Raising productivity

by Isabella Lee

Carson Chu, industrial engineering manager
Egana Jewellery & Pearls Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Expanding need for production and quality improvement specialists

Industrial engineering talent is highly sought after in the expanding job market. For individuals possessing the appropriate qualifications, good attitudes plus substantial expertise, there are ample opportunities to progress to management positions.

According to Carson Chu, industrial engineering manager of Egana Jewellery & Pearls Limited, the job of an industrial engineer (IE) is still a mystery to the laymen. Most people conjure up the image of a sweaty worker with sleeves rolled up toiling under the incessant din of noisy machinery. Misconceptions like this has held back talent from entering the field and nullified potential opportunities.

"IEs actually work in a different way," Mr Chu explains. "To raise overall productivity, there are a number of things we do to make the production processes more efficient and ensure products are consistent in their quality and standard."

Full picture

To carry out sophisticated tasks, IEs in Egana need to fully understand the methods used to manufacture jewellery pieces. First of all, they must conduct an analysis on the entire product design to determine the routing of all manufacturing processes, then measure the time required for each specific procedure and set up a time motion frame for the sequences.

For IEs with more practical experience, they may be employed as a system analyst and be involved in the ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation for the company, meaning that they will be involved in continuously improving the established production processes and closely monitoring their effectiveness and efficiency.

"Similar to an internal consultant in the company, IEs should possess academic and industry know-how to make accurate calculations. Additionally, strong analytical skills are required to consolidate the abundant data and scientific evidence presented everyday," Mr Chu points out.

Besides the technical knowledge, IEs also need management skills because the job is closely related to people. "For example, in the workshop, there are goldsmiths who will indicate ways to finish a piece of jewellery. Before any mass production procedure is designed, many different methods are suggested. At the end of the day, it is the duty of an IE to examine, evaluate and incorporate all these possible solutions. Then, when a final proposal is made, the IE needs to convince all the concerned parties to adhere to their respective roles and follow the overall direction," Mr Chu notes.

Diverse development

To be the winner in an increasingly competitive world market, companies are constantly looking for service enhancements and hardware improvements. As a result, the demand for IEs is escalating because they make an immense contribution to the production process.

Newly joined IEs at Egana are provided with comprehensive training which includes a week-long factory orientation and intensive classes at the company's training centre the following week. Since the job nature of industrial engineering is practical and technical, case studies make up the bulk of the training. Afterwards, IEs will receive on-the-job coaching from a senior colleague. Mr Chu says, "For the profession, a full set of cross disciplinary skills is necessary in order to realise its full functional capacity in the factory."

For entry-level positions, applicants should have a degree in industrial or manufacturing engineering. The company will consider graduates of a higher diploma programme if they possess relevant experience. "Above and beyond qualified education backgrounds, the right persons should have a positive mindset, a well-rounded character and most important of all, the willingness to learn," Mr Chu stresses. "In this profession, every project is a new adventure. You must learn from your past assignments and apply your knowledge in the new implementation. In any case, you can never find direct solutions from the books."

Nowadays, China is where all the scalable factories and production lines are, and it's bread and butter for an IE. Mr Chu states that most IEs are required to work in a factory setting, and that they should now see the plenty of opportunities for further development in the industrial engineering sector.


Taken from Career Times 01 June 2007
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