Master students work on Factory of the Future transformations | Agoria

Master students work on Factory of the Future transformations

Published on 20/05/21 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.

We sat down with Elena Vanlommel (Commercial Engineering), Jeroen Kelchtermans (not in the photo), and Ydes Neirinckx (Industrial Engineering). Together with Song Xiaozheng (Business Administration) they worked on this project, coached by Stijn Cuppens, BU Manager Service at P&V Panels.

Focus of the project

In this project, the students investigated a way of involving customers more through a different business model, requiring an altered product. The students worked on a leasing business model, using an updated version of a ‘standard’ panel, making use of sensors and data, to be able to support customers optimally.

Stijn: “For our company, this development is an integral part of our strategy, to develop a more intimate relationship with customers, focused on the long term, with outstanding products. Giving this project to a group of students, allowed us to give this project more attention and focus, whereas otherwise it would have to be done on top of daily business. The creative, fresh, inspired outlook they provide, is a big bonus for us.”

Choice for the project

“This project did it for me.” Jeroen states. “Instead of solely selecting it as my top choice, I immediately reached out to Stijn (Cuppens, BU Manager Service at P&V Panels) to get more information about the scope and desired output of the project.”

Ydes: “The project is multi-layered: it’s about business model, product innovation, but also about working together with customers and getting feedback from them on the proposed business model.” “It allowed the combination of multiple fields.” Elena adds. “Jeroen brought the technical knowledge to the table, Ydes is an organiser and kept us on track and I could make use of my commercial studies to dive into the dynamics of business model innovation.” “We did learn from each other” Jeroen responds.

Stijn: “The students made us move forward with this project: they speeded up things and clarified the product and business strategy. All in all we gained a lot of time with their work and the result of the project. We can now elaborate on this with our customers.”

About the teamwork

Stijn: “As a company, we like to give back to society, to take up our role in fields such as education. And I enjoyed working with them. They showed a lot of drive and were highly motivated to make a success out of it. The time constraints drove us to decisions, which is good. And yes, we did sit together on a Saturday at times, as that was the best suited moment for everyone. It’s all about the open and constructive attitude.”

“We kicked the project of by establishing a collaboration model.” Ydes explains. “How will we share information? How will we keep in touch? What can we expect from each other? That set the tone for a positive atmosphere.”

Elena: “Accepting that everyone can contribute and that as an individual you don’t know everything is key. We each come from different backgrounds and studies and have different fields of interest, but our main goal was shared. We had to learn to ask for advice from external experts though. And usually they like to share knowledge, experience and insights, even between companies.”

“The project is a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Jeroen adds. “Don’t sit and wait around but take control and take charge. Professors, teachers, companies, … They all are willing to help, even if they aren’t really involved in the project. We even got banks to provide us information on the business model behind leasing.”

Stijn: “As a coach you need to be available. They’re students, not consultants. But if you put time and effort into it, they do deliver! I’m enthusiastic about them and about such projects.”

The final advice comes from Ydes: “Make sure the scope of the project is clear at the beginning, so that students can start right away. No time to waste. And set up a time schedule, so that each phase is executed nicely and no mistakes through rushing things are done. And reach out: to coaches, each other, companies, …”

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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