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The Manufacturing Education Dilemma: Operating Efficiency vs. Productivity

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Advances in Additive, Hybrid, and Digital Manufacturing Education

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Robert Simoneau

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Robert W. Simoneau has 47 years of academic and industrial experience in manufacturing and management related disciplines and holding an MS in Plastics Engineering as well as an ABD in Educational Leadership. He is an Associate Professor at Keene State College in the Technology Studies and Business Management Departments. On a leave of absence he served as a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation where he made recommendations for funding while managing the following solicitations: Assessment of Student Achievement (ASA), Advanced Technology Education (ATE), Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI), and Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics Scholarships (CSEMS). Prior to Keene State College he taught in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology department at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He has also served as an adjunct professor for the Plastics Engineering Program for the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He has been a consultant for Ford Motor Company, Polaroid Inc., Timken Aerospace, and SMITHS Industries to name a few. As a guest scientist he consulted at the Army Materials Research for over 13 years in the Composite Development Division. He has numerous publications over the years in manufacturing engineering, materials research as well as educational research. He is a member of American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and has taught seminars for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers nationally as well as globally. He continues to serve as a consult for corporations as well as a researcher to educational institutions providing expertise and models to help enhance and sustain advanced manufacturing programs.

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This paper examines the ongoing discussion regarding operating efficiency and productivity and its application to US manufacturing operations and its implication for manufacturing engineering education. The distinction between operating efficiency and productivity in the research literature is somewhat nuanced making this disparity even more difficult for faculty and students to assimilate. This paper is an attempt to provide engineering educators with a clearer distinction between operating efficiency and true productivity. This will enable educators to emphasize where problematic tensions arise as their students evolve. Review of the literature tends to support three dominate perspectives regarding operational efficiency: labor centric, production/operations centric and indirectly Wall Street centric – profit maximization. Each perspective has advantages but can be somewhat idiosyncratic. Relentless global competition mandates that Chief Executive Officers (CEO), engineering staff and operations managers must function with increased efficiency if they are to remain competitive. How operating efficiency translates into productivity needs to be stress throughout the manufacturing engineering curriculum. The utilization by faculty of experiential and project-based methodologies can help students better understand the distinction. Some researchers suggest that the highest productivity (efficient point) is achieved when maximum output is obtained for a particular input level. This distinction suggests that operational efficiency ultimately defines productivity. These definition can easily distort and even confuse students and faculty who may use efficiency and productivity interchangeably. This paper will suggest a holistic definition of productivity that can be easily integrated into applied manufacturing engineering pedagogy. The proposed definition, if adopted, will provide educators and their students with the necessary terminology to effectively argue for true productivity initiatives that represents the voice of the customer.

Simoneau, R. (2020, June), The Manufacturing Education Dilemma: Operating Efficiency vs. Productivity Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35345

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