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Appendix A Statement of the Manufacturing Studies Board on the Need for Industrial-Academic Cooperation for Manufacturing Technology In the past decade, the economics of manufacturing have changed dramatically. Manufacturers are seeking new ways to build capacity that will increase flexibility, thereby increasing productivity and im- proving the ability to respond to worldwide competition. Many high- technology manufacturing innovations~omputer controls, computer graphics, robots, and others have provided attractive opportunities to raise productivity and meet new marketplace needs e Despite such dramatic technological advances, U.S. industry is only slowly adopting the new manufacturing technologies. The reasons for this include a shortage of knowledgeable personnel who understand the implications of the ability of new technologies to respond to business needs, and a scarcity of manufacturing research at the university level. The evolution of this situation is not hard to trace. Historically, companies met the need for manufacturing engineers by promotions from the ranks of machine operators. Manufacturing engineers were generally separated from the rest of the organizational hierarchy. Engineers on their way to the top might be rotated through design, sales, or even finance, but seldom through manufacturing. In fact, until recently manufacturing technology was not generally considered The Manufacturing Studies Board of the National Research Council is chaired by George Ansell. This statement was originally developed for this symposium by a subcommittee chaired by Roger N. Nagel. Irving Bluestone, Robert H. Elman, Daniel Berg, Erich Bloch, Donald C. Burnham, and Wickham Skinner served on the subcom- mittee. 117
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118 APPENDIX A a critical element in an organization's financial or marketplace success. Without an expressed demand for graduates proficient in "factory floor" sciences, universities did not feel the need to direct resources toward manufacturing issues. Thus, in the relationship between the industrial and academic communities essential to maintaining technological excellence in high- technology industry there has been a tendency to neglect manufac- turing technology and its supporting sciences. Consequently, by 1980 fewer than half a dozen universities offered specific manufacturing engineering degrees. In most U.S. universities, manufacturing issues have not been in the mainstream of engineering and business school curricula, with the result that only a few graduates of these schools go into manufacturing jobs. The tide may be turning, however, as evidenced by the interest in this symposium. Further, a study by the Manufacturing Studies Board has found many new cooperative arrangements between companies and universities started in the past four or five years. The National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Centers program is an- other hopeful sign. Several barriers to improving the relationship between the industrial and academic communities remain, however. For example: · Equipment. Three factors are at work here. First, although modern manufacturing equipment is vastly more productive, it is also substan- tially more expensive than that of the previous generation and requires a level of maintenance that is sometimes a financial hardship for academic institutions. Second, modern manufacturing science is in- creasingly systems oriented. This means that manufacturing cells made up of a number of different machine tools working within a single system are becoming the norm, and a single stand-alone machine tool is no longer valuable as a teaching aid. Third, the rapid advances in manufacturing technology impose substantial updating costs on any university wanting to teach manufacturing sciences with state-of-the- art equipment. · Experience. Because manufacturing science is applications ori- ented, there is an urgent need for teaching faculty with hands-on manufacturing experience. It is difficult to find such faculty because (1) tenure practices inhibit academics from leaving their posts to gain such experience, and (2) degree requirements and salary considerations inhibit industrial manufacturing engineers from joining university fa- culties. · Proprietary knowledge. If a firm develops a solution to a manu
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MANUFACTURING STUDIES BOARD STATEMENT 119 factoring problem, it will use that solution to gain a competitive advantage rather than share the knowledge with its industry. This conflicts directly with the academic institution's need to disseminate knowledge and publish research. · Curriculum development. Because manufacturing science encom- passes many different disciplines-including computer science, logis- tics, materials science, and industrial engineering the ideal university curriculum from the manufacturers' standpoint will include courses in both the pure and applied sciences. The development of such a curriculum requires close coordination among diverse university fa- culties; some universities have had difficulty achieving such coordi- nation. Equally important to curriculum development is the manufac- turing community's articulation of problems and opportunities that will have to be addressed by manufacturing engineers entering the factory. · Lead times (the period required from the time a decision to make a product is made to the beginning of actual production). Typically, the viewpoint that manufacturing firms bring to technological issues is more short term than that of universities. University research on specific technological issues often does not move fast enough for the needs of a manufacturing operations manager. In addition, it is unlikely that the traditional slow response by universities in developing man- ufacturing science laboratories and faculties would meet the more immediate needs of the industrial manufacturing community. Many of these barriers are being recognized and attacked. Several experiments now under way, both in the United States and abroad, show promise as models for industry-university cooperation in man- ufacturing sciences. Until these and other examples can be given substantially greater exposure, however, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to draw useful lessons from them. The consequences of neglecting basic research and education in the manufacturing sciences could be catastrophic for the United States. The country's experience in basic industries such as steel, automobiles, and machine tools demonstrates that engineering talent and basic research are vital to the international competitiveness of the nation's economy. Close cooperation between U.S. educational and business leaders is required to prevent the United States from becoming a "second-rate power" in the manufacturing sciences. Through coop- erative efforts between U.S. industry and academia, a new generation of engineers will be trained, capable of wisely using the manufacturing systems of the future.
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