490H Projects Continue Virtually

Cohort 31 before Status Update Presentations in early March

One of the key pillars of QUEST, the 490H course, looks different this semester in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In the new reality of remote-learning, and the changing working arrangements within companies, the way that teams and clients interact with each other has drastically changed. However, Cohort 31 is stepping up to the challenge and working hard to continue our efforts of providing insightful recommendations for our clients.

Teams gave their first status update presentations on March 11th, during what would become the final week of in-person classes for the semester. There are eight projects this semester with a variety of corporate partners: DXC, Intralox, Lockheed Martin, Middle River Aerostructure Systems, Northrop Grumman, PAE, and Thos. Somerville.

There are two projects with Middle River Aerostructure Systems (MRAS) this spring. One of the projects focuses on analyzing defective parts at MRAS’ ProWarehouse, and the other project focuses on identifying bottlenecks in the First Article Inspection approval process. Through communicating more frequently and establishing recurring meetings with clients, Kellie Zhang (Q31) is proud of her team’s adaptability. “The FAI process is a big pain for many employees as rarely do things get approved the first time through, so our project could help smooth out the process,” Kellie said. “I think the most exciting thing will be seeing the impact we can have!”

With Northrop Grumman, the team is working on improving information flow between stakeholders. Success for this project requires lots of interviews with stakeholders at their Elkton site, so the team has utilized virtual resources to continue their progress. Anusha Dixit (Q31) describes, “The changes in our schedules have allowed for more time to debrief before and after client calls, and our project champion has been instrumental in setting up interviews with employees. We even had a virtual site visit, interviewing many stakeholders and gaining a lot of valuable insight. Gaining these snapshots into the work that the employees at Northrop Grumman do and seeing how their roles fit together to accomplish a larger collective goal (of making rockets!) was incredibly cool.”

The project with Thos. Somerville involves improving traceability of inventory adjustments. The team hopes to benefit their client by providing reasoning and awareness for over half of their inventory adjustments. Amara Kamal (Q31) hopes this awareness will continue after the project is completed. “We’re providing more transparency in their inventory adjustment process for hopefully years to come.” The team feels confident about working on the project remotely, especially since they had already done their site visits in the first half of the semester. Amara finds one of the most exciting parts of the project to be working with the company’s C-suite. “We get to speak with the people who, at the end of the day, get the final say, and it’s really exciting to hear about their process and reasoning behind creating value-added strategic change to a business with 20 branches and a central distribution center.”

Additionally, there are four more projects working with DXC, Intralox, Lockheed Martin, and PAE. The project with DXC focuses on using design thinking methods to design a system for future military engagements leveraging new technical capabilities such as machine learning, 5G networks, and high performance computing. The team working with Intralox is tasked with analyzing the current state of metadata throughout a product’s life cycle, then suggesting an improved process where Intralox and its systems can better leverage these findings and effectively use and share data across all stages of the product life cycle.

The project with Lockheed Martin focuses on their Moorestown, NJ work center, and the team is working with QUEST alumnus Nick Gregorio (Q19). The team will utilize their skills to optimize the use of the work center’s footprint and provide recommendations for how to continue investment in the work center to support continued future growth. The final project is sponsored by PAE and involves improving the defense and government contractor’s process of international material flow, particularly their delivery of materials to the embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

Cohort 31 has made incredible progress so far, in spite of the unprecedented changes this semester. It will be exciting to see how this semester’s projects come together in the final few weeks! Although the QUEST Conference scheduled for May 7th has been canceled, be on the lookout for updates on how Cohort 31 will present their findings virtually.

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