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Manufacturing and Education Reflections on a Symposium ROBERT A. FROSCH . Following are this cochairman's observations and reflections on the Symposium on Education for the Manufacturing World of the Future convened by the National Academy of Engineering. While not a summary of the proceedings in a strict sense, these remarks attempt to capture the tone of the meeting that emerged in both formal and informal discussions among the participants, and highlight some of the major points expressed, suggested, and recommended by individual participants and working groups. From the outset, symposium participants appeared to be clearly frustrated about the state of manufacturing engineering and the status of manufacturing engineers. Apparently a major source of this frustra- tion is a distinct (and probably correct) perception that the importance of manufacturing in the process of innovation and in the establishment of business competitiveness has been almost completely ignored for a long time. With the focus of business attention on fiscal and management areas, the art and science of manufacturing engineering have been allowed to decay, and companies have not recognized manufacturing engineering skills as high-priority ones to be highly rewarded. Rather, manufacturing has increasingly become a place to demonstrate only "managerial" skills, with more rewards given for these than for technical competence, skill, and ingenuity in the technical tasks of Robert A. Frosch served as cochairman of this symposium with Erich Bloch, who served until September 1984.

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FROSCH manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing jobs have increasingly become routes to other parts of the business and to expanding responsibility in nonmanufacturing areas. In spite of the considerable talk about the importance of manufac- turing engineering, participants felt that relatively little change has occurred during the past several years in the status of manufacturing engineers in corporations, and that the status of manufacturing engi- neering is only beginning to change within the academic community. Indeed, another theme clearly expressed at the symposium was a good deal of uncertainty about what direction this change should take. There was also considerable uncertainty about what a manufacturing engineer is in terms of education and training, as well as the nature of manufacturing and engineering and the skills and ideas involved. This is quite understandable given the variety of activities undertaken in manufacturing and the variety of products involved. It is not imme- diately obvious that a homogeneous discipline even exists, making it extraordinarily difficult to describe a definite curriculum that should be pursued. All of this is intensified by the fact that manufacturing has not been highly regarded as a career path for students because of its curious position in industry. The best students in engineering rarely choose to take manufacturing-related courses, even when they are available. Instead, they choose the much more popularly regarded courses such as computers and communication. In the areas of engineering most closely connected to manufacturing-the structural and dynamics aspects of mechanical engineering, for example-there has been a tendency toward theoretical curricula little related to manufacturing processes. In the view of the participants, all this appears to have been exaggerated by the relatively little contact between the academic world and the world of manufacturing. There has been much talk about closer contacts between these two worlds, but the process seems to be only beginning. DILEMMAS AND CONNECTIONS In the discussions of several working groups, as well as in the speeches and pane} discussion, conflicts arose regarding the idea of theory and the matter of the reality of the manufacturing floor. It was stated that experience, not theory, is the key to solving problems, and yet a grounding in fundamentals is extremely important. To complicate the matter further, the view was expressed that part of the problem stems from the lack of a good body of theory about

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REFLECTIONS ONA SYMPOSIUM 3 manufacturing and manufacturing engineering, making it difficult to construct a curriculum and educational program. This is the case, and it results partly from the problem of how to define a manufacturing engineer, as well as how to answer the question: What body of theory can be constructed for what is not yet defined as a coherent body of experience and operation? One theme touched upon several times in the discussion-the dichotomy or balance between the engineering and nonengineering problems of manufacturing-may help illuminate the question of theory. Engineering problems describe engineering in the strictest sense: the physical nature of machines, the processes by which machines create a product, the engineering systems that provide the physical designs for machines and processes and control the machines, and the means by which materials are moved and controlled. Nonengineering problems concern the need to put the engineering side of manufacturing in an overall business context, so that engineering choices make economic sense and relate properly to social questions of health, environment, and the position and relationships of labor, management, and machines. Both speakers and discussants pointed out that a purely technical education in the traditional engineering sense is insufficient for a manufacturing engineer, since so much of his or her effort deals with the business and social systems making the manufacturing system work. Thus while it was generally agreed that the manufacturing engineer needs a background in social and economic systems and that the engineering manager the business manager-needs a background in production skills, it was also generally agreed that both parties are likely to suffer from an attempt to cover both curriculum areas. In a related viewpoint, several participants pointed out the inadequacy of the economic and accounting tools necessary for manufacturing and suggested that a new system be developed. Thus a view emerged in both the presentations and discussion that a much closer connection is needed between the technical engineering side and the business management side of education for manufacturing. However, dissatisfaction was also expressed with the existing base of knowledge, and hence curriculum, for both sides. The latter view leads to a clear implication for research on the systems aspects of manufac- turing, as well as on the individual engineering techniques that go into processes. On the business side, research is needed on new business systems for understanding and controlling the economics and manage- ment aspects of manufacturing systems. All these viewpoints suggest the importance of establishing connec- tions between business and engineering schools within universities so

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4 FROSCH that each can bolster the curriculum of the other in preparing engineers and managers for manufacturing. These connections should clearly extend beyond concerns with curricula to the research necessary to establish a better set of foundations for future manufacturing engi- neering and management. Both the engineers and business managers emerging from such coupled curricula would be better prepared not only for their roles in manufacturing, but also for moving, in a career sense, beyond manufacturing to management roles in the total manu- facturing business. In stressing another connection, representatives of both academia and industry agreed that the mechanisms used by students and faculty to obtain knowledge of the manufacturing reality and to construct and teach a theory based on that reality, respectively, were inadequate. They also recognized the inadequate understanding that industry people have of the educational process and of the opportunities to influence that process. Both parties are eagerly seeking answers to these inadequacies, but the clear mismatches between the practices and arrangements in the two sectors make this no easy task. For example, the time pressures and economic realities facing industry do not allow engineers to spend much time in academia, and their experience does not substitute for the criteria that would make them acceptable in academic circles. Conversely, the theoretical backgrounds of academics are not consid- ered sufficient for them to play continual direct roles in the industrial context, and they too have time difficulties in arranging this. Clearly, considerably more discussion and a greater number of experiments in industry-academia cooperation are needed to find better ways to resolve these difficulties. Thus the construction of new understanding and of a new curriculum for manufacturing engineering education must be seen in the context of a three-body institutional problem; the engineering and business schools of academia and industrial manufacturing. Indeed, the con- nections between industry and the university community must include both the engineering and business schools, and these connections may play a role in which these two academic forces work together effectively to produce new systems understanding and methods for manufacturing. VALUE OF THE MEETING This symposium was a meeting ground for the three communities just described. While principally a meeting of engineers interested in manufacturing engineering, the symposium also included participants

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REFLECTIONS ON A SYMPOSIUM s who understood the business school aspect of the problem from both the industrial and the academic sides. In particular, it gave represen- tatives of the manufacturing sector an opportunity to meet together. This new opportunity for many of the participants to discuss what turned out to be common subjects was the key value of the symposium. New and continuing opportunities for such interaction will be important to improve the currently inadequate arrangements for contacts between industry and academia related to this subject and to upgrade common contributions toward research and toward common understanding of suitable curricula. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Participants in this symposium thus concluded that some specific problems must be attacked, although they did not define these problems in great detail. Problems center on attempts to provide a theoretical substructure for the system aspects of manufacturing engineering and the need to establish new bases and new systems for the business aspects of manufacturing engineering. These findings should not be interpreted as the feeling that there is no useful existing material. Rather, it is not clear how to bring what exists into a modern context and provide a suitable foundation for new manufacturing technologies, particularly the computer and robotic revolution which seems about to overtake manufacturing. Any new approaches must, however, involve industry, engineering schools, and business schools, either on individual bases or in whole university and industry contexts. These general conclusions suggest a number of potential activities. First, discussion and contacts are needed between industry and individual companies and the universities in their areas, or with whom they work, to reach agreement on a suitable forum for examination of these issues. Second, academics and those in industry should keep each other in mind and, by issuing invitations to appropriate events, continue and enrich their contacts. Third, additional symposia could be useful if they include participants from the necessary sectors and are carefully designed to attack these problems. Meetings specifically aimed at discussing possible research agendas might be useful if they are meant to produce a set of ideas that individual schools and industries might use as material to think about and work on, not an agreed-upon agenda for group action. Such meetings could be held together or separate from meetings to discuss curricular possibilities, and they should include not only academics

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6 FROSCH but also a leavening of industry people. Furthermore, these meetings should go beyond narrowly defined gatherings on technical engineering or on business management to mix people from opposite fields. While little was said at this symposium about the roles of professional societies in this process, they could well ponder the results of the proposed cooperation between industry and academia in considering their programs in fields related to manufacturing. Clearly, this symposium produced results which, while not precise, suggest further activities and directions of work, and indeed, suggest actions that the National Academy of Engineering might take in planning its future program.