What is in this article?:
- Industrial Engineers and the Manufacturing Renaissance
- Communication Vital to Advanced Manufacturing
NC State's Paul Cohen: Both shop floor employees and industrial engineers will need new skills as they deal with advanced manufacturing technologies and supply chains.
How would you like to leave college with eight or nine job offers?
That is a far-fetched dream for many young people looking to enter the workforce but for the best industrial engineering students at North Carolina State University, that has been the reality for the past few years, says Dr. Paul Cohen, who heads NC State’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department.
As talk of manufacturing being dead has been replaced by that of a U.S. manufacturing renaissance, students are flocking in increasing numbers to the engineering discipline. Median pay for industrial engineers in 2012 was $78,860, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Enrollment in the NC State’s industrial engineering program has more than doubled, says Cohen, and he reports programs at other schools are seeing similar growth. Still, the U.S. does not have enough industrial engineers moving through the educational pipeline. Cohen cites a 2012 article in The New York Times that examined the production ramp-up for Apple’s iPhone. The article noted that 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee the 200,000 employees of Foxconn who would manufacture the phones. Apple estimated that it would take nine months to find that number of engineers in the U.S. But as the article stated, “In China, it took 15 days.”
Moreover, says Cohen, “In the U.S., we produce about 3,300 industrial engineers a year.”
Those students are moving into an era of a manufacturing renaissance, Cohen firmly believes. He said some parts of U.S. manufacturing are gone, but other segments will grow and some jobs will be reshored to the U.S. He cites as an example Caterpillar bringing welding lines back to its factories in North Carolina.
“They like the quality they get,” he said. “They like the fact they can control things much more easily.”
Cohen thinks the need to invest in manufacturing is one issue enjoying bipartisan agreement. He points to the growing network of manufacturing innovation institutes, such as the Next Generation Power Electronics National Manufacturing Innovation Institute that NC State leads. The $140 million public-private institute, announced by President Obama on January 15, will work on production processes for wide bandgap semiconductors, a new generation of smaller, faster and more efficient semiconductors.
There is good economic reason for investing in manufacturing, he points out.
“About 70% of our exports are manufactured goods,” he says. “If you look at how we gain wealth, that becomes a critical piece of the puzzle.” Moreover, he cites the high multiplier effect that manufacturing has on economic activity.
Cohen also points to the innovation that manufacturing drives. “If you look at U.S. patents, 90% are from the manufacturing industry,” he says.