Industrial and manufacturing engineering departments at universities across the United States continue to drive the advancement of manufacturing technologies by training the next generation of engineers, influencing operations through cutting-edge research and partnering with industry to expand future growth opportunities.  

Post-grad report card

Nearly 50 percent of graduates, both from undergraduate and graduate industrial engineering programs, go on to careers in the manufacturing and supply chain sectors. They hold such titles as manufacturing systems engineers, supply chain engineers, quality engineers, product quality engineers, process engineers and cost analysts at some of the top manufacturing and logistics companies around the world. 

“As an undergraduate student, I learned how to apply an analytical thought process to problems and challenges in the workplace and I’ve applied that same methodical approach to business problems in the supply chain,” says Rich Tannenbaum, the senior vice president of supply chain and information technology at the Vitamin Shoppe.

"Nearly 50 percent of graduates, both from undergraduate and graduate industrial engineering programs, go on to careers in the manufacturing and supply chain sectors."

Universities may still be seen as “ivory towers”, but it is critical for students to get hands-on experience and real-world exposure before joining the manufacturing workforce.  The hands-on training that is provided—in the classroom, through research and in engineering facilities and manufacturing laboratories—prepares graduates to be able to assess manufacturing processes, improve efficiencies, and increase productivity in real-world settings. 

Industrial relevance

Industry partnerships, including those between industrial engineering programs and such companies as Haas Automation and Lincoln Electric, give students access to the machinery, tools and techniques they will be using in true manufacturing operations.  Working with industry on projects in class and in the lab exposes students to the challenges they will face in the real world. It also provides faculty with a chance to demonstrate the relevance of their work and identify new research ideas and technologies.

Additive manufacturing is one such technology that is redefining manufacturing in many industries. “Additive manufacturing is an exciting technology that is just now really being explored and has the potential to impact the full spectrum of design and manufacturing activities from product design to the supply chain,” adds Sanjay Joshi, professor of industrial engineering at Penn State.

Sam Garzon, a 2005 industrial engineering graduate of Penn State, now oversees the 3-D printing efforts at Staples, Inc.

“By building on the foundational knowledge of 3-D printing I gained as an undergraduate, I am able to offer this technology as a service at Staples, enabling small and medium-sized businesses take advantage of all the benefits associated with 3-D printing, without having to spend thousands of dollars on printing equipment,” he concludes.

3-D in-depth

University facilities like the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D) are leading research and development in additive manufacturing of metallic components. CIMP-3D explores the engineering behind additive manufacturing—not only the technology itself, but also the training and education needed to prepare students for the workforce, as well as retraining existing industry workers to take full advantage of this advanced manufacturing technology.

“3D printing is making manufacturing—and engineering —exciting again,” says Tim Simpson, co-director of CIMP-3D and professor of mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and engineering design at Penn State.

Students are able to address the unique needs of manufacturing companies by partnering with corporate sponsors through capstone design projects at most universities. Manufacturing companies such as ArcelorMittal, Boeing, Dresser Rand Group, Ingram Micro, MSA Safety Inc., Quaker Chemical Corporation and TE Connectivity have worked with students to provide real-world solutions to their operational and supply chain challenges.

“Basically, it’s a win-win-win situation for the students, the company and the university,” said Perry Morrissette, a senior engineering manager with The Boeing Company. “A win for the students in that they are provided opportunities to apply their engineering knowledge to solve complex real-world technical problems; a win for Boeing as we get to evaluate engineering talent; and a win for the university by providing an environment that enables placement of their students into industry.”

Lasting impressions

Katie Blank, a 2014 Penn State graduate of the industrial engineering program who worked with the Learning Factory at Penn State for three years, is now a retail replenishment forecasting planner at Procter & Gamble. “Having the opportunity to work with corporations on capstone projects was the best way to learn how my classes translated into real world situations. As we were still studying for our degrees, we were acutely aware of out-of-the-box solutions to solve our companies’ problems.”

Universities go beyond just educating engineering students for their first jobs in industry; they make sure they have the necessary tools to establish careers that hinge on the knowledge, research, hands-on experience and innovative thinking that has been instilled in them since they first arrived.