When I started my freshman year at the University of Connecticut, I took the same prerequisites all engineers must take. UConn offers a unique program titled Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM). This program caught my eye because of the offered dual degree in engineering and business upon graduation.
In addition to the engineering courses I would take (thermodynamics, applied mechanics, and manufacturing automation), this program also exposes its students to the business side of engineering (finance, accounting, management, and business law). This implementation of business creates another avenue to gain experience. I have had some experience working with a local engineer, but my business experience is lacking. Luckily for me, Donna reached out to me about attending the 2017 Eastern States Exposition (EASTEC).
EASTEC is a manufacturing exposition that allows exhibitors to promote their products and ideas. Not knowing what to expect from the event, I accepted Donna’s offer.
The trip was a whirlwind of thoughts, observations, and teaching moments. For starters, the expo was quite similar to what I expected-
- Three different showrooms- each building with its own theme to the machines on display
- The machines served multiple purposes from cutting to measuring, varying in size from something that could sit on a kitchen counter all the way to a machine that would fill a living room.
- Some machines were engravers and would use lasers to etch logos and designs into metal or wood.
- Other machines served the purpose of quality control, using metrology (the study of measurements) to make sure the finished product met the specifications.
Talk of machine parts, prices, and manufacturing jargon filled the air, mingling with the constant ka-chunk of the machines. It was obvious that the booths that marketed themselves better drew in larger crowds of visitors. Some booths would use the provided black backdrop and fade into the background. Others would bring along white panels and TVs, catching your eye and enticing you. In fact, I noticed that the booths that used white appeared to be more professional and attention grabbing. For whatever reason, the glossy white paneling stuck out from the competition.
In the final building, there was a little lounge area where companies could rent out time
to give a presentation to the attendees. I decided to sit down and see what The Robert E. Morris Company had to offer. This presentation was titled “Smart Manufacturing: It’s More than the Machine Tool”. My MEM major specific course had trained me for this moment. As I sat in the audience I knew exactly what the presenter was talking about. In fact, the presentation was a shortened version of everything I had learned in class. The general product that Morris was marketing was a software and service package.
- The software would collect data and analyze the machines on the shop floor, relaying all this information in real time to a computer.
- The shop manager could then see how productive their shop is in exact numbers rather than trying to use approximations.
- The Morris representative was throwing crazy numbers like fifty percent productivity growth and up to 400% return on investment.
- Many of the other audience members who actually worked in manufacturing seemed intrigued with what Morris had to offer.