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Manufacturing 1b: Your Path in Manufacturing

We live in a manufactured world. From the chair you’re sitting on to each semiconductor in the screen you’re looking at, most of the objects in your life came out of a factory. While the knowledge, materials, and skills needed to create these objects are distinct, there are many commonalities in the manufacturing process. Ideas need to be generated, resources need to be managed, and teams need to be led. This course will cover many of these commonalities, including managing resources, product development, operations, testing, teamwork, documentation, and much more. You’ll learn both what is involved in the various areas of manufacturing and what a career in different fields would be like. Along the way, you’ll do activities that enrich your knowledge and give you the opportunity to delve into the areas that interest you most. A career in manufacturing is a chance to help make the world we live in!

Units at a Glance

Unit 1: Working with Your Hands and Your Head

There are many career paths in manufacturing which span across various disciplines including business, engineering, and computer science, as well as vocational fields such as welding, machining, and maintenance. It’s incredible how much is done and how many people are involved within this vast industry. In this unit, you’ll learn about welding, sheet metal, finishing, and managing the resources that keep production going. At the same time, you’ll get a sense of the various careers available within the manufacturing industry. If you already have a sense of which career interests you most, you will see your path more clearly as we progress through the unit. And if you aren’t quite sure yet which path is right for you, this unit may soon have you dreaming of an exciting career you can excel in.

Unit 2: More Manufacturing Paths

Manufacturing offers a wide range of career opportunities that are both personally and professionally fulfilling. Recent technological advances within the manufacturing sector have led to the launch of new cutting-edge fields, including biotechnology and nanotechnology. Let’s take a tour through some more manufacturing career paths, including those that ensure quality, make products, and move things around.

Unit 3: What It Means to Be an Engineer

Have you ever met an engineer? Have you ever wondered what an engineer really does? Engineering is a field of study focused on solving problems and meeting unmet needs using the principles of science and mathematics. Engineers are key team members in many areas of manufacturing from the layout of a plant to the research and development of new technologies. Careers in engineering can be very diverse and provide many opportunities to not only become immersed in creative, theoretical work, but also to participate in transforming a theory into reality.

Unit 4: Product Planning

Do you ever look around your house and wonder how things are made? Do you know how football helmets are made or your favorite pair of shoes? Products are constantly being imagined and created to better our daily lives. They solve problems, provide entertainment, and allow us to stay in touch with family and friends. Whatever they may be, all products begin as an idea and are then carefully measured, documented, and researched as they travel from the spark of an idea to store shelves.

Unit 5: Manufacturing Planning and Management

What is a plan? It’s the soil from which a company can grow. As such, it should be tended to carefully before operations begin. It should have a clear vision and enough detail so that there’s no confusion about where the company is headed. It’s not a document that is set in stone, but it will provide guidance as a company begins operations. Plans guide the decisions companies make on everything from how fast to go to how long-lasting your products will be. Plans can also determine whether the business will make everything themselves or use a contract manufacturer to supply the needed components. Furthermore, they can decide whether the operation will maintain inventory on the shelf or produce items on an as-needed basis. There are many factors that need to be considered and tracked in manufacturing. There’s a lot to do, but it all begins with a plan.

Unit 6: Process Management

When we think of advances in manufacturing, new tools, materials, and products come to mind. Just as important, however, are the documents, processes, and methods that guide the work. Managing a manufacturing operation is complex. It involves careful planning and controlled execution. Fortunately, just as tools and materials have evolved, so have the processes that guide execution. These days, managers have a wealth of tools at their disposal to ensure successful operations, quality products, and the highest customer experience. In a global manufacturing environment, competitiveness is rooted in applying advanced operating approaches like Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, and statistical process control to optimize efficiency, eliminate waste, and maximize financial returns.

Unit 7: Managing People

Manufacturing is more than machines and processes. People are an integral part to successfully delivering the goods and services consumers enjoy. The workforce for any organization must be skilled in the technologies necessary to efficiently and cost-effectively transform raw materials into finished goods. In addition, companies need people who tend to the business side of operations like sales, marketing, human resources, and accounting. Regardless of the role, there are many non-technical skills that can also be beneficial. These include everything from good listening to working well on a team. In many ways, these skills are equally as important as any technical know-how. They’re the skills that allow teams to work together and to lift each other up.

Unit 8: The Big Picture Perspective

Every country in the world employs some form of manufacturing to either provide goods for its citizens or export goods to foreign markets. Regardless of the purpose, the success of a manufacturing operation depends on various factors. To create a successful product, all manufacturing processes must function at an acceptable level from inception to completion. This means an organization must have a clear understanding of how raw materials are sourced and refined, understand how to analyze macro forces, and know how to protect and promote products. This unit will guide you through these big picture factors so that you understand the effect they have on manufacturing companies.