KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 31, 2001 -- Engineering Manager Norman Lamontagne and the manufacturing team at Swarovski Jewelry in Cranston had some ideas for how to redesign the companys manufacturing operation, but they didnt have any way to estimate whether they would work. Instead of calling in a private consultant to do the analysis, he called on a group of students at the University of Rhode Island for the task.
"URI has some tools at its disposal, like manufacturing simulation programs and data analysis packages, that allow them to take the data and massage it in many more ways than we can," explained Lamontagne. "They can break down the data into much finer elements for us. The students learn on live cases, while we get a fresh set of eyes to look at our problem."
The recommendations from the URI students will be used as a blueprint for modifying the manufacturing processes at Swarovski. That was one outcome of a unique partnership between Swarovski and the URI Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.
Each year, URI Professor Manbir Sodhi seeks a local manufacturer so students in his "Design and Analysis of Manufacturing Systems" course can apply the mathematical analysis they learn in class to practical situations.
"When companies agree to work with us, they often dont know the full extent of what theyre getting into," said Sodhi. "Its a bit of a risk for them. But my experience has been that the students and the companies both come out of this winners."
Swarovskis products are divided into seven different "family" groups, each manufactured using a different process. Lamontagne asked the URI students to evaluate the manufacturing layout and the labor allocation among the seven families to determine which families could be merged to increase output and efficiency.
"We had some ideas ourselves that we thought were doable, but we wanted the students to prove them out," said Lamontagne.
With the assistance of Jacob Kostrov, senior manufacturing engineer at Swarovski, the seven students spent weeks sifting through data on Swarovskis production processes, equipment, storage and layout, then replicated the facility in a computer model that matched the plant operations perfectly. They then tested the various product families in the model to determine which could be combined most effectively to maximize output and optimize manpower.
"Swarovski had lots of data readily available to us almost too much so we had to sort through and figure out what data we needed for our analysis," said Amy Thompson, a senior from Little Rock, Ark. "After running the families through the simulation, we took our best scenarios and recommended them to Swarovski.
"I hadnt done any simulations before, so this project was a great experience for me. It means so much to be able to apply what weve learned to a real company."
Lamontagne agrees that the project was a positive experience. "It was nice that my boss, John Simms, and Swarovski were willing to take advantage of this opportunity and give the students some experience in real-life manufacturing. Right now were even entertaining another project with URI. And were adding a new position here, and one of the URI students is a leading candidate."
The participating students were: Thompson, Jeremy Dilts of Exeter, N.H., Bryan Melville of Tiverton, Steven Russo of West Greenwich, William Loseciwicz of Attleboro, Mass., Pejman Hasanzadeh of Iran, and Julio Centurion Ayala of Mexico.
In addition to Swarovski Jewelry, companies such as Evans Findings, Elizabeth Webbing Mills, Cherry Semiconductor, and Stanley-Bostitch have all participated in the project in recent years. Companies interested in working on similar projects at URI can contact Sodhi at 874-5189.
For Information: Manbir Sodhi 874-5189, Todd McLeish 874-7892