August 10, 2018

Leadership program students to help company streamline manufacturing process

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Leadership Development Program don’t learn leadership out of a book; they learn it in the real world.

The latest batch of incoming students, along with the upper classmen, will again demonstrate this approach next week when they help a company reorganize part of its Chicago-area facility to improve efficiency and profitability.

With the help of a $20,000 grant from the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, and $10,000 from the company itself, a group of about 20 LDP students will work with Jabil Packaging Solutions, a technology-driven products solutions company. SIU also is kicking in $17,000 in in-kind support for the project, which takes place Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 14-16.

Program builds tomorrow’s leaders

Based in the College of Engineering, the LDP is designed to mold students into future executive leaders in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by providing leadership training, mentoring and community service opportunities. Students in the program also get opportunities to complete a summer internship with corporate sponsors, a major boost to starting their post-graduate career in the working world.

Bruce DeRuntz, professor of technology who leads the LDP, said the project is part of an annual team-building week, during which new students meet their more experienced teammates to learn about the program’s culture and history. The week culminates in an applied project, which has the team working with a real company to improve processes.

Students work on real-world challenges

DeRuntz said leaders at Jabil agreed to work with the LDP students to improve processes at its 150,000-square-foot packaging facility in Hanover Park.

Jabil workers at the site use injection molding to create and assemble products used in medical applications, consumer products and food packaging. While some of the products are as simple as the cap for a bottle of laundry detergent, others can be quite complicated with in-mold labeling, two or more materials shot at once, or a high-speed assembly processes, said Shannon Barrett, director Lean Six Sigma at Jabil.

Barrett said he is impressed with the SIU graduates he has hired in the past and is familiar with the LDP, as well.

“When the SIU came to me and asked if I could help with an applied project for the LDP, I jumped at the chance,” Barrett said. “The project provides an introduction for both organizations. Jabil gets the chance to meet some highly talented students in STEM fields, and the students get acquainted with an organization that has a plethora of opportunity regardless of what STEM field they are pursuing.”

Looking for streamlining and efficiency improvements

DeRuntz said the project involves the students examining and “mapping” the current manufacturing line set up, and then creating a plan to streamline process and find new efficiencies.

To do so, the students will utilize the concepts in the Kaizen process – a Japanese term for improvement – as well as “lean manufacturing.” Among those processes is the so-called “5-S” approach which includes priorities such as sorting, standardizing and sustaining.

Sstudents will work on several production lines that use multiple, coordinated processes to produce a final product.

“I can tell you that these lines are an important and challenging aspect of our business,” Barrett said. “The students will have the chance to interact with every element of the value chain from the time the customer order is placed, through scheduling, materials, warehousing, molding, assembly and shipping. They will learn how to identify waste and inefficiency in the process, and have the chance to actually help us fix some of it.”

LDP has long record of success

The LDP began with a donation from Dick Blaudow, an SIU engineering alumnus and founder of Advanced Technology Services in Peoria. Blaudow, along with his wife, Brigitte, established the program as a way to help develop the next generation of America’s technical leaders.

The program, one of only a handful in the country like it, develops students through leadership training, coaching, and by participating in a Registered Student Organization’s leadership.

The program has attracted six corporate sponsors and received about $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation for its ongoing STEM leadership work.

The program’s students stand out, holding top leadership posts in almost all the College of Engineering’s 14 RSOs, raising more than $44,000 for other RSOs, and winning two national robotic championships, among other accomplishments. Three students have won the Outstanding Senior Award in the College of Engineering.

The program uses community service projects to teach leadership skills and has led more than 40 such projects during its existence, winning SIU’s Delyte W. Morris Award for Excellence in Community Service in 2016.