Collaborative Efforts Boost Talent, Strengthen ManufacturingBy Alejandro Enríquez | Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:52
Q: What is Universidad Iberoamericana’s role in the development of the automotive industry in the Puebla-Tlaxcala region?
A: Universities have an important role in the development of industry and society. In the automotive industry, Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla, as other universities in the region, educates talent and has partnerships with companies in the automotive sector at an undergraduate level. However, there was no program that helped working engineers at the time. For this reason, our university designed our M.SC in advanced manufacturing, aiming to strengthen and develop engineers’ skills while collaborating in the manufacturing strategies carried out by automotive companies in the region.
My experience as a C-level executive in automotive manufacturing companies has opened an extensive network in the private and academic sectors to create meaningful partnerships. Universidad Iberoamericana is also part of the Puebla-Tlaxcala cluster and we are collaborating with them. Approximately 30 percent of cluster members benefit from our program. In fact, employees at CLAUZ companies can enjoy a scholarship covering 20 percent of the program’s cost.
Q: What is the added value of your M.Sc. in advanced manufacturing?
A: The academic program in Advanced Manufacturing delivers added value to both the student and the company. We have a close relationship with OEMs, in our case Audi and Volkswagen, Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies. Through this we can take into account some of their manufacturing strategies and challenges and create permanent solutions within the program. Problems addressed in Master’s courses could not be solved in shorter diploma courses.
As program coordinator, I served as a liaison to different automotive C-level executives and associations so companies could nominate some of their engineers to apply for our course. Engineers can also apply for themselves. In any case, the applicant’s immediate boss has to second the application and as an entry requirement, all candidates must present a project charter they will follow during their Master’s, which should be approved by their immediate supervisor. If the student passes the exam and is admitted to the program, a project manager will be assigned to the student in addition to an internal project manager that should belong to the company the student is currently working on.
Project development follows the Project Management Institute’s methodology and a confidentiality agreement is signed to protect sensitive information related to the projects. To get the M.Sc. degree, the student presents the finished project that has been implemented in the company via a formal dissertation. There are three main topic areas the projects can address. First is manufacturing processes, which include plastic injection, machinery, stamping, thermal and chemical treatments+. Second is manufacturing systems, which include six sigma, lean manufacturing, lean sigma, quality management and mechanical design. Finally, the third area is smart manufacturing, which includes automation, digital integration and design of smart algorithms.
Q: What are some of your success stories regarding the program?
A: The collaborative nature of the program fosters a think tank environment within the university. In a generation, we take a maximum of 12 students per year although we receive more than 60 applications. This number is due to the nature of the program since each student has a project leader or strategic partner adviser. The program is also funded by CONACYT and students get around a 70 percent discount on tuition fees, along with an additional 20 percent discount through our partnership with CLAUZ. The goal is to strengthen the regional industrial footprint, as well as technology development capabilities.
Industry 4.0 is among the most common topics covered by the projects. A remarkable project was the reconditioning of one of Volkswagen’s manufacturing cells. The student oversaw the project from the quotes to the final installation. This is just one example of the technological development approach students take.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mexico’s engineering capabilities?
A: Mexico plays a relevant role in the automotive industry. At international events, Mexico is heard when it comes to manufacturing. As for engineering capabilities, the country has gained well-deserved praise in this regard. A particular characteristic of Mexican talent its disposition and eagerness to learn, which leads many companies to take people from Mexico to their headquarters. The missing element is a national policy that could articulate the needs of the industry and the available talent. It is well-documented how companies are starting to open R&D centers in the country. To the best of my knowledge, these plans will continue and USMCA provides a new opportunity for more local engineering development.
Q: What is your vision for the future of the program?
A: We work closely with Tier 1 companies but there are greater needs among Tier 2 or Tier 3 suppliers. Advanced manufacturing is in line with developing new processes for smaller companies to level up their operations. The basics for applying smart manufacturing are process documentation and systematized operations. Our vision for the future is to expand our range of influence for smaller companies to improve their corporate structure and processes. It is fair to say that many Tier 1 companies are worried about their suppliers and are aware that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Universidad Iberoamerica is one of Mexico’s leading private universities with campuses in different parts of the country. Its M.Sc. advanced manufacturing program is a graduate level master’s degree focused on improving manufacturing strategies among OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies