When Harvey Short, president of NuWay Kitchens in St. John’s, realized he had a problem with wastage at his manufacturing plant, he had no idea he could turn to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for the expertise he needed to make his business more competitive.
“Even though I had served on Memorial’s Board of Regents for nine years, I didn’t realize the university could supply a service that could actually show me, an individual manufacturer, what our wastage would be,” said Mr. Short. “I had done my own wastage study and I had some confusion about what to do with it.
“One day I happened to be talking about my frustration with Dr. Axel Meisen, and he mentioned the Industrial Outreach Group (IOG) in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and how they could help us quantify the actual wastage.”
The IOG was established in 1998 in response to a recognized need for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to work closely with industry to maximize the relevance of its programs and to provide access to technology and technical support not normally available to businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador. The IOG provides a process which allows both the industry and the academic community to benefit from the exchange of technology and experience.
“Initially you have to figure out what’s going on and that means measuring,” said Andy Fisher, co-ordinator of the IOG and a professor of engineering at Memorial. “So we gathered a lot of data on the current state of affairs. We looked at those measurements, talked to the staff on the floor and the production manager and then started coming back with the holes in the data and suggested a more systematic way of capturing information.
“Once they had that kind of information, they could see how often they were having a problem and, in the end, they were able to get their cost structure back down to where it was at least in line with industry norms.”
With a dedicated work-term student visiting the facility off and on over a period of four months, and ongoing discussions with Mr. Fisher, the company was able to track wastage at each station and quantify an acceptable range. This allowed Mr. Short to work with his staff and suppliers to identify ways to reduce wastage and make the company more efficient.
Following the project with the university, and the solutions the company came up with to address the issues identified, NuWay Kitchens has been able to reduce wastage at their facility by 33 per cent on an ongoing basis.
The IOG activities have been steadily growing, with approximately 50 projects taking place in 2006 and nearly $300,000 in revenue. Anyone interested in further information can contact Mr. Fisher at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at (709) 737-6180 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.