For my STEP project I worked as a chemical engineering intern for a company called A-Brite Plating that is located in Cleveland, Ohio. The company plates metal onto plastics for numerous customers. A step-by-step process photo is shown below (note each new piece represents one more step in the process and the last three pieces are all different finishes). I created a process 101 presentation for the company while also keeping track of orders and inventory for their Honda 2020 CRV program.
I feel I have a more in-depth view and appreciation for manufacturing. I never realized how many different companies there are in the world but working at a place that chrome plates plastic put that in perspective. We, among other parts, chromed five parts for the Honda CRV, and knowing that we only do a portion of this car’s chrome nationwide made me think of how much goes into a single car. There are many more man hours that go into creating one vehicle than I knew of beforehand. Between us, steel workers, plastic injection companies, etc. I am surprised car prices are so low.
Working as an engineer for the first time, even at the lowest level, brought new light to my eyes as well. There will never be a shortage of problems to solve, especially in the manufacturing industry. If there is a slow day, you could be working on improving the process, but there are almost never any of those days.
I also realized that manufacturing is a tough business to work in. Working on a project that sent parts to Honda showed me that deadlines are set, and there is no partial credit for your late work. I found myself working longer than 8 hours a day a few times to meet a customers requirement.
I have also gained an appreciation for the people working on the floor at a manufacturing plant. Not all of them want to be where they are, in fact I hadn’t heard one person all summer say they loved their job. It is a tough thing to stomach that people are not doing something that they dreamed of doing. Lots of people are working for their families. It is something that I did not notice a lot growing up in a small farm town, and it is something that you do not normally see while attending school at such a large campus.
My interactions with the floor workers and with our janitor staff brought my second realization to fruition. I have gained a lot of respect for these day in and day out grinders. I learned that two of the men on first shift work a second job on the weekends. Both guys were noted as hard working and reliable by their manager. They were also very nice to me and were always willing to help me with a small project.
All in all, I now know that school is just a steppingstone. What I am going to see and learn once I have a full-time job will not exactly resemble my coursework. There is too much to cover in school to match the expansive manufacturing industry. Also, the personal relationships I develop on the job cannot be taught in school. Knowing this will reshape how I look at each job I apply for. I will be looking beyond what the title and description are because I know the more important aspects are not captured by these things. I will want to look into who I will be working with and attempt to figure out why I would want to spend hours of my time with them trying to fulfill a companies goals.