What comes to mind when you think of manufacturing? Dirty, dark, dangerous working environments with repeated procedures has been many people’s stereotype for years now. I was under the same impression until I started my journey with manufacturing. A previous survey result shows that 50% of interviewees do not see the excitement from manufacturing. Having benefited from the rapid development of the technologies, manufacturing-related work today has been defined with more roles and functionalities. Working in manufacturing, you can develop prototypes in a laboratory environment with subtractive and additive technologies, you can work on design and analysis or hands-on with machine tools to make real products, etc. There is so much diversity in manufacturing, which provides tremendous options for people interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing. Manufacturing is changing. Are you ready for the changes?
Sharing is the Trend
If we take a step back and evaluated our society as a whole, it is widely recognized that a sharing economy became the trend that economically benefited many businesses already. In a sharing economy, you are able to enjoy the benefits of lower-cost transportation with quicker response time, such as the Uber phenomenon, as well as Airbnb, another successful sharing platform that makes use of idle real estate and a lower price, benefiting both ends of the spectrum, the driver and the rider, the renter and the boarder. So, why then would manufacturing not benefit from such a trend? Whereas traditional manufacturers focused on mass production for their dedicated customers with dedicated machine assets, manufacturing is changing toward service-oriented manufacturing that is able to quickly adapt to trends such as unscheduled, customized orders and maximally take advantage of idle manufacturing resources from our society. Manufacturing, especially, advanced manufacturing, is preparing to be able to tackle the challenges of sharing with various technologies.
Connected Internally and Externally
To enable a sharing model in manufacturing, many technologies/concepts have been proposed, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), etc., that aim to fully utilize idle resources and provided dynamic, lower-cost and technology-driven services and products to provide measurable solutions faster than ever before. Common protocols (MTConnect, OPC UA, etc.) have been developed to enable the connections regardless of the various manufacturing asset platforms. A connected factory, both internally and externally facing, enables accurate capacity measures to fully evaluate the most effective platforms to increase a manufacturer’s versatility. Internal connections enable manufacturers to be aware of their own statuses, progresses and capabilities. External connections enable manufacturers to integrate with other smart systems (such as a smart grid with floating prices) from our society, making manufacturing operations flexible, low cost and quickly adaptable to constantly changing demands. A connected factory requires technologies to be able to communicate and allow multidirectional informational flow with our whole society. Manufacturing then becomes an interdisciplinary operation requiring expertise from a well-versed workforce.
Preparing for the Changing Manufacturing
One of the most important reasons I chose a manufacturing career is because it allows me to learn and be exposed to a diverse range of experiences and challenges. I have never stopped learning since I started my journey—always gaining new experiences ranging from the design of experiments to operating CNC machines, material property testing to finite-element analysis and so on.
As a young manufacturing professional, I would like to share with other young professionals some life lessons I have learned since I began my career:
- Keep a positive attitude. A positive attitude is the key to making the most of every learning experience, and a beautiful life.
- Never stop learning. Change is inevitable; a newer, faster technology will always be on the horizon. Keep an open mind to emerging changes—this will allow you to be a more innovative thinker.
- Keep your eye on the target. Each initiative may be different, but, in the end, they are all developed for one reason—the customer and the solutions they need. Maintain that customer focus no matter what industry you contribute your efforts toward. The voice of the customer drives the direction of a business and the emerging societal trends.
Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, is a fundamental necessity globally to creating wealth in our society, including products, jobs, technologies and related services—all the things that make our world what it is today. As a young manufacturing professional, there are truly tremendous opportunities to challenge yourself and contribute to a better world. The opportunities are waiting; join us to make your changes to the world.
Help Recognize an Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer
For over three decades, SME’s Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award has recognized manufacturing engineers, age 35 or younger, graduate or nongraduate engineers or technologists, who have made exceptional contributions and accomplishments in the manufacturing industry. To be considered, nominees should have technical publications, patents, academic or industry leadership, or several significant accomplishments in one or more areas of activity. The impact of these accomplishments should be recognized beyond the nominee’s own institution or company. Submit your nominations by Aug. 1 at sme.org/oyme.