University of Alabama engineering school opens manufacturing program

The manufacturing environment was once a hot and dirty place, but the workplace is transforming into a high-tech environment, requiring advanced education and training. This idea put forward by the American international president of Mercedes-Benz, Michael Goebel, forms the basis of a new study program that will soon be offered by the University of Alabama.

In a ceremony Thursday, the UA College of Engineering presented a new bachelor’s degree program in manufacturing systems engineering, which will be available from fall 2022. Simultaneously, the university opened the Alabama Initiative on Manufacturing Development. in Education (IMaDE), an educational partnership between the university and the state’s largest manufacturers to facilitate the new curriculum.

“When I joined the (UA engineering) program three years ago, I realized there was manufacturing potential here in the South, especially with companies like MBUSI (in Tuscaloosa County) and Honda (at Lincoln) and many others, “said Nader Jalili. , the head of the mechanical engineering department for UA and the director of the Alabama IMaDE program.

“I saw the talent and the potential that we could create a situation like the University of Michigan for automotive research. So what we tried to do was bring automation like the next generation of engineers will use it to build the future, ”Jalili mentioned.

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The idea behind the program is to train engineers capable of working in a high-tech environment, encompassing all the technology needed in the modern factory, from high-tech assembly devices to predictive maintenance systems that will reduce downtime. ‘stop.

Next year, Goebel said MBUSI will manufacture two new models of electric SUVs at the Tuscaloosa plant, a process he says will place a high demand on the workforce.

“I think it’s building the future together. We need so many young people who are interested in the manufacturing environment,” Goebel said. “We have to overcome the belief that manufacturing is something dirty or hot. It’s a pretty cool environment with all the digitalization happening and with the transformation to the electric car business, which starts in Tuscaloosa in a few months. only.

“We really need this young generation to come to us to be part of our team. Having the university next to us is a great opportunity for us,” he said.

Goebel added that students graduating from the program will be well equipped to immediately help their employers.

“We are absolutely confident that those coming out of this program will not only understand the technology of the systems surrounding the manufacturing (process) where we are reviewing the system, but can improve it and run more efficiently,” he said.

The need for highly skilled people in the manufacturing environment creates recruiting challenges for Alabama manufacturers, according to Dirk Lotce, COO of EBZ Systec Inc. His company builds robotic assembly lines and technology used in automobile manufacturing. Finding qualified people to work in his company was a challenge.

The University of Alabama presented a new bachelor's degree program in manufacturing systems on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Nader Jalili, head of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Alabama, speaks with Michael Goebel, left, CEO and president of Mercedes-Benz USI. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

“We’re in a kind of struggle to find and hire new employees with the knowledge, education and experience of our industry. We build the (assembly lines) for companies like Mercedes-Benz in Alabama. We are building the (assembly lines) for companies like Mercedes-Benz in Alabama. “We’re struggling to find suitable employees in this region to work for us. We believe this new direction at the university will help us find employees who can handle automation line projects,” Lotce said.

Over the past two decades in the manufacturing industry, a major shift has occurred from intensive work environments to integrated technology environments, characterized by a range of digital manufacturing processes and robotics. Lotce said the university’s program should help them meet their needs for highly skilled workers faster.

Rather than taking a totally inexperienced person and giving them extensive training before they can work, Lotce hopes the new program will provide his company with people ready to move from the graduation stage to the workshop. Manufacturing.

With these needs in mind, UA began by listening to the needs of the industry first and then partnered with them. The new partnership has poured more than $ 3 million from manufacturers into the program, as well as untold hours of cooperation between manufacturers and UA to create the new degree course.

The University of Alabama introduced a new Bachelor of Manufacturing Systems program on Thursday, September 30, 2021. University of Alabama President Stuart Bell helps introduce the new curriculum. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Jahlili said the UA program will include a series of courses to equip students.

“We’re ending with the normal engineering training courses, but what we do unique is we listen to our industries to see what they expect from graduates of this program. We train our students in modular aspects of manufacturing, so instead of taking it as a three hour course, we break it down into smaller steps to teach them more in a modular way, ”Jahlili said.

“This is a hands-on program. Students will walk into a robotics lab instead of going to a boring classroom,” he said.

This partnership between industry and education is exactly what Donny Jones knows the state needs to recruit more industry in Alabama and open up the job market. Jones is the COO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and leads the West Alabama Works program.

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“This program is going to make a difference to our workforce for years to come. It’s so crucial when it comes to recruiting new, innovative businesses in the state of Alabama. It’s also crucial to retain students who come here from all over this country. I think this is the first stepping stone to modern manufacturing and advanced manufacturing, “Jones said.

University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said, “The industry has invested in this facility and what they really expect are great graduates who will impact their industry and see this. new technology come to life in their manufacturing workshops.

Bell, who has an engineering degree, said he was excited about the role UA will play in improving manufacturing industries across the state.

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