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LFM students share new knowledge

Living in Baden, Switzerland from June to December might seem like a dream for an intern, but an internship with the Leaders for Manufacturing Program (LFM) isn't exactly a vacation. That's what graduate student Miriam Park said about her last six months at the ABB Alstom Power Gas Turbines division studying supply chain issues for ABB Alstom Power's industry.

On January 27 and 28, Ms. Park joined 47 second-year LFM students in presenting their internship findings at the LFM Knowledge Review. "Coordinating Flows Across the Supply Chain in the Low-Volume Gas Turbine Industry" was one of 14 presentations in LFM's research group concentrating on scheduling and logistics control.

Attendees included the 100 current LFM students and more than 50 industry partners who hosted the internships and who benefit from sharing general knowledge and practices generated by the students' research. Other LFM research areas represented at Knowledge Review included design and operation of manufacturing systems, integrated analysis and product development, variation reduction, and next-generation manufacturing.

Working with ABB suppliers, Ms. Park focused on reducing lead times and large inventories, and making the supply chain more visible. "Manufacturing industrial gas turbines involves the coordination of numerous internal and external stakeholders. A single part can pass through up to four different processing stages, each performed at a different supplier. Added to this complexity are time constraints, tight product specifications, secondary suppliers and a web of transportation networks," she explained.

In her project, Ms. Park tried to provide the supply chain department with the tools and learning to help them implement improvements, policies and strategies to enhance performance. The project's success was measured on cost, quality and lead-time metrics.

LFM's two-year, dual-degree graduate program requires students to complete 20 academic courses, a six-and-a-half-month internship in an LFM-SDM partner company, an integrative thesis (based on the internship) that fulfills requirements in both Sloan and the School of Engineering, seminars and plant tours. LFM graduates receive an SM from the School of Engineering and an MBA or SM in management from the Sloan School of Management.

"The internship period was a fertile ground upon which to practice the principles we're taught at LFM," Ms. Park said. "There are very few opportunities like this that allow you to complement theoretical and practical learning while adding immense value to a company's bottom line. During this period, I developed fresh insight into an industry whose market is rapidly changing. I also gained a lifetime appreciation of Swiss cheese and chocolate!"

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 2, 2000.

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