OU Engineering Students Work with Independence Twp. on Lean Project

Oakland University ISE Graduate Students Work on Lean Project with Independence Township

Master’s students from Oakland University’s Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department worked with Independence Township officials to help improve the township’s rental facilities reservations process. The project was part of the ISE Department’s Lean Principles and Applications course and helped identify a potential savings of $14,000 per year for taxpayers. 

“Most people think of lean as applicable only in manufacturing environments and many have a negative connotation associated with their lean experience,” student team leader Jerome Oswald said. “Oakland University students were out to show lean can work anywhere so long as the premise of application is respect for people. With the new facilities recently added in the township, it was a great area to explore for operational improvements.”

Project Collaborators Include Vicki O’Bezil, Theresa Gordon, Kim Larson, Ken Elwert, Juliana Guevara, Brendon Wilson, Anthony Cooper, Jerome Oswald

Project Collaborators Include Vicki O’Bezil, Theresa Gordon, Kim Larson, Ken Elwert, Juliana Guevara, Brendon Wilson, Anthony Cooper, Jerome Oswald

Besides Oswald, the student team members included Juliana Martinez, Anthony Cooper and Brandon Wilson.  They are enrolled in Oakland’s ISE or Engineering Management programs.  Team members from Independence Township included Ken Elwert, Lisa Christenson, Theresa Gordon, Vicki O’Bezil and Kim Larson.

The project started when ISE instructor Larry Osentoski reached out to Township Supervisor Patrick Kittle in summer 2015 to explore his willingness to apply lean principles within a municipality office setting.  

“Independence Township opened their doors for our students to come work hand-in-hand with their staff to find areas where lean could help improve their operations,” Osentoski said. “It was an excellent opportunity for our students and the community. I sat in on a couple of the meetings and the professionalism of the staff, (while) working together with our students to identify waste, was really exciting to see. As a resident of the community I learned that this small staff manages over 800 programs for our community.” 

Osentoski added, “Oakland’s ISE 581 Lean Principles and Application course emphasizes hands-on experiential learning and constantly reinforces to students that lean must be applied with respect for people and the work they do.  In most courses, engineering students are taught to identify the solution to any problem and then implement it directly. When many engineering students graduate and go into the workforce, they fail to connect to the people side of problems and may initially struggle with implementing solutions.  A central tenant of lean is to ask open-ended questions in order to work as a team toward solutions.  Engaging all stakeholders in identifying a problem and in finding its resolution is at the core of lean.  It’s not what people do when a supervisor is watching, but rather what occurs when one is not there. Without respect and open dialogue, any lean application is bound to fail.”

Independence Township Supervisor Kittle said, “Anytime you can complement academics with real world work experience it is a win-win scenario for both groups. Oakland University is a great learning center. Independence Township is proud to have been asked to participate in this worthwhile endeavor.”

In addition to working with Independence Township, the ISE 581 class also ran student projects at RECARO Automotive Seating and Cooper Standard.

Robert Van Til, Pawley Professor of Lean Studies and ISE Department Chair, said “The Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, in cooperation with the university’s Pawley Lean Institute, has a tradition of running student-led lean projects with local organizations, and we thank Independence Township for working with our students. Besides Larry’s graduate lean course, we also had undergraduate ISE student teams conducting lean projects this fall at the GM Orion Assembly Plant and St. Joseph Mercy Pontiac Hospital.”

Plans are underway for another team of OU engineering students to work with Independence Township next fall.

About Industrial and Systems Engineering at Oakland University

Oakland University offers students a personal, high-quality education through highly qualified faculty, flexible class schedules, new facilities – including a $75 million Engineering Center, internships, co-ops, and research opportunities with corporate partners. Oakland’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Department offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in Industrial and Systems Engineering as well as in Engineering Management. To learn more about ISE@OU, visit oakland.edu/secs/ise.

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