When people think of the term engineering, things like rockets or skyscrapers come to mind. But not all engineering is about building massive structures or traveling into space.
Some engineers focus on the little details that take a customer’s product from ho-hum to high-end.
We spoke with Erik Dahlgren, the Director of Manufacturing Engineering at Weber Knapp, to find out how those little details can be a game-changer for a customer’s product.
When Erik first started at Weber Knapp 27 years ago, he was fresh out of college and looking to start a career. His brother-in-law sold tools and equipment for repairing pallets to Weber Knapp, and he heard there was an open position.
Erik sent in his resume and soon after came on as the Industrial Engineering Manager at the end of 1993. He worked in that position for a few years before some departmental changes at Weber Knapp in 2000, and he became the combined Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Manager.
After that, Erik went on to be promoted to Development Manager, and in 2014 he became the Director of Manufacturing Engineering--the position he still holds today.
When asked about the favorite part of his job, Erik laughed.
“I like it all,” he says, “but if I had to choose, I’d say I like being able to quote and provide a customer a good solution.”
You might be saying to yourself, “Well, that’s great, but what exactly does a manufacturing engineer do?” Let’s take a look:
What Does a Manufacturing Engineer Do?
The day-to-day of someone like Erik looks like this:
- Design tooling for manufacturing
- Decide which processes are most efficient to make a product
- Improve processes to reduce manufacturing cost for the customer
But Erik does a lot more than that! He works closely with the design engineers to make an estimate/quote for the customer based on their tooling and material needs.
Plus, he’s responsible for meeting customer standards (as well as Weber Knapp’s standards) for environmental safety and consumer protection. Abiding by RoHS and REACH guidelines is part of that.
“Part of my job that people don’t recognize all that often,” Erik says, “is how we improve manufacturing processes and tooling options to reduce the end cost. It really makes a difference to our existing customers, and is a good selling point for prospective customers too.”
Erik looks at all of Weber Knapp’s manufacturing capabilities to find areas where he could decrease lead time or finish a part quicker. And that’s no small task, because Weber Knapp has numerous in-house capabilities, including:
- CNC fiber laser cutting
- CNC turning
- CNC press brake services
- CNC router services
- Progressive die stamping
- Finishing services (i.e. electroplating and powder coating)
But, not every part of being the Director of Manufacturing Engineering is happy smiles from customers. Sometimes, there are challenges along the way.
Engineering directors at any facility are tasked with troubleshooting manufacturing processes. For example, right now Erik’s working on getting just the right color out of a powder coating. “It’s satisfying to finally solve a problem,” Erik says, “it’s all about learning how to make us more efficient.”
A Different Kind of Hinge Manufacturer
What sets Weber Knapp apart from the competition, Erik continues, is its status as a full-service manufacturer.
“There’s very little we can’t do,” he says.
Customers can work with Weber Knapp throughout the design, manufacturing, and assembly processes, which gives Erik a lot of room to work his magic.
“The thrill of engineering is that you’re always learning something new. With every product we manufacture, there’s a little tip we learn that makes our processes just that much more effective,” Erik says proudly.
But by far the most important lesson Erik has learned is that communication is key. Manufacturing engineers work closely with the design engineers to find ways to change the product or process to save money for the customer. Same goes for working with the shop floor crew; sometimes they learn things in the course of manufacturing or assembly that can cut costs for the customer.
Improving Customer Experience With Manufacturing Engineering
It’s clear that manufacturing engineering is all about continuous improvement, and at Weber Knapp, that’s Erik’s putting green. And he has a track record of holes-in-one.
To learn more about what kind of manufacturing is possible at Weber Knapp, check out our new resource page!