Luck led to lean manufacturing 

By Dawn Wiseman

As a young woman looking at career possibilities, Nadia Bhuiyan (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering) “was really interested in the arts, but not in being a starving artist.” She chose engineering “pretty much out of a hat, but I did enough research to know that industrial engineering would fill my need to work closely with people.”

Nadia Bhuiyan Magnifying glass

Nadia Bhuiyan

Now an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and the Associate Director of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI), Bhuiyan acknowledged that “Engineering has worked out pretty well for me, but I was lucky.”

Her work in the classroom and in the lab centres on the human element of the field. Bhuiyan’s research is in the multidisciplinary area of product development and lean manufacturing, in which people and decision-making are key.

Introduced to North America in the mid-1980s by Toyota, lean manufacturing is a system of refining business processes from product conception through to manufacturing and sales by reducing waste in effort, personnel and other resources.

As Bhuiyan pointed out, “Lean manufacturing has worked really well for manufacturing companies, but the same tools and techniques can also be applied to intellectual processes.” She is currently involved in a number of projects examining the impact of lean engineering in local firms.

At Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bhuiyan and some students “are studying the flow of intellectual work in progress and trying to ensure that engineering re-sources are positioned appropriately to support this flow.”

In other research with the Georgia Institute of Technology, she has worked on the use of the design structure matrix (DSM) method to improve the design of powered wheelchairs.

A DSM is a concise visual method for representing the interrelationships between the individual steps of complex projects that allows users to more easily identify key components in project flow. “We were able to determine a sound design process that helps to reduce cycle time,” she said.

Bhuiyan underlined that the industrial collaborations of her research have a significant impact on her teaching. “I am able to bring real-life examples to my classes, and this helps students see beyond the theory.”

“I always wanted to teach,” she said. “I love the challenge of translating complex material into something understandable for my students.” And Bhuiyan takes more than just a passing interest in their success.

“I am very interested in motivating people, in helping them learn to learn, which is why I love my involvement at CIADI.” The institute hires top achieving undergraduate students and places them in aerospace companies, where they contribute directly to research, development and/or production projects.

Students in the program really change, she said. “When the students return from their placements, they are almost completely transformed — more confident, more ambitious. They’ve gained a real sense of what they can do.” Students frequently write to Bhuiyan telling her how much they’ve enjoyed the experience. “It’s a pretty nice thing to be a part of,” she said.

Bhuiyan’s best student and her greatest passion right now is her 20-month-old son, Gabriel. She loves teaching him new things every day and is fascinated by how much a little mind can absorb. “Balancing family and work is a challenge, but it keeps things interesting.”


Concordia University