Chemical engineer pursues a master’s degree in management science and engineering to pave the way for career aspirations in the breweries industry

Jorge Hernandez has two semesters remaining in the 18-month Master’s in Management Science and Engineering (MGSE) program at Lehigh University, but he already has his sights on his ultimate goal: opening his own brewery-distillery.

“I love chemistry,” Hernandez says, “and the engineering background that goes into brewing and distilling that nobody sees is really interesting.”

Hernandez, who received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia University Institute of Technology last year, became interested in starting a brewery-distillery after watching documentaries and reading books about the industry.

“I think it's a business that can be very successful, if you're able to locate it properly,” Hernandez says. “Most people try to target the bigger cities, but the bigger cities are already full of breweries.”

For Hernandez, the end goal isn’t to just have his products in a few select restaurants, but to see them stocked on the shelves of liquor stores and chains like Walmart.

Gaining an analytical advantage

While the Master’s of Engineering (M.Eng.) MGSE program in Lehigh’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering doesn't require a thesis, it does offer students the possibility to work on a project, like the brewery-distillery Hernandez envisions, with faculty guidance.

“Hopefully, the internship I'm going to have this summer leads to something like that,” he says.

Hernandez will be a process engineering intern for Momentive Performance Materials, in the chemical company’s West Virginia facility, where he worked for a few summers as an undergraduate student.

“They need a couple of systems put in place to adjust their production schedule,” he says, “and a couple of projects on continuous improvement for various processing units, because every time the unit isn’t running, they're just losing money.”

Momentive is primarily a batch operating facility, so scheduling plays a big role. Hernandez will be analyzing data—information the production engineers don’t really have time to look at—to determine how the company can optimize its production schedule.

For Hernandez, the internship will be an opportunity to gain a wide range of experiences that will be valuable as he climbs the career ladder to a managerial position.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Hernandez says, “arranging the maintenance crews, the production staff, the engineers—and how you communicate your decisions, based on what information each role needs to receive from it.”

Combining technical and management skills

Lehigh’s MGSE program aligns with Hernandez’s plan to achieve his career goals because it’s directed toward integrating scientific methods with the functional aspects of organizations—including risk analysis, cost analysis, production management, and supply chain logistics.

What impresses Hernandez about the program most, however, is that Lehigh makes use of engineers from the industry to teach classes each semester.

“They bring in that hands-on experience, with real-life scenarios,” Hernandez says. “And they advise you on how something has been approached in the industry, instead of just reading the textbook in class.”

In the immediate future, Hernandez pictures himself working in the production area of a chemicals company overseas and moving up to a managerial position. But the end goal is to save up enough money to open his own brewery and distillery.

“Buying the equipment is very expensive, so the goal will probably be to set up a solid process and a solid recipe and produce it through one of the major brewing companies in the country,” Hernandez says. “Anheuser-Busch and other major brewing companies have contracts with smaller breweries, and the margins are still pretty competitive for the people that do it through them.”

—Steve Neumann is a contributing writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

Jorge Hernandez is a student in the Master’s in Management Science and Engineering (MGSE) program at Lehigh University.

[Lehigh brings] in that hands-on experience, with real-life scenarios. And they advise you on how something has been approached in the industry, instead of just reading the textbook in class.
Jorge Hernandez, Lehigh ISE graduate student

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