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Industrial Engineering

Executive Summary and Introduction:

Myself, Andre Louw (Industrial Engineering), and Mr A Young (eNtsa) visited the Engineering School of ECAM in Lyon from 26 – 28 May 2014.

My primary objectives were to investigate the ECAM approach on Lean manufacturing training and in particular their INEXO Platform. This platform is significant in its similarity to the SWEAT lab in the Industrial Engineering Department.

The visit lead to numerous contacts being made, learning taking place and discussions on potential collaborations between the NMMU and ECAM. Each of these topics will be discussed in the report below.

Itinerary of Activities:

  1. Presentations of various Institutional Units (ECAM, Industrial Engineering, eNtsa)
  2. Visit INEXO Platform and discuss training methodologies (Undergarduate)
  3. Discussions on INEXO Executive Training Programme – “Operational Excellence”
  4. Partake in INEXO Executive Training Programme with:
    1. Managers of Keolis Lyon (Maintenance and Operations of Public Transport in Lyon)
    2. Manager of a high-tech electronics manufacturing firm.
  5. Visit mechanical engineering laboratories
  6. Discussions/Reflections on the purpose, value and outcomes of the visit.

Contacts made:

  1. Didier Desplanche (General Director)
  2. Patrice Couvrat (Dean of Engineering)
  3. Christoffe Collette (Director of Business Development)
  4. Jean-Louis Arosio (Head of Industrial Management)
  5. Edith Frey (Head of Languages & International Relations)
  6. Lisa Vergara (Coordinator of Languages & International Relations)

Report on Learning:

INEXO Platform:

The INEXO Platform is similar in purpose to the SWEAT lab, however the design is different.

The differences are mainly in the product to be ‘manufactured’ and the design.

The product is fairly complex but no alternatives are available. Setting up the exercise is relatively simple as it will always follow the same pattern.

The layout/design is modular, hence allowing for stations to be moved around as needed. Training follows a typical ‘lean’ exercise pattern where workstations are poorly laid out, workloads are unbalanced and basic work conditions are ‘unsafe’, worker unfriendly and unproductive. From an organisational perspective, this approach leads to unavoidable time wastage to disassemble products after each cycle.

The exercise requires some students to experience the unproductive and poorly organised ‘shopfloor’ first-hand, while students need to measure the process. There-after students are required to reflect, identify problems, suggest improvements, implement and test. Upto 8 such cycles are facilitated until the process runs very smooth and highly productive. An important variation on the normal theme is the equally important focus on management strategies and structures to support a lean approach.

INEXO Executive Programme:

The executive programme runs from 5-8pm on day 1 and 8:30 to 4 on day 2. The target group is current managers and executives.

The first objective is “To reflect upon the philosophy of Operational Excellence (its theory and practice) as a continual and permanent process of improvement by which to optimise a company’s financial, physical and production flow.”

This focus is on training managers to manage a lean process, rather than to use lean tools. While some basic tools are reiterated and practiced, the aim is to cultivate an understanding, rather than proficiency. Management tools like A3 strategy, Visual Management, PDCA and steering of problem-solving groups are regarded as crucial.


Feedback/Opportunities on Visit:

Several future outcomes and opportunities were discussed and deliberated.

  1. Direct Learning and areas of knowledge exchange/knowledge building.

From an Industrial Engineering Point of view, this has centred around the facilities and training content offered in the SWEAT lab and, potentially, other labs. Opportunities were identified in structuring the soon to be compiled SWEAT lab training approach and content. This will be discussed in a separate document.

  1. Internships (In-service Training)

The issue of internships was discussed and major stumbling blocks were identified:

  1. Language (bigger concern for NMMU students in France)
  2. Cost/Payment (big concern for NMMU students in France) European students typically fund their own internships abroad, with being paid a salary.
  3. Work and Study permits. (Bigger concern for ECAM students in RSA) Process is complex and slow.
  4. Work content and supervision. This should not pose a big problem as both NMMU and ECAM set certain standards on these, however the manpower of academic supervisors might pose some challenges.


  1. Student Exchange programmes and MOU

Concerns were limited as an existing MOU is already in place and both institutions already have other such programmes running.

This would, however, need to be updated to be reciprocal to allow NMMU students to study at ECAM. Some concerns include matching subjects to satisfy both institutions. Timing also presented a problem as European semesters typically follow a slightly different date range, however suitable overlaps can be found.


  1. Staff Exchange programme and opportunities

This was considered a longer term focus, and similar problems were identified as in the case of internships i.t.o. Cost and Visa allowances. Language is considered a lesser problem as there is a limited demand for English lectures to the ECAM students (to enhance the students’ international mobility), while ECAM staff to NMMU might find the language a bigger barrier.



While language and distance separates the School of Engineering, NMMU and ECAM, we share similar problems and opportunities. Thru collaboration between the institutions, many of these could be shared and solved to achieve individual growth and mutual benefit.

It was stated clearly that ECAM has a desire to join forces with the NMMU and has in fact chosen the NMMU above other potential partners in the RSA.

The NMMU has managed to present itself to the world as a dynamic and forward thinking institution. ECAM has similar values. I believe the opportunities in a collaboration between the NMMU and ECAM are huge and will only enhance the academic offering to the students of both and should be pursued with enthusiasm.

Posted on 19 August 2014 15:11:58

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