A Glimpse Into 490 Projects

Article by Phil Anderson (Q17)

The QUEST program’s capstone course, BMGT490H, gives students an opportunity to form teams and consult with a real-world company with the aim of recommending changes to current processes to accomplish various goals. While there is a modicum of structure to the course schedule involving presentation dates, rough estimates of deliverable dates, and final project deadlines, 490 isn’t your typical course. 490 is a truly unique course with unique opportunities and projects. Every group develops and follows their own project schedule, which is only part of the group’s independence. Without the fixed schedule of a normal class, groups are able to pursue ideas that are most relevant to their projects and solutions. The 490 projects also include true opportunities to make a difference, with some project successes saving their clients millions of dollars.

This semester, my group and I have the wonderful opportunity to work with Bowles Fluidics Corporation towards a goal of sustainable and more efficient internal shipping processes. Bowles Fluidics is an established manufacturer of automotive washer nozzles, among other fluidics components (think: sprinklers, shower heads, and Jacuzzis). A pioneer in their field, Bowles has over 250 patents and a large market share; 85% of US-made vehicles use Bowles’ solutions. Currently, Bowles manufactures their parts in Columbia, MD, and then ships them south to Fresnillo, Mexico for final assembly. To reduce waste and save on packaging costs, our team, H2Optimized, is looking into reusable packaging solutions to replace Bowles’ current packaging.

Our project with Bowles holds a number of interesting aspects and learning opportunities. As a team, we have the opportunity to gain familiarity with supply chain management, a complex field where hands-on experience can be a tremendous advantage. Understanding Bowles’ current process and the design criteria that went into building it is not only key to our team’s success, but also very valuable for anyone’s future involving supply chain management. As Bowles undergoes both manufacturing and external shipping changes, our team is able to give our innovative input into the restructuring of the internal shipping process.

We’re also fortunate to have the opportunity to research how waste reduction and environmental issues go hand-in-hand. This includes researching tax incentives, energy credits, and government subsidization. A fast-paced and exciting topic in today’s society, waste reduction is a factor of growing importance in manufacturing processes. It is refreshing to know that large companies care about this from an environmental perspective, and working with Bowles towards this goal has already taught our team so much.

The most important lesson our capstone course teaches, however, is independence and responsibility as a consultant. In all of the projects, both the clients and advisors very much treat the students as peers, resulting in all of the teams working with real responsibility and real consequences. With this will come a level of satisfaction at the end of the semester that we have made a difference and really accomplished something. H2Optimized is excited to come to an ultimate solution and to make this difference, but, before this, we’re simply excited to learn and take in the experiences along the way.

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