Tips for Students of Manufacturing Systems
In the world of manufacturing, there are several levels of expertise required to make a factory as effective and efficient as possible. Every bit of knowledge is important, bringing skills, knowledge, and wisdom to the company in which you work. In this article, though, you’re going to learn about a specific stratum of the manufacturing industry: that which is concerned with the systems a facility or factory uses to run. Read on to learn how you can learn about and involve yourself in the industry on this all-important level in 2020 and beyond.
1. Baseline Understanding
First, let’s take a look at the processes that we’ll be discussing in more detail in this article. Specifically, let’s outline what’s meant by manufacturing systems, and what that means for students getting their qualifications in this particular field. It’s only with a baseline understanding that you can progress in your studies of manufacturing systems. You can work on this baseline understanding while you’re still in school or college, or you can invest an hour each evening to read up on manufacturing processes when you’ve finished work, with an eye to making a career change into manufacturing management in the future.
The systems that are in place in factories take raw materials, or parts, as the input, and translate these parts or materials into an output, which is then sold on to retailers or wholesalers. The overall process, therefore, starts when the input is ordered, and only ends when the output is delivered to the customer or client. All the processes in between – be they about logistics, factory processes, deliveries, or orders – are under your control, and thus can be worked on to increase effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Required Reading
To delve a little deeper into this world of knowledge and experience: it’s important for students of manufacturing systems to be cognizant of the essential books and reports that have been written concerning manufacturing, and the most effective ways that companies around the world have been set up to produce goods. One of the most interesting sides of this required reading is that you’ll read case studies from all over the world – from places like Japan, where the modern production line was first honed, and the factories of American Motors and Ford, where further processes were improved in the era of mass production.
When you sign up for an online course or university degree, you’ll receive a reading list with some of the most important texts included on it. These may seem long-winded and difficult to get through, but it’s only through reading and understanding them that you’ll be able to take that knowledge with you into a job, thus helping your company enact changes that’ll save it cash while upping output. Read and digest information in order to boost your studies.
3. Online Studying
For those students of manufacturing processes that are currently in the industry in a full-time job, getting through reading and learning online can be difficult. You can’t make the time to attend a college or university, and you need to keep your job in order to put food on the table and to keep learning from your work in the industry itself. The solution to this predicament is a simple one: you can study online, using online university resources to earn a degree without setting foot on campus.
One of the best providers of manufacturing systems courses comes courtesy of Kettering University Online, where you’ll receive the information you need to take your company to the next level. By pursuing your studies online, you’ll be able to work during your regular shift hours, and then find the time to study in the evenings or on weekends. You also have the choice of working full time on your degree, or taking it part-time, depending on the time you have to spare.
4. Talk to Tutors
When you’re studying, whether online or in-person, you need to pay heed to the advice and knowledge of your tutors, professors, and teachers. These academics will have a wealth of knowledge about the field you’re interested in, and they’re the first people you should approach should you have a question, an idea, or a thirst for more knowledge to apply to your future career. By forging excellent connections with these wise and learned academics, you’ll also be taking strong contacts through with you to your eventual career.
Meanwhile, tutors will be able to direct you to the type of reading that you’re most interested in. If you’re studying online while working in a manufacturing job, for instance, you’ll be able to ask your tutors about the processes that your own company uses, asking for journal articles and case studies that you might be able to read in order to bring that knowledge to your superiors. Tutors are your short-cuts to the knowledge you need – you should use them when you’re paying for a course in manufacturing systems.
5. Use Your Experience
Whether you have direct work experience, or you know people who might be able to let you into a manufacturing facility to watch the processes at work, it’s incredibly important that you pair your book-learned knowledge with real-world experience over the course of your studies. It’s possible, of course, to be incredibly book-smart, but to lack common sense and general knowledge – and with only half the package, you won’t be able to have the impact that you were hoping for when you come to take a job in a manufacturing firm.
Instead, then, it’s well worth taking the time to chat with staff in facilities in your locality, asking them what they think works well and less well in their roles. You may be able to find out important and interesting, industry-specific information during these conversations, which you’ll then be able to bring back to your studies. In your final project at college, you may well be able to use the facility you’re familiar with as a case study, too.
6. See the Big Picture
When you’re working with systems, it’s imperative that you’re able to see a problem in the ‘big-picture’ perspective. That means you’ll need to take your eye off the smaller processes on the production line, and instead consider a facility as a larger entity – a holistic and complete system that has many sub-systems contained within it. By achieving this perspective, you’ll then be able to zoom in on any weak spots that you detect and make the necessary changes to make the entire system more robust and well-oiled. Meanwhile, if you’re unable to see the big picture, you might find that an improvement at one end of your manufacturing process has negative effects on the opposite end.
So, how does one achieve the big picture thinking that this article advocates? Perhaps the best way to do this is to set up some hypothetical factories in your mind, and to think about all of the factors that might affect production every week. What could happen that would negatively affect the system, and what might you be able to do to avoid those negative consequences? In politics, this is called ‘war gaming’ – but in production and manufacturing, it’s about seeing weak spots by thinking hypothetically about how robust a system may be to external influences over time.
7. Learn to Audit
Finally, one of the most important weapons in your arsenal, as both a student and a future worker, is to be able to separate the different systems that govern a particular process and inspect each of them in turn. This is usually called an audit or a review: it enables you to take readings and data concerning the efficiency and output of each stage of your production cycle. This is a great deal of data to collect, and will often require a team of workers to facilitate and execute. But the results at the end of it – showing you where you can improve your business – are hugely important for students of manufacturing systems.
In order to be able to adequately and accurately review and audit the processes in your company, you need to draw a clear dividing line between the end of one process and the beginning of another. Then you need to think about all of the overheads that you’re using to power that stage – like materials, labor, and electricity – and the value that this stage produces. You should also measure the time it takes to make one unit and other important measures. From here, you’ll be able to assemble all of your data into one chart, which will show which areas you should target in order to reduce your overheads, increase efficiency, and boost your profits in the process.
Manufacturing is becoming increasingly important and increasingly scrutinized in the modern era. Not only are products more sought-after than ever, but the processes that produce them are increasingly required to be green – that is, carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly. It’s only with a strong, academic knowledge of manufacturing systems that you’ll be able to enact the changes that society would like to see in the world of goods production, and that’s what the above seven tips hope to teach you: how to make positive changes to manufacturing systems through knowledge and study in 2020 and beyond.