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Humans of Manufacturing

In the Driver’s Seat

Carlo Cruz and Fellow Engineers use Advanced Technology to Develop, Define Culture of Innovation

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When Carlo Cruz first entered the University of Cincinnati, he wasn’t planning on a career in manufacturing. After several years of studying organic chemistry, he took part in a cooperative learning program with Toyota Motor North America, where he learned about Lean principles as part of the Toyota Productivity System. It stuck. Cruz completed his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and even went on to earn an MBA, but it was his experience at Toyota that set his future course.

He went on to work for the automaker, where’s he’s been for the past six years. His job title is senior engineer in digital engineering, planning and development. Don’t let the lofty title fool you, though; what he actually does is play with cool manufacturing technologies all day.

“When I first started here, I was a construction project manager in the paint shop,” he said. “The job I have now didn't actually exist. Several other engineers and I became interested in advanced technology such as robotics and machine learning and were curious how we could leverage these technologies to develop an innovative culture within our organization.”

Cruz worked with middle and senior management to define this culture, ultimately landing him in his current role as a “technology scout” for the TILT Lab at the Toyota’s Production and Engineering Manufacturing Center (PEMC), formed as a result of his and his colleagues’ efforts.

“Right now, I’m investigating the possibility of using wearables as a method of process control. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
Carlo Cruz

Walk into the Toyota facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, and you might see him there, figuring out how to manipulate the latest collaborative robot or assisting a fellow engineer with a 3D printing project. Chances are good, however, that Cruz will be visiting one of Toyota North America’s other production facilities or working with a potential supplier, always on the lookout for the next greatest thing.

As an employee of Toyota and a practitioner of its well-known productivity system, Cruz is still heavily involved in Lean principles. In fact, that way of thinking has leaked into his private life. While in college, he began a side business as a wedding photographer, where he used what he learned during his college co-op program to make his work more efficient. That part-time job later expanded to include cultural event planning as part of the Desi Dance Network, an organization focused on merging south Asian and Western cultures through national dance contests.

“I was always interested in doing something for Asian Americans,” he said. “I’m too busy traveling now to do any wedding photography, but I still contribute to the dance events as much as possible, and my engineering work has helped with that. The rest of my time is spent studying emerging manufacturing technology and ways to bring it to the production line. It might be the IIoT or AI or virtual reality, and part of my job is to develop a proof of concept project around them. Right now, I’m investigating the possibility of using wearables as a method of process control. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also a lot of fun.”