Practical experience in town

Practical experience in town

From left are ISE students Sai  Jagadish Bodapati, Dustin Shurlow, and Isabel Hammen, with Fire Chief Mitch Petterson. Photo provided

BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Oakland University Engineering Professor Larry Osentoski wanted his students to experience a municipal project, so he brought them to his hometown of Clarkston.
“I sat down with Pat Kittle, (Independence) Township supervisor, and just brainstormed how the students could come out and help some of the government operations to be a little bit more lean and to help them find some opportunities for improvement in their operation,” Osentoski said. “Bringing in some outside eyes with some process background and really just asking people ‘what drives you nuts in your job?’”
“There’s a million moving pieces when it comes to local municipal governments and it’s always exciting to bring in some fresh ideas and new eyes,” said Kittle, who hopes the township continues their relationship with Osentoski and his class. “We welcome the opportunity to work with college kids and masters’ candidates.”
The OU graduate engineering students paired with Independence Township departments for the second year in a row to complete projects improving workplace efficiency. This year, Osentoski’s students worked with the fire department and Department of Public Works (DPW).
Fire Chief Mitch Petterson said the students helped the department with vehicle maintenance and repairs by improving visibility and tracking vehicles while they were at repair facilities.
“We’ve implemented some of those changes, some of those are going to take some time for us to get over to, but it was a good experience, glad to have them,” Petterson said.
DPW Director David McKee said the project removed redundant and duplicative elements to improve their tracking system and billing process.
“DPW employees retire or leave their position and we lose their knowledge, which means without standard work we start over every time from ground zero.  It was great to have outside eyes help our team identify alternative ways to accomplish our work,” McKee said.
Preeti Sandhu, Industrial and Systems Engineering graduate student at OU, was in a group of three graduate students who worked with the DPW in the fall of 2016.
“It was a great experience to work with a real-world problem,” Sandhu said. “To apply everything to a real-world scenario was very different for us and we applied the lean tools to reach the goal of standardization of work.”
The project was very beneficial, Sandhu said, adding it taught teamwork, critical thinking, and how to work in a professional environment.
“There’s a lot of the tools in lean teachings and it’s not really about the tools, it’s how you engage people to solve problems,” Osentoski said.
The professor wanted a municipality project to take students out of their manufacturing comfort zone and see how they could apply the same teachings to government and business problems.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities,” Osentoski said. “We’d love to look at different local businesses and operations that would like some outside eyes to come in and develop some new lean process for them and to work with their employees. We’re always looking for new projects.”