The Four Pillars of Manufacturing Engineering was developed and supported by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering, (ATMAE), and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). A group of manufacturing educators created it in 2011 as part of a strategic plan to reverse negative trends in manufacturing education and improve manufacturing competitiveness (Mott, Raju, & Stratton). The Four Pillars consist of foundational knowledge areas that represent a typical Manufacturing Engineer’s Body of Knowledge. In addition, it provides the recommended content for academic programs related to manufacturing and articulates the fundamental knowledge required by manufacturing engineering professionals.

The concept of the Four Pillars is to design curricula that provide adequate academic preparation for students seeking gainful employment in manufacturing or manufacturing-related firms. While the Four Pillars could prove useful in addressing the gaps in existing manufacturing programs as it requires the development of rigorous instructional materials for use in classrooms, laboratories, and projects, the extent of the academic preparation could also be applicable to non-manufacturing programs. Thus, the theory tested in this research is that the Four Pillars Manufacturing Engineering is applicable to more than just manufacturing programs. The Four Pillars knowledge areas are relevant across a broad spectrum of technical-managerial disciplines.

ATMAE accredited educational programs emphasize a mix of technical and managerial skill sets. The applied nature of the curriculum typically distinguishes ATMAE programs from pure engineering and business programs. The required knowledge and competencies for an entry-level technical manager are important. The required competencies and knowledge of a manufacturing engineering manager are thought to be closely related to the required competencies and knowledge for an entry-level technical manager. ATMAE accredited programs include both manufacturing and non-manufacturing programs such as drafting, construction, and computer networking.

The technical education received by students in ATMAE accredited programs in four-year institutions should prepare students for entry-level technical-managerial positions in industry. This research sought to capture the perceptions of alumni, students and faculty across multiple programs, both manufacturing and non-manufacturing related. Using the Four Pillars manufacturing engineering foundational knowledge areas, the research addressed the following:

  • What fundamental knowledge areas are most important for an entry-level technical manager?
  • What fundamental knowledge areas are or were covered in (your) respective major program?
  • What additional important competencies should be covered in (your) major field?
  • Are the knowledge areas specified by the Four Pillars model applicable to non-manufacturing areas of study?
  • Are the knowledge areas specified by the Four Pillars model congruent with what is being taught and what is perceived as important for non-manufacturing programs?



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