Asee peer logo

The Four Pillars of Manufacturing as a Tool for Evaluating Course Content in the Mechanical Concentration of a General Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Four Pillars of Manufacturing

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1201.1 - 23.1201.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Gayle E. Ermer Calvin College

visit author page

Dr. Gayle Ermer is a professor of engineering at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. She teaches in the mechanical engineering concentration in the areas of machine dynamics and manufacturing processes. Her master’s degree was obtained from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in manufacturing systems engineering (1987), and her Ph.D. from Michigan State University (1994) in mechanical engineering. Her research interests include philosophy of technology, engineering ethics, and women in engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The Four Pillars of Manufacturing as a Tool for Evaluating Course Content in the MechanicalConcentration of a General Engineering CurriculumAbstractThe four pillars of manufacturing have been developed as a framework to promote understanding of theideal content of an undergraduate program in manufacturing engineering. It has been proposed that thefour pillars could also provide direction for enhancing the content of other related engineering programs(e.g. mechanical engineering) in order to better prepare these engineering graduates for entering themanufacturing workforce. This paper describes the application of the four pillars as a tool for analysis ofthe curricular content of a general engineering degree with a concentration in mechanical engineering.Many graduates from this program have gone on to work in various manufacturing industries, eventhough the concentration has not previously been tailored toward the preparation of manufacturingprofessionals.In particular, the content of a specific required manufacturing processes course was evaluated using thefour pillars structure in order to ensure that students are exposed to the best possible combination ofmanufacturing topics. The goals of this course redesign included: 1) increasing engineering studentlearning of concepts and skills important to success in a manufacturing environment, 2) increasing studentperceptions of the relevance of the course material to engineering practice, and 3) increasing themotivation of students to pursue manufacturing careers (and therefore increase overall manufacturingcompetitiveness).A comparison of previous course content with the content areas of the four pillars, in the context of therest of the program course requirements, helped to identify opportunities for improvements. This paperwill describe the evaluation process and present conclusions regarding proposed changes in coursecontent and pedagogy. The analysis resulted in a new course plan which will be implemented in thespring 2013 semester. This work also clarified where in the curriculum, outside of the manufacturingcourse, students learn skills that are aligned with the four pillars. The four pillars structure proved to be anaccessible yet detailed standard that facilitated a better balancing of topics in the manufacturing processescourse. This exercise demonstrates that the four pillars model can be successfully applied in settingsoutside of traditional manufacturing programs to better prepare students for manufacturing-relatedengineering careers.

Ermer, G. E. (2013, June), The Four Pillars of Manufacturing as a Tool for Evaluating Course Content in the Mechanical Concentration of a General Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22586

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015