NCSU students learn by doing as they help local hospital and businesses become more effcient.
From the Triangle Business Journal:
by Jason deBruyn
August 19, 2011
RALEIGH – North Carolina State University students will streamline production at Caterpillar, Rex and Ingersoll-Rand this semester.
Graduating seniors from the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering must complete a team design project to solve real-life inefficiencies for companies in and around the Triangle.
Projects are set up almost like “mini internships” that give students “a sense of how projects are managed from start to finish,” says Anita Vila-Parrish, the department’s director of undergraduate programs.
While the relationships built in the industry foster more projects, they also help students get plugged in professionally after graduation. Last year, for example, two students found post-graduate internships with the companies with which they worked on their senior project, Vila-Parrish says.
The benefits go both ways. The company partners do not pay the university and essentially receive free consulting work while students earn real-life experiences in problem solving. The university accepts donations to a fund that helps pay for student necessities such as steel-toed boots or travel expenses.
“We have been very fortunate to work with our back door neighbors here in Raleigh,” says Chad Lefteris, Rex Healthcare vice president of support services.
At Rex, teams will analyze how the hospital deals with various patient populations. Patients fall into specific categories based on the reason for admission and go through various tests or procedures based on that classification.
What Rex wants to find out, says Leftaris, is how to make those steps more efficient.
If a patient must go across the hospital to have a blood sample drawn, only to return to where she or he were for a different test, that would be an inefficiency the hospital wants to fix, Lefteris says, giving only a hypothetical situation.
At the Caterpillar fabrications plant in Sanford, students will look for ways to improve material flow. Steel frames for heavy pieces of equipment are built at the plant. Large pieces of cut-and-bent steel are delivered to the factory, where they are welded together for the frame of a machine called a skid steer loader, which is sort of like a small loader with rubber tracks and a bucket that can be interchanged with other work tools, such as forks.
Work can be improved in two areas, says Martin Kegel, a fabrications operations manager at the Caterpillar plant. He wants to improve how materials flow through the 90,000-square-foot facility and how work gets done while in the weld cells.
The pieces assemble in a certain order, but “they are not necessarily coming into the building in that order,” says Kegel. For him, the question is, “How do we get it in the building and get it distributed.”
At Ingersoll-Rand in Southern Pines, the plant has gone through a “radical transformation” in the past two years, says Dustin Bonecutter, the human resources manager. The company will have expanded from about 100 employees at the end of 2009 to 334 by the end of August.
The goals are similar to those at Caterpillar: Get product in the door and to the proper work station more efficiently. Specifically, Ingersoll-Rand makes heavy grinders to smooth joints that have been welded, such as those on large ships. Because of all the added business and new workers, however, sometimes the parts do not get to the right place in the most direct way.