With the decline of manufacturing in North America, some teachers of industrial engineering—the science at the core of material handling—have begun to wonder what the future holds for material handling education. But rather than wallow in speculation, a group of scientists are doing what scientists do best—conducting research to help answer that question.
What sparked the debate was a survey by the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) that suggested that as material handling faculty members retire or leave, they might not be replaced and their courses could be cancelled. At its Teachers' Institute held in Quebec in June, the council decided to commission a research project at the urging of its then president, Russ Meller of the University of Arkansas. (Meller's term expired in September.)
At the group's fall meeting in late September, Meller shared the results of a preliminary survey, which suggest that as manufacturing moves offshore, material handling is receiving less emphasis at some engineering schools. But Meller cautioned that the survey had been conducted across a very small base. He told CICMHE members that his interviews with leaders of programs at several universities showed mixed results, with some believing material handling education had a bright future, while others predicted that it would be de-emphasized in engineering programs.