Leaving footprints

Feb 17, 2005

Kettering University's master's of science in Manufacturing Operations (MSMO) receives boost as faculty begin to globalize curriculum to allow all manufacturing professionals at General Motors (GM) facilities worldwide an opportunity to learn the latest in the field.

The move is on. Companies throughout the United States continue to shift their manufacturing operations overseas. Why? Operational costs are less, thus providing additional revenue with which to research new products, expand market share and otherwise conduct activities that may increase consumer consumption here and abroad. Unfortunately, most companies face a major challenge in training and educating their global workforces in cutting edge manufacturing practices to stay competitive.

But there are ways that companies can achieve global success if they take advantage of opportunities available with institutions such as Kettering University. Today, Kettering is helping one of the most successful corporations in the world by offering an updated graduate curriculum in Manufacturing Operations that better reflects the current global manufacturing environment. The University is helping GM fulfill the automotive giant's vision to establish a common "footprint" at all GM manufacturing facilities worldwide.

It began in 2002, when Joe Spielman, a vice president at GM as well as the company key executive for Kettering, initiated the idea of a common educational footprint for manufacturing operations professionals. In December 2002, GM and Kettering signed an agreement that made the University's master's of science degree in Manufacturing Operations (MSMO) the preferred degree for manufacturing professionals who work for GM. GM employees can enroll in the MSMO program through the company's prestigious GM Technical Education Program (TEP, http://tep.gm.com/) and take classes from many sites in the world via an assortment of distant learning delivery modes.

Based on the success of this program in the last few years, GM decided to take the MSMO program to all of its manufacturing plants worldwide. Tony Hain, vice president of Graduate Studies and Corporate Connections at Kettering, explained that this endeavor, "presents a unique opportunity for the University to take one of its graduate programs into China, Australia, India, or wherever GM facilities operate. It opens doors for Kettering to become a global player in the higher education market."

In response to the needs expressed by GM, Kettering initiated a process to revise the current curriculum for the MSMO and globalize the academic content to better reflect the dynamics and theories used in the field today. The purpose is simple: to provide the latest information on best manufacturing practices worldwide. This approach will help audiences from any part of the world learn advanced techniques used in today's manufacturing environment based on cultural, societal and professional expectations of various markets. This change is also based on Kettering's success and years of industry experience crafting degree and continuing education programs that respond immediately to current industry challenges.

Dr. David Strubler, associate vice president of Kettering's Graduate Studies and Corporate Connections, explained that the University's MSMO can further enhance the education, skills and talent of GM manufacturing professionals because of the expertise of Kettering professors. "Instructors are in the process of redesigning the curriculum to include, for example, cross-cultural negotiations, international supply chain management and global case studies using regional examples," he said.

Recently, Dr. Atul Agarwal, associate professor and director of the MSMO degree program at Kettering, lead the University's participation in a global needs assessment survey with GM TEP to identify global and regional level knowledge content needs of GM facilities in different regions of the world. The respondents to the survey included a cross section of GM professionals worldwide. According to Agarwal, "results of this global survey will form one of many important piece of input in redesigning the global MSMOcurriculum."

Diane Landsiedel, seniormanager of the GM Technical Education Program, feels that Kettering's efforts help the company fulfill the technical education program in several ways. "Our high potential manufacturing professionals must be able to work collaboratively and through virtual means from anywhere in the world," she said. "To win greater market share, GM must develop its organizational capability worldwide. Kettering offers one of the best manufacturing operations programs in the world and its MSMO helps satisfy a critical component of the GM Technical Education program."

This sort of activity is the kind of thing companies and institutions of higher education can take advantage of in the future if they wish to prosper in an environment that is becoming more globally focused each day. "I believe that for a university to succeed in the global marketplace," explained Agarwal, "it must form productive partnerships with businesses and universities, and capitalize on each other's expertise in different areas. This is what we are doing with the MSMO as we prepare to offer it on a global basis to GM professionals worldwide."

To learn more about the MSMO and other graduate degree, continuing education and other post-bachelor courses, contact Kettering's Office of Graduate Studies at (810) 762-9500, or visit www.kettering.edu/graduate/. GM employees can visit http://tep.gm.com for further information.

By Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538