A Job Description for the LEAN ENGINEER

The profession of Industrial Engineering has always been tied to the world of manufacturing and the design of factories that produce the consumer and producer goods that we all use.  Before there were factories, craftsmen made tools, wagons, weapons, wheels and horseshoes on a one-of-a-kind basis.   As we moved into the age of iron and steel, it became necessary to provide power to metal-cutting machines and this produced the first factories with water powered machine tooIs (circa.1860). In this era, the concept of interchangeable parts evolved. This first factory design became known as the job shop or the American Armory System to the historian, and it was an economy of collected processes.

The second factory design was known as the Ford production system with its moving assembly line and standardization of measurements leading to truly interchangeable parts. The factory design was called the flow shop.  Around this time (1913) the first industrial engineers (IEs) emerged out of mechanical engineering to measure work and devise better ways to organize and operate the factory. Over time, the flow shop and job shop merged to create the mass production system with its division of labor, producing large volumes at low unit costs.  This led to economies of scale.

In the late 1970s a third factory design evolved based on the work of Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Motor Company.  This design produces goods using Economy of Scope – a flexible system producing a wide variety of goods in small lots at low unit cost with superior quality and short lead times. Toyota-Style industrial engineers designed and ran the lean production system and it is being spread about the world just like the other two factory designs.  Evolving out of this revolution is the new IE which we are calling the Lean Engineer (LE).

The Lean Engineer knows IE fundamentals, knows lean engineering fundamentals, knows six sigma methodologies, knows lean-to-green factory design.  The LE must know how to design and balance a mixed-model final assembly line to level of demand for goods from the supply chain.  Sub-assembly conveyor-based lines are dismantled and replaced with sub-assembly cells, U-shaped and staffed for flexibility.  Job shops are replaced with manufacturing cells based on standard work.  Cell design is based on takt time, sequence of operations and stock-on-hand.  Work holders are redesigned for rapid tooling exchange.  Cutting tool holders are redesigned for rapid tool changes. In-process inspection devices, defect prevention devices (poka-yokes) and decouplers are designed and integrated into the cells. Total Preventive Maintenance methods are developed and implemented to eliminate machine tool failures. Kanban systems are designed and implemented to link the sub-assembly cells to final assembly.  Over time, machine tools are upgraded or new machines are designed specifically to enable all the features of the cells plus many more to achieve world class manufacturing.  The overall effort to reduce waste is a great step toward operating a factory that sends zero waste to landfill.  This is the job description for the LEAN ENGINEER IN AN INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER'S WORLD.  

Dr. J. T. Black

Rumor has it that Dr. J T. Black retired from Auburn University in 1998.  The retirement check comes from the State of Alabama every month, so he must be retired.  But he seems to flunk retirement as he can be found back in the classroom teaching a course in Lean Manufacturing each year.  

Dr. Black got his undergraduate degree from Lehigh University, his master’s from West Virginia and his doctorate from the University of Illinois-Urbana.  He has taught at the University of Illinois, the University of Vermont, the University of Rhode Island, The Ohio State University, the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and Auburn University.  He and co-author Ron Kohser are the authors of the best- selling manufacturing book DeGarmo’s Materials and Processes in Manufacturing.  Dr. Black also wrote The Design of the Factory with a Future.  He is also author, with Steve Hunter, of Lean Manufacturing Systems and Cell Design, and a new book with Don Phillips that will be called Lean Engineering.

He is a fellow in ASME, SME and IIE and in June delivered the Founders Lecture at the 40th North American Research Conference held at Notre Dame.

Dr. Black’s outside activities include tennis, songwriting, poetry and showing his championship pug dogs at dog shows through the southeast US and at Westminster.

Monday, November 26, 2012, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Shelby 1103