Industrial tech students get ‘company’ time

By Allison Matthews University Relations

Learning by doing in classroom and laboratory settings is an essential part of student growth in any university academic major.

At Mississippi State, students in industrial technology have been obtaining their hands-on experiences this semester with a real manufacturing project for an area company.

When 2008 industrial technology graduate Justin McDonald — now plant engineer with Polo Custom Products in Louisville — needed 80 wooden carts for the company, he realized current students at his alma mater might be the perfect partners for a mutually beneficial project.

The industrial technology field of study is designed to prepare students for technical and management employment careers in manufacturing and distribution industries, as well as government. At MSU, this primarily focuses on the management, operation and maintenance of complex technological systems. Polo specializes in custom industrial sewing, radio frequency welding and thermoforming for the medical, safety, military, industrial and electronics markets, among others.

“This project comes as close to a real-life manufacturing situation as we could ever get,” said MSU instructor Jerry Mize. “It encompasses motion-and-time studies, line-and-cell manufacturing, cost, and quality assurance, as well as plant layout.”

Mize involved students from two courses — motion and time study and industrial materials — to create a simulated company that mimicked employment challenges they would face after graduation. Polo provided a cart design, from which the students were able to prepare drawings, develop cutting sketches and create fixtures, he explained.

While industrial technology graduates typically go on to post- graduate jobs involving highly technical and computerized operations, the production of wooden carts provided some basic, and invaluable, experiences. The participants took the project from beginning planning stages all the way through the final quality assurance phase.

Eupora Student General Manager As instructor, Mize gave himself the head position of CEO. Students “applied” for other positions such as general manager, a position that went to senior Lara Threet of Eupora.

“I think this project was a good opportunity because of the fact two classes played roles, industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering. We, as students, were able to see how in a real manufacturing organization, industrial engineers are responsible for time standards and upholding these standards and how the manufacturing side had to implement new ideas. Those in production had to communicate the effectiveness, or sometimes the lack of effectiveness, of the ideas,” Threet said.

Mize said the classes were designed as a company with a complete organizational chart. “It came closer to a real manufacturing operation than anything we’ve done in the past,” he said.

Mize explained that industrial technologists serve as a critical link between senior management and the production environment of a company. Manufacturing processes, quality control, management, human relations, maintenance, and computer applications are among the variety of careers in the profession.

“Overall, the project was a great chance to develop team work, communication, trouble shooting, and engineering skills,” Threet said.