves in the industry and learn as much as they can. Go out and get some real world experience in a business or manufacturing setting. When you are an IE all aspects of business become important, and knowing how to interact with a wide variety of people within an organization will become very beneficial. As for myself, I have held a number of different jobs over the years, and every one has provided something to my knowledge and work ethic. However, I wish I would have had the opportunity to work within a manufacturing setting prior to getting hired by Akron Brass.
Every one of the courses integrated in the IE curriculum is pertinent to the industry. At one point or another they all appear in some shape or form. It really depends on what direction a person takes in their career. For example, if an IE ends up in quality, definitely the quality courses are the most important. The key is to grasp and embrace the courses that have the most benefit to a particular position. The courses I have found to be most beneficial are the ones applicable to any position; Work Methods and Measurements, Facility Planning, and Production Planning and Control to name a few.
Quality and control programs such as ISO, Six Sigma, and Lean manufacturing are the leading trends in the workplace. Everyone is working hard to implement and sustain these programs as organizations begin to reap the rewards they offer. Lean manufacturing is becoming the standard for any type of manufacturing process since its goal is to reduce lead time by increasing production with the same or fewer resources. With a lot of high volume manufacturing being outsourced to areas where labor is cheap, it is becoming more important than ever to change the face of manufacturing as we know it. The key to keeping manufacturing in the US is to produce highly customized products as quickly and as efficient as possible, which is not that easy. As I said earlier, we have just begun out Lean journey and are working hard to perfect a model applicable to our dynamic environment. As we look forward to the future of the business, these principles are going to become very important in sustaining our hold on the firefighting equipment market.
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