From Supply Chain Management to Six Sigma Certification, UIndy’s School of Business is partnering students with businesses to solve real-world problems.
For decades, businesses have sought to reduce inefficiencies and drive improvement. Industry leaders such as Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and countless other corporate executives and management teams have focused on developing management innovations to transform and improve the bottom line.
For students in the University of Indianapolis School of Business, reaching beyond business improvement theory and experiencing these processes firsthand is integral to the curriculum. Such was the case for Nick Williams ’19 (operations & supply chain management), who worked with Dr. Craig Seidelson, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management in the School of Business.
Williams, under the mentorship of Seidelson, dedicated over 140 hours during the fall 2018 semester at Caterpillar Remanufacturing in Franklin, IN, analyzing business processes and identifying quality and process improvement opportunities. The experience deepened Williams’ understanding of Lean Six Sigma’s management methodology, which allows companies to use data to eliminate defects in any process and put theory into practice.
“We recommended changes to their inbound logistics area to recover lost time from their previous value stream transformation and eliminate any possible wastes,” said Williams. “This included changing their tugger (mobile cart) routes, installing new software to prevent “traffic-jamming” in their inventory-sorting machines and implementing a flag kanban system for their “dirty core” inventory.”
Seidelson explains the value: “It’s about getting to the location where value is created to know the truth. We do this by sending our students to a real warehouse to solve real problems.”
Partnerships have a multi-tiered benefit, delivering experiential learning opportunities for students and invaluable insights to local businesses that improve their operations. This, in turn, strengthens the community by bolstering employers in the area.
Six Sigma Certification at Caterpillar
The collaboration between the School of Business and Caterpillar began as a research consulting project through the Institute for Postindustrial Leadership, co-founded by Dr. Terry Schindler, assistant professor of management, and Matt Chodkowski, adjunct professor of business. The consulting project evolved into a professional certification opportunity for UIndy students.
At Caterpillar, students are tested on their proficiency in process management and eventually earn Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belt certification before graduation. It provides them with an introduction to the fundamentals of Six Sigma, allowing students to make meaningful contributions to an organization’s objectives. It’s the sort of thing that stands out on a resume, and places UIndy graduates ahead of their peers, including some professionals already in the workforce.
Christopher Gurski ’19 (business administration, supply chain management) is reaping the rewards. “The Value Stream Transformation project we did at Caterpillar resulted in a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and gives me relevant hands-on experience toward my aspiration of pursuing a Business Consultant career,” said Gurski.
Business simulations lead to ‘the source’
Another valuable partnership emerged when Seidelson obtained full access to a logistic lab in Plainfield, allowing students hands-on experience in supply chain management. The facility is operated by a not-for-profit children’s books distributor. All of the equipment is donated by Toyota, a supplier of warehousing equipment that sends their salespeople to train on the equipment in the warehouse.
Seidelson’s MBA and undergrad students are experiencing logistic operations through a series of timed training simulations UIndy has designed – from sorting items in the pick process and packing boxes to receiving shipments and unloading trucks.
Getting to Gemba
“The goal is getting to gemba, the Japanese term for the source,” explains Seidelson. “We put students in undefined scenarios so they learn how to work through a problem and become more comfortable with open-ended situations.”
The experience is truly eye-opening for students, who perform tasks they intuitively believe will be easy before actually learning how they are done. This approach results in a much deeper understanding of processes and ultimately prepares them to become more effective managers.
“One of the things we’re trying to get across to students is you can’t effectively manage from your office. Get involved on the shop floor. You’ll gain the perspective needed to know what’s working and what needs to change,” said Seidelson.
Shelby Winner ’19 (accounting) describes it like this: “Getting to gemba made me appreciate the complexity of logistics operations and the importance of training. When we went in without it, each task was very difficult. The experience has given me great respect for the trained professionals who work in warehouses every day.”