TEACHING MANUFACTURING-ORIENTED INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE FACTORY

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

EXTENDED ABSTRACTEquipping students with the concepts, knowledge, skills, and perceptions to cope with the requirements of the position she or he will hold upon graduation, is always challenging, and the field of Information Technology (IT) is no exception. The future factory is an important subject matter presenting such a challenge. Boyer, Ward and Leong (1996), citing others, define the factory of the future as based on advanced manufacturing technologies (AMT) and the economies of scope that they engender: paperless, almost workerless, and possessing the ability to produce a large variety of products cost effectively in lot sizes as small as one. Almost a decade later, Bracht and Masurat (2005) define the digital factory in similar terms- fully computer-aided planning, production and operation of the factory, networked through a central database. Sackett and McCluney (1992) state that in order to succeed in such a dynamic environment, an engineering graduate must develop a holistic view of the business process. Zuehlke (2010) state that apart from the vision of a deserted factory, the changes we face today are similar to the ones we faced two decades ago. Hands-on teaching is one of the best ways to convey this complex industrial environment (Dessouky, Verma, Bailey, & Rickel, 2001), but constructing and maintaining a suitable physical system facilitating such experience is not simple. The major difficulties stem from the high costs and the complexity of hardware and software on one hand, and the need to augment production concepts with concepts from different disciplines (e.g. information systems and human factors) on the other. Information systems have evolved considerably in the past two decades, particularly in directions that require cross-organizational standardization and integration, which even further increase the complexity of their implementation in teaching production oriented settings. In light of these challenging needs and constrains, it is somewhat surprising that relatively little attention is devoted to IT education in supply management settings. Medina- Lopez, Alfalla- Luque and Marin- Garcia (2011), who performed an analysis of research on operation management teaching, state that there is a dearth of articles on teaching in the main operational management journals. This submission is aimed at filling some of the gap by presenting the contribution of an educational future factory facility to IT education. Leaning on fruitful previous experience of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) laboratory established in 1993 (Berman, Edan, & Jamshidi, 2002, 2003; Berman, Edan, & Rabinowitz, 2003) with resembling challenges, the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev began a project of building the Integrated Manufacturing Technology (IMT) 29laboratory which is a future factory facility (Berman & Fink, 2011). Concepts underlying the IMT laboratory come from the fields of production planning, intelligent automation, information systems, and human factors. Its main goal is to facilitate teaching and research on the integration of future factory concepts, cutting edge technologies of shop floor automation, and organizational information systems. The design of the IMT laboratory aims at the facilitation of demonstrations of links between the intangible information systems and the physical real-life organizational environment, providing in-depth understanding of such links to students of information systems courses. In this laboratory, abstract notions taught (database, extract- transform- load (ETL), data warehouse, business intelligence (BI), data mining etc.) will be turned into visible and tangible concepts for the students. In the future, business information systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM) will be implemented and further demonstrate the cross-organizational nature of information systems. The first IT course to enter the IMT laboratory was Enterprise Information Architecture (BI), an elective 4th-year course. The course is focused on information architecture, specifically infrastructure and application that generate information resources according to the business needs of the organization. The integration of a business intelligence course in the factory setting was not trivial and the linkage was carefully planned. Forty four students, taking the course on the winter semester of the 2012 academic year, entered the laboratory toward the end of the semester for a short presentation of the future factory. Since the laboratory is still under construction, a large portion of the demonstration was 'virtual' (i.e. explanation of what will be and how it will work). At the end of the visit, the lecturer and his assistants presented the student with an assignment, based on the laboratory activity. They opened with a presentedof simulation of incoming calls from customers with feedback regarding the product they received (positive and negative) and with manufacturing and business data from a simulation model of the factory (employee working hours and machine operation, salesman activity, material quality etc.) programed using ArenaTM(Rockwell) simulation software. The students were asked, as a graded course assignment, to analyze the data and identify the source of the customers' complaints. In the following weeks, the students were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their satisfaction with the activity. Twenty seven (61%) students responded, with a general positive feedback and a strong indication that they would like the visit to be more hands-on, i.e., to see the full production process, walk around the laboratory, touch things etc. This feedback is in-line with the literature on IT education as well as the IMT laboratory objectives. In the coming semesters, the IMT laboratory will be integrated in the curriculum of additional IT courses, and as the laboratory construction progresses, more hands-on activity will take place, aiming at realizing the full potential of the IMT laboratory in demonstrating abstract concept of information technology in a manufacturing environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation Systems (ILAIS) Conference July 2, 2012
Pages28-30
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2012

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