Posted: June 10, 2010
Alan Hoover, president of Kahiki Foods, shakes his head in amazement at what Ohio State integrated systems engineering students tell him about his company.
Kevin Fitzsimons Joshua Williams, another senior, suggests solutions for a bagging machine that often breaks down, slowing production. The current average downtime per shift over the last four months has been 36 minutes; Williams aims to decrease that to 20 minutes per shift. He predicts that if improvements are not made, the situation could cost the company $920,000 in backlog, canceled orders and other losses over a one-year period.Senior Jared Frederici says the company’s waste discharge decreased about 65 percent after just a few months of making employees aware of the problem and giving them ideas of how to solve it. He expects even more improvement once the company makes a relatively small investment in a separator machine and finds more ways for employees to reduce the waste. By the end of this year, the changes he’s recommending could save the company nearly $200,000 a year on discharge fees.
And Joe Cerrato, a master’s student, estimates that the company’s annual cash flow could increase by seven digits once he fully implements changes to reduce the inventory the company usually has on hand and to increase the number of times the company cycles through that inventory.
The program, directed by Scott Sink, ’73 ISE, is in its third year and already has brought corporate sponsors $2.8 million in direct and indirect benefits. Sink joined the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering at the college after spending 20 years in academia as a tenured faculty member running quality and productivity centers and then working in the private sector doing process improvement for global corporations.The students are spending two quarters at the company working on capstone projects and applying principles from a program called Lean Sigma, which uses industrial engineering methods to focus on ways companies can reduce costs and defects and improve capacity and quality.
Students who take the optional Lean Sigma course, which includes an introductory class followed by the two-quarter capstone, work toward green belt or the higher level black belt Lean Sigma Certification, a huge plus on their resumes when they join the corporate world.
Sink says the students take the course to accelerate their career paths, with the certification on their resumes differentiating them from the rest of the pack.
“They intend to better ready themselves for their first jobs. They intend to challenge themselves; they know this is not the path of least resistance,” he says. “They want to practice doing a real project, making mistakes here so they don’t make them on their first job.”
Hoover says he can’t find enough words to describe how impressed he is with the students.
Kevin Fitzsimons In fact, Hoover hired Cerrato as the company’s first corporate process improvement engineer.“Every student who has completed a project here has done an amazing job of helping us improve our processes and save money,” Hoover says. “The students handle themselves in a very mature and professional way and quickly become a part of our team.”
Hoover intends to implement all of the students’ recommendations.
“Jared’s project has been a win in every regard,” he says. “Kahiki dramatically reduces its discharges, helping to fulfill our desire to be a better corporate citizen and steward of the environment; we save a lot of money, and Jared gets great experience and his black belt. Josh’s project is already showing solid improvement on our important bagging line.”
In the first two years of the Lean Sigma program, the students completed 27 projects, Sink says; another 28 projects are in the pipeline this year. Other sponsors of the program include Limited Brands, Ashland, Ohio State University Medical Center, Mid-Ohio Food Bank and Kroger Bakery.
“All the projects focus on reducing waste, improving quality, improving productivity and improving customer service and satisfaction,” Sink says. “Our candidates drive their capstone senior design projects through solution realization. In other words, they don’t just make recommendations; they actually see improvements through, which makes this certification program unique.”