A group of students from the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) have visited the San Francisco Bay area on a study tour. The objective was to look at four themes: innovation, sustainability, supply chain management and the economic downturn.
"This tour opened our eyes to a new culture of business success driven by technical innovation - it showed us that excellent engineers can make things happen, make money and have fun!"
—Tom Ridgman, Director of External Education for the IfM,
The students are all members of the IfM's MPhil course in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management (ISMM). The one-year postgraduate programme is designed to equip graduates, primarily from Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths backgrounds, with the skills, personal development and industrial experience to be immediately effective in their early careers in industry.
On their trip to Silicon Valley, the students visited a number of 'Software as a Service' (SaaS) organisations, including giants such as Google and Amazon, as well as newer or rapidly growing firms like Box and Heyzap (started by IfM alumni Jude Gomila), as well as manufacturing companies such as IBM, Coca-Cola and Tesla.
Students gained some interesting insights from this experience. Many US companies have a very different culture to conventional UK ones. Some, for instance, offer free food and services such as hairdressing to attract and retain talent.
The students also saw how some manufacturers are investing in advanced machinery to meet their sustainability commitment - Coca-Cola replacing its forklift truck batteries with hydrogen fuel cells, for example.
The ISMM group toured an energy utility company where staff explained how they were incentivised to get their customers to use less energy. To gain an understanding of the history of the area, they also visited local museums and Berkeley and Stanford University.
Tom Ridgman, Director of External Education for the IfM, said: "This tour opened our eyes to a new culture of business success driven by technical innovation - it showed us that excellent engineers can make things happen, make money and have fun!"