In November, MIT Professional Education welcomed participants from South Africa’s manufacturing industry to the MIT campus for a five-day intensive program focused on manufacturing and product platforms.
Twenty-six students, hailing from diverse sectors of South Africa’s manufacturing industry, were sponsored by the Fiber Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&M SETA), an arm of the South African government. The students, currently enrolled in an advanced management program at the Regenesys Business School in Johannesburg, traveled to MIT to participate in a sub-program titled “Systems Engineering Approach to Platform-based Manufacturing and Innovation,” designed specifically for the group.
The program, taught by MIT Professor Olivier de Weck and Professor Timothy Simpson from Penn State University, addressed topics such as product platforming, product architecting, platform strategy, and two-sided markets. In addition to lectures, the program incorporated several hands-on exercises designed to reflect MIT’s motto: “mens et manus,” or “mind and hand.” These activities included a manufacturing game using Lego bricks to assemble small cars, and a product dissection where participants disassembled various product families, analyzed the results, and presented their findings to the group.
The South African professionals from clothing, textiles, footwear, forestry, packaging, and print media sectors also took part in several other activities pertaining to their professional interests, including a tour of The Boston Herald editorial offices; a lecture on 3-D printing led by MIT Professor John Hart; a tour of MakerWorks, an MIT student-run makerspace; and a tour of Form Labs, a desktop 3-D printing company that was founded by MIT alumni.
“This program made me appreciate and understand on a much deeper level what product planning is and how it works. I (also) appreciated the importance of planning of leadership, respect amongst team members, listening, and the knowledge obtained,” said Brian Bikitsha, course participant and creative director at a footwear company.
This is the second program MIT Professional Education has delivered to South African managers in conjunction with Regenesys Business School. The first run took place in the summer of 2014 to managers from South Africa’s transportation sector.
“Working with Regenesys in South Africa has been important because through them MIT Professional Education is helping to bring some of the necessary skills for innovation and leadership, particularly to those who come from previously disadvantaged communities. We hope our contribution will be important to their future success,” said Tish Miller, director of academic programs at MIT Professional Education.
Bhaskar Pant, the executive director of MIT Professional Education, added, “As part of our global outreach effort to address the knowledge needs of large developing economies, we are particularly pleased to contribute to the manpower training needs of key sectors such as transportation and manufacturing, in South Africa.”
“There is a deficit of leadership in all sectors of the economy in South Africa,” said Hazel Bagley, strategic business development manager at Regenesys. “The expectations of this particular group of students are high ... we want them to make an innovative and entrepreneurial contribution that is sustainable in the manufacturing industry. We know that the program at MIT has contributed to that in a significant way.”
In addition to the learning activities that took place over the week, there was a celebratory spirit of cultural exchange, as participants attended their first American basketball game, watching the Boston Celtics take on the Indiana Pacers. The program faculty and staff were treated in turn with a cheerful song by the South African group each morning before class commenced.
Oli de Weck said, “It was deeply moving to see how the participants from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds came together to learn and perform very well in our hands-on games and activities. It felt to me that the kind spirit of Nelson Mandela was watching over us all week, approvingly.”