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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MIT LGO Manufacturing Operations Internship Targets Sustainability

By Leo Espindle, LGO '11

One of the most compelling features of the MIT LGO program is that, as a largely student-organized program, student interests can directly influence the internship topics offered by our partner companies. As a result, you get the opportunity to tackle, in a very hands-on and real way, some of the greatest issues of our day that will define our generation. One of the areas of continued research and partnership with industry at LGO is in sustainability issues.

The sustainability initiative at LGO was founded by a group of LGO '10s in the Engineering Systems Division. They first developed an academic track at MIT, and then lobbied industry partners to support manufacturing operations internships in the topic.

A major goal of the sustainability program is to reduce energy waste in industry and manufacturing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the industrial sector consumes the largest share of energy in the U.S. economy. Therefore, a concerted effort on the part of industry will have a significant impact on our energy use as a nation. In addition, as temperatures rise, energy prices increase and customer preferences shift, meaningful energy conservation efforts will increasingly affect the bottom line of most businesses.

Raytheon Corporation has sponsored a total of six LGO sustainability internships in the past two years. I had the opportunity to work at the Raytheon Integrated Air Defense Center (IADC) in Andover, Mass., during my off-cycle maunfacturing operations internship.

Over the course of six months, we piloted an approach to transform the facilities department from a firefighting organization to a continuous-improvement strategic partner. Using this approach, we reduced electricity waste 44% in one cell. We also kicked off projects that will reduce total plug load by 10% in another department without purchasing any new equipment or affecting customer deliveries. The projected impact of these efforts across the facility will be $316,000 in annual cost savings.

Toward the end of my manufacturing operations internship, Gov. Deval Patrick stopped by for a tour of the mission center. I was given the opportunity to represent the energy team during his tour of the Circuit Card Assembly Center of Excellence at IADC. I showed him the data-driven approaches we took to identify the best areas for waste reduction and provide real-time feedback to the team to assess their impact. He was very interested in the approach and asked insightful followup questions that showed he understood the tradeoffs and potential impact of the work.

Leo Espindle, LGO ’11, at his internship at Raytheon discusses sustainability initiatives with MA Gov. Deval Patrick

I learned so much in my six months there — I really owe Raytheon a major debt because what I gave the company was far less than what I've gained. In terms of hard engineering knowledge, I learned a great deal about the electricity distribution system and usage in a manufacturing facility as well as how to effectively apply Lean principles in a high-mix, low-volume environment.

But probably most valuable to me will be the lessons I learned about how to influence others not directly under my authority, how to lead in a manufacturing environment (my previous work experience was in research and high tech) and ultimately how to facilitate change in an operational environment.

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