Dec 11 2022
In a personal exchange, François Pellerin described our Introduction to Manufacturing as a “reference book,” which makes it sound like one of those thick tomes you put on a shelf and never open: a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or a handbook.
This is 180º from our intention. We wrote it as a textbook for students of industrial engineering and operations management that working professionals can also use.
We hope to see it on desks, dog-eared, highlighted, annotated, and coffee-stained. If not in print, then in the same condition in the reader’s e-book library.
A Readable Educational Tool
My co-author, Torbjørn Netland, teaches at ETH Zürich and helped structure the book for students. Besides substantial content, he added lists of key points, stop-and-think, review questions, case studies, and other learning aids to make it a readable educational tool.
Our Introduction to Manufacturing was influenced by the structured teaching style practiced at ETH Zürich. Instructors freely determine the content of their courses, but the school trains them to deliver it in a form that helps students achieve stated learning objectives.
Supporting the flipped classroom
Another development we paid attention to is the flipped classroom, which is increasingly popular in the US. Pedagogues consistently denounce lectures as the least effective way to convey knowledge and skills, and the flipped classroom expects students to read a chapter or articles independently. The time in the classroom then serves for discussions, questions, exercises, and group projects. The emphasis on readability in our Introduction to manufacturing supports this mode of operation.
Origin of the lecture
The lecture format emerged in response to the scarcity of books in the Middle Ages. It made reading them from the pulpit a way to multiply their diffusion. “Lecture” is French for reading, and the German word for lecture, “Vorlesung,” literally means “reading aloud.” The following picture, cited by Howard Hotson, depicts a lecture at the university of Bologna in 1400. One instructor at a lectern is reading a book; One student in the 3rd row is asleep, and almost half the class engages in private conversations:
Keeping students engaged in a lecture is not a new problem! Today, however, since books are no longer scarce, the lecture has lost its original purpose. There are better ways to use the time teachers and students spend together. We expect Introduction to Manufacturing to be read by students at desks, not aloud from a lectern. The 800-page print edition is a bit heavy for reading in bed.
As we focused on students, we were surprised by the interest from professionals. Given that Introduction to Manufacturing covers issues that we expect will occupy former students once they work in manufacturing, it should perhaps not be surprising. If our book can help professionals either in solving immediate problems or in continuing education, so much the better.