Master students deliver quality in process innovation | Agoria

Master students deliver quality in process innovation

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Published on 11/05/21 by Robrecht Janssens
Working on a business project with a group of final-year students from different programmes, practicing technical knowledge, project management skills as well as social skills; that is in a nutshell what the Interdisciplinary Assessment Projects (I-AP) of KU Leuven stand for. Agoria and Flanders Food fulfil the liaison function with the companies.

Every autumn, some 50 final-year students from the fields of Commercial Engineering, Commercial Sciences, Industrial Engineering, Business Administration, and Environmental & Prevention Management work on over 10 business projects. We like to highlight the best projects.

So we sat down with students Lars Degroote, Thomas Persyn, and Gilles Teerlinck-Boelens (Industrial Engineering); and Marie Petit (not in the photo), and Nell Puttemans (Commercial Engineering); and Andrei Covaliov (Business Administration), who worked on a project at STAS, coached by former IAP-student turned Process Expert, Lander Van Parys.

Focus of the project

In their project the students investigated optimizing the paint ordering process, through optimizing the calculation of the required quantity. The group kicked the project of with a company visit, to see the production process with their own eyes, and more specifically the painting activities in detail. Lars: “Based on the preliminary discussion and the factory visit we were able to get the scope of the project right and to get a clear grasp of what was expected of us.”

Lander puts things in perspective: “The why of the project had to be very clear and focuses on People, Planet and Profit. That bigger picture is important to take into consideration.”

Nell: “Not only does this project have an impact on cost, but also on waste. As such an additional calculation in the production process is beneficial throughout. That was one of the aspects that triggered me already when selecting this project as my top choice to work on in the IAP.” Gilles adds: “Seeing the stock room indicated that opportunities must exist to optimize the process, as we got a good first sense of waste.”

“The main goal became clear: create a calculation model for paint consumption, taking into consideration the design of the trailer.” Thomas summarises. But the complexity was diverse, Gilles continues: “We had to take into account not only the measurements of the trailer, but also the paint composition.”

Choice for the project

“Well, the automotive industry is known for its innovative spirit, so that made it an easy pick for me. Furthermore, this project combined product design, production process, cost calculation; so, it offered a lot of learning opportunities.” according to Thomas. Marie adds: “I particularly liked that combination too: production and logistics are combined in a sustainability project. And it had some mathematics in it.”

Gilles: “Working in a multidisciplinary group means you can’t know everything the others know. So, asking questions was normal. And the group will likely be able to help when you experience problems or made a mistake. The collaborative spirit is crucial for success!”

About the teamwork

Lander: “Having done an IAP as a student myself, I knew of the time constraints and as a company coach I did try to give feedback quickly and respond to questions they had asap. At times we organized a videocall on Saturday, as that was the best fit in everybody’s calendar.”

Andrei: “We were all committed to the result and maintained an open and good communication. We feel this was crucial for the progress and project success. The IAP is part of the curriculum and really allows self-development, based on feedback from teammates.” Nell adds: “We had a lot of meetings with everyone, a preparatory before we sat down with Lander; and a follow-up and work organisation meeting immediately after. That way we could ensure we were always aligned, and everyone could be up to speed.”

Lars: “It wasn’t the first group project in our study trajectory, but it was the first interdisciplinary one. I think we all learned a lot about the other fields of expertise: they have a meaningful contribution too. And this project gets you out of school, in real companies!”

Lander: “It’s an investment from both the company (coach) and the students, but the closer the collaboration, the better the result. Same rule applies: rubbish in equals rubbish out! We all learned along the way, but the open discussion and critical mindset were a crucial contributor to the successful result”.

Lander also has a final advice for companies that are willing to submit a project proposal: “KISS, Keep it simple and stupid. You must overcome the communication challenge of not sitting together the whole time. And if you can’t explain the problem in simple terms, you won’t be able to achieve results.”

The business projects that the students work on are very diverse. Where this project was about eco factory and sustainability, you can read in the next article (about the other winner) about a project that was more about product design.

Want to know more about how you can get students to work on your project, come to our virtual info session on May 21st.

The students taking part in the corporate projects work in either English or Dutch.

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