The Satisfaction of Solving the Puzzle 'Can't Be Beat,' Says Engineering Tech

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Industrial engineering technician David Vanderveen
Vanderveen says the best way to help solve a process problem is 'to go out there where the process is performed and get your hands dirty.' (Credit: Courtesy David Vanderveen)

David Vanderveen likes to analyze processes so he can make them better. That eye for efficiency has served him well at Rittal North America in Urbana, Ohio, where he has worked for six years and where he started an apprenticeship program in 2020.

Why did you become an industrial engineering technician? 

I knew I wanted to be in the field of engineering, however I had not decided on a specific discipline. I started as an industrial engineering technician when the company I work for opened an apprenticeship program in lean manufacturing. After looking further into the role of an industrial engineer, I knew it was the right role for me.

What does a typical day for an industrial engineering tech look like?

A typical day for an industrial engineering technician varies a lot. Typical duties include improvement of industrial processes to increase efficiency, development of work instructions, and planning the layout of each workstation, as well as the manufacturing plant itself.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

The aspect I like most about my job is designing the workflow of a production line. Fitting together each piece of a process in the most efficient way possible is like a giant puzzle, and the satisfaction when everything comes together can’t be beat. My least favorite part of the job is the associated paperwork needed to document any changes that are made.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

I believe the most common misconception about industrial engineering is that it’s limited to manufacturing. At its core, industrial engineering is all about process improvement, so there are a plethora of opportunities for employment in various workplaces such as hospitals, logistics and office spaces.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

Going into the field, I had no idea about the level of involvement industrial engineering has in the factory environment. Industrial engineering is responsible not only for the optimization of each individual process, but for the optimization of the entire facility overall.

How did you train to become an industrial engineering technician?

I started working as an industrial engineering technician through Rittal North America’s apprenticeship program, where they have taught me the majority of what I need to know. I’m still attending classes at Clark State Community College to further that knowledge.

While at least an associate degree is recommended for most places, all you need to start working in the field are a few timing certifications, such as MTM (Methods-Time Measurement).

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Enjoyment of analytical processes and working with people directly are requirements to succeed in industrial engineering. A lot of each day is spent talking to different teams and analyzing data. A willingness to go out to where the process is performed and get your hands dirty also goes a long way toward being successful.

Why would you recommend that someone become an industrial engineering tech?

I would recommend industrial engineering to anyone who enjoys problem-solving. It provides a sense of accomplishment whenever you get to improve somebody’s experience at work by making their jobs easier, safer and more productive.

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