The world of manufacturing is filled with a wide range of different jobs – probably far more than most people realize. In addition to the operators who work the equipment necessary to manufacture essential goods and products, you also have manufacturing associates, technicians, supervisors, managers and more.
One of the most interesting of those positions is that of the manufacturing engineer. In a lot of ways, their day-to-day jobs are just as varied as the sector itself. They have five key roles in particular that are absolutely worth a closer look.
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What is a Manufacturing Engineer?
First, it’s important to gain a better understanding of what a manufacturing engineer actually is.
“At its core, you’re talking about an experienced employee who is tasked with A) designing, B) implementing, and C) continually reviewing the industrial process they’ve implemented as well as the procedures and controls that are involved in manufacturing,” says Abdallah Salloum, supply chain leader at GE Healthcare. “Essentially, they help make sure that the logistical and technical foundation is there that the rest of the operation needs to thrive.”
It’s also key to understand that while one manufacturing engineer’s larger responsibilities may be similar to the next, their actual regular tasks may vary depending on which type of manufacturing they are a part of. Someone working in electronics on appliance manufacturing, for example, will obviously have to take different considerations in mind than someone who works at a food-based facility that produces canned goods.
The Essential Responsibilities of a Manufacturing Engineer: Breaking Things Down
One of the biggest roles that a manufacturing engineer plays in any successful organization has to do with the processes it depends on. Each of those aforementioned positions within a manufacturing facility has an important part to play in bringing products and services to life. It will be a manufacturing engineer’s responsibility to constantly look at those processes and judge them based on things like quality, efficiency, speed, and more.
Manufacturing engineers use metrics like Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to help identify areas for improvement and will make recommendations to try to get things as close to peak efficiency as possible. Along the same lines, another role that manufacturing engineers play has to do with the development of those processes and systems to begin with.
Up until recently (relatively speaking), all processes were still manual. Over the last few decades as technology has continued to advance, things have gotten to the point where automated manufacturing workflows are more commonplace.
A manufacturing engineer would help determine where automation can be employed, which parts of the processes and systems need to remain manual, and how to bring those two ideas together for the benefit of all.
Based on their knowledge and expertise, a manufacturing engineer will also help identify opportunities for cost savings without sacrificing quality. Especially during an era of economic uncertainty with razor-thin profit margins, manufacturing facilities need to be in a position to do more with less.
Manufacturing engineers can help train staff to complete processes more effectively, can get more value out of equipment, and more to help accomplish these goals.
One of the most essential roles that manufacturing engineers play has to do with safety. Obviously when you’re talking about an environment that is filled with heavy machinery and the people operating those assets, safety is of the utmost concern.
Manufacturing engineers will therefore be partially responsible for making sure that processes follow all safety and environmental protocols that are in place. If regulations change regarding workplace safety at a local, state, or even federal level, they will also be a part of the team implementing those initiatives.
Finally, manufacturing engineers are often involved with upgrading the systems and processes that are in place within a facility with new technology as it becomes available. As previously mentioned, automation is the biggest example of this. If a part of the process can be automated, it should be. Not in an effort to replace a human employee, but to free up the valuable time of that employee so that they can focus on matters that require their close attention. That will maintain or even increase the quality of the finished product, all while maximizing efficiency at the same time.
On a related note, there is also the position of a senior manufacturing engineer. In addition to tasks like those outlined above, a senior engineer will also likely be responsible for looking over the equipment and layouts in a manufacturing facility to try to identify opportunities for improvement. They’ll focus on things like production processes and more, attempting to take existing resources and apply them in a way that improves essential qualities like performance and safety across the board.
A senior manufacturing engineer will likely be tasked with solving production problems as well. Depending on the size of the manufacturing facility, they may not have both a manufacturing engineer and someone in a senior position. However, it is not uncommon to see in larger organizations, especially those that operate nationally or even globally.
In the end, think for a moment about the various types of manufacturing facilities that are out there. Not only are you talking about traditional clothing and textiles, but you also have metal manufacturers, petroleum and plastics manufacturers, electronics, transportation, and so many others.
The food we eat, the clothing we wear, and the products we enjoy on a daily basis, all come to us by way of the manufacturing process and manufacturing engineers play a critical role in the entire process.