Original Date: 02/09/1998
Revision Date: 04/22/2003
Best Practice : Educational Partnerships
UE believes in utilizing public resources, whenever possible, which can help the company at low or no costs. One effective way is through public/private partnership approaches an outgrowth of networking between regional academic institutions like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and public organizations like the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP) and the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Boston has many world-class academic institutions, but very few of these have established linkages and relationships with manufacturing companies in the region. However, as government research and development budgets are being reduced, more universities are looking for ways to replace the lost revenue.
UE developed an effective partnership with MIT which provides significant benefits to all involved. The relationship was a byproduct of UE’s participation in GBMP. In recent years, GBMP has worked to bring universities and manufacturing companies together. Much of the focus for this activity has centered on projects to develop lean manufacturing methods. The partnership between MIT and UE resulted in a Design Engineer program. MIT needed real-world manufacturing facilities for its students, and UE wanted world-class engineering assistance but lacked the resources to obtain it. GBMP was the catalyst that brought the two together.
The first graduate engineering student from MIT came to UE in 1994. This lead to an alliance with MIT and GBMP to develop lean manufacturing methods. More graduate students began working on projects at UE to solve production problems and develop lean methods of production. In 1996, an MIT professor launched a graduate lean production system design course using UE as the laboratory for the course. Twenty students enrolled in the program in the spring of 1997. As part of the course, each student spent at least one day a week at UE working on specific problems or improvement opportunities. An action center was formed for each student project and formally tracked. The students received 50% of their support from MIT and 50% from UE. At the completion of the semester, the students submitted reports on their projects and presented them orally to UE. Table 2-1 is a list of topics undertaken by the students.
The program provided resounding success for both UE and MIT. UE gets the opportunity to have top-caliber engineering talent who work on improving its plant operations for very low cost. MIT gets a real factory with real problems for the educational benefit of its students. Graduate engineers coming out of this program are more valuable as potential employees because of the real-world experience and knowledge they have gained. In 1998, 58 students were signed up for the program, which is probably more than the company can handle. The work done by the students provides UE with solutions to difficult problems. UE is so positive about the partnership with MIT that the company considers it to be one of its reliable methods for continuous improvement.
Table 2-1. 1997 MIT Graduate Student Projects at UE
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