Innovative program emphasizes immediate application of advanced manufacturing concepts

James R. Webb has been named the director of the Master of Science | Manufacturing Systems Management (MSM) degree program offered by the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University. He succeeds Dr. Donald Price, retired industry professor of mechanical engineering at SMU and former Principal Engineering Fellow at Raytheon Electronic Systems.

In making the announcement, the school's dean ad interim, Marc P. Christensen, said, "Jim's appointment reaffirms the school's support for the continuing resurgence of manufacturing in America. As a highly experienced engineer and businessman, as well as an excellent teacher, he is the perfect choice to address this opportunity and need for knowledge."

"In today's highly competitive global market, you've got to have a Master's degree to be competitive," Mr. Webb said. "Why not a degree in a field of study that really impacts the way you do your work, something relevant? That's the value this program delivers. It gives manufacturing professionals a fast-track way to update their skill sets, sharpen their competitive edge, and position themselves for greater leadership roles at the executive level." 

Designed with a dual emphasis on technology and management, the MSM degree is a 30-hour graduate program that is delivered in a unique hybrid of distance learning and weekend format that makes course materials available to students worldwide. Course topics include developments in manufacturing technology, Six Sigma, disruptive innovation, sustainability, and global strategy as well as business- and career-related subjects such as marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, and leadership principles.

The program is oriented toward engineers who are already in the manufacturing industry, as well as those who wish to enter it, and is distinguished by its emphasis on functional application. "Our students tell us that they've been able to apply on Monday what they learned in the classroom over the weekend," Webb said. "Our instructors are all subject-matter expects with extensive experience in front-line manufacturing as well as high-level management. In addition, we augment their knowledge with that of guest lecturers brought in from area manufacturers."

It's the right program at the right time, according to Stephen W. Smith, P.E., Vice-President of Engineering at Trinity Industries in Dallas and a member of the ME Board for Knowledge at SMU. "Thanks in part to changes in the global economy as well as industry's own initiatives, American manufacturing is regaining its strong competitive position," he said. "To maintain this advantage, we must be able to rapidly develop and deploy innovative production strategies and technology. This calls for highly motivated engineering talent that possesses both advanced manufacturing knowledge and business and leadership skills. That's the focus of this program. Anyone – manufacturer or engineer – who intends to increase their competitiveness should give it strong consideration."

Manufacturing leaders from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Siemens, and Bell Helicopter TEXTRON can already attest to the program's value and are eager to help spread the word, Webb said. "The support from former students is outstanding. For example, we recently held a luncheon for prospective students. Six of our graduates, from companies throughout DFW, drove in on their own time, just to talk about how much value this course had for them." 

An adjunct engineering professor at SMU for six years, James Webb is a strategist with the Department of Defense and has held numerous management and engineering positions, including senior manager in the manufacturing strategy consulting practice of Deloitte, senior manager in AT&T's international e-commerce initiative, and VP/engineering for Hamilton Tool Company. Earlier, he served as a research engineer with Texas Instruments on the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative. He holds a BS in Engineering & Applied Science from West Point, an MS from SMU, and an MBA from the University of Dallas. He is pursuing a doctorate from the University of Maryland.

For additional information, please contact Michael Paulk, Program Manager, 817-601-7224, EngineeringLeaders@lyle.smu.edu.