URI students help manufacturer re-engineer facility

KINGSTON, R.I. — June 8, 2000 — When Pete Evans agreed to allow a group of engineering students from the University of Rhode Island to use his manufacturing facility as a laboratory for hands-on learning, he didn’t expect his plant would become more efficient as a result. That was one outcome of a unique partnership between Evans Findings Inc., a metals manufacturer and metal stamping company located in East Providence, and the URI Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Each year, URI Associate 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 they agree to work with us, the companies often don’t know what they’re getting involved with,” said Sodhi. “It’s a bit of a risk for them. But the companies also gain a lot from the experience.” The URI partnership with Evans Findings was initiated by Jason Frost of Cranston, a URI engineering student who worked as an intern at the company last summer. As a result of Frost’s recommendation, Sodhi prepared a proposal that allowed seven students to conduct an analysis of the manufacturing and production system at the Evans facility. “We were a laboratory and data collection point for various analyses that the class wanted to conduct,” said company president Evans, “but we also had some specific issues we wanted them to take a look at.” Evans asked the students to study the physical layout of his plant and make recommendations for redesigning the layout to resolve periodic production bottlenecks. At least once a week during the spring semester, Sodhi’s students visited the company to collect data or measure parts of the facility. They then built a computer model of the facility to analyze the production process. “Here at URI we have a variety of computer modeling applications that most companies don’t have access to,” noted Sodhi. “One benefit of the partnerships we develop is to expose local companies to some of the technology that’s available. It also helps the companies to see what someone from outside the business has to say about their operations.” The final product of the student project was a detailed facility analysis and layout recommendation for the plant. “They gave us an analytical model of the work flow through our facility, which looked for bottlenecks,” explained Evans. “It’s a model that we can use to predict where bottlenecks might occur if we change the layout of our facility, and how to alleviate them. The students ended up making a recommendation for our plant layout that’s more efficient for work and traffic flow.” Although he’s still analyzing the final report, Evans said he will likely incorporate many of the students’ recommendations when the company modifies its physical layout in the fall. “We recognize the value of the interaction between academia and the business world, and we’re happy to contribute some of our time to that interaction,” concluded Evans. “The students worked very hard and did a good job for us.” The participating students were: Jeremy Dilts of Exeter, N.H., Ben Gauthier of Little Compton, Joseph Medieros of West Greenwich, Natalie Mohanty of Wakefield, Tom Policastro of Wrentham, Mass., Mike Quackenbush of Warwick, and Bryan Reimer of Ringoes, N.J. In addition to Evans Findings, companies such as Elizabeth Webbing Mills Inc., Cherry Semiconductor Corp., and Stanley-Bostitch Inc. have all participated in the project in past 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