This blog will chronicle the lives of eight Tauber Institute for Global Operations students during their summer internships. The summer internship is the capstone of the Tauber Program and we wanted to share our experiences with prospective students. For more details about the Tauber Institute, please visit http://www.tauber.umich.edu/.

The internships will begin on May 9th and run through mid August. Check back frequently to see what the Tauber students have been up to!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond...

Its been nearly a month and a half since I last posted and what a summer it has been. Currently, I am sitting in the IOE department at U-M and waiting to start my graduate student orientation. As an active member of the IOE department, everything seems so comfortable. Essentially, I could walk through the entire department and into each office blindfolded. One of the best things about the department are the people and with each familiar face, I get the question "how was your summer?" With that, it became yet another opportunity to reflect on my summer and mostly on my Tauber experience.

Honore and I on the Big G Cereal Floor

Since leaving General Mills two weeks ago, I've had the opportunity to release. I visited Honduras shortly, went to Miami, and spent a good amount of time in Chicago for a family wedding. Though, when packing my things up for Ann Arbor I find myself smiling and excited to share my summer experience in Minneapolis with those I will see shortly.

This summer, I grew so much. As a reminder, my Tauber experience was in Minneapolis with General Mills, as my team focused on a capacity planning strategy for General Mills. We were placed in the snacks division and specifically looked at Chewy Bars - which I will never look at the same way again (due to my thorough understanding of the whole process). I am proud of my accomplishments at GMI and feel that my partner and I made an impact at many levels.

As a note, a key piece of our project puzzle was solved within the final three days. This led to many great findings and though I did not plan on working during my final weekend in Minneapolis - it was well worth it! Our end deliverables consisted of tools and recommendations to aid in future capacity planning. One of the tools was innovative and came together in the last two weeks. In order to play into the GMI culture, my partner and I nicknamed this tool "Buzz" after Buzz Lightyear. (General Mills teams nickname their projects to keep them "secret" from division to division.)

In a nutshell, General Mills did a great job sponsoring Tauber for the first time. I took time to learn from other cross-functional departments. I gained exposure to GMI's Top Management (e.g. Senior Vice President John Church) who were all very open and welcoming to Tauber. In fact, their awareness was top-notch to what Tauber is and what we were doing. Additionally, I had time to visit amazing plants, some even unrelated to my project; these visits were something I really enjoyed and wanted to do. Lastly, our Vice President and project champion hooked us up with tickets behind home plate at a Twins Game. As a huge baseball fan, this is an experience I'll never forget!

My seats from GMI at the Twins game (row 3 behind home plate)

Now, as I return to Ann Arbor and embark on my final semesters at U-M I am grateful for many things - professionally, Tauber is the greatest of all. With full-time recruiting set to pick up in two weeks, and Tauber's final Spotlight! presentation set for September 16th the best is yet to come. My experiences within The Tauber Institue have made me a better leader, employee, and most importantly a better person. I have made connections (at General Mills, within Tauber, with faculty) that will last a lifetime. I have had experiences worth telling to interviewers - fitting for any question. That said, its time to prepare and get ready for another school year!

I encourage potential students to apply to Tauber, past students to be grateful for their experiences, and others to appreciate what this Institute does to many lives. It truly allows students, like me, to set their goals... "to infinity and beyond!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lull Before the Storm

With the conclusion of my Tauber project a few weeks ago I have had some time to relax and enjoy a little free time before getting right back to full speed at school. I know that when I get back to school next week I will not have a minute to spare with full time recruiting, spotlight, class, and being a graduate student instructor. I am not sure that I will have a spare minute, so I am making sure to enjoy myself now while I still can.

After my Tauber project concluded, I was able to head home to see my parents in Mt. Pleasant, MI for a few days. It was a nice relaxing time to do......NOTHING. After spending three days in Michigan, I caught a flight to Honduras to go on a volunteer trip with some fellow classmates. We were set to build latrines for a small farming village. Unfortunately we had to return to the United States early due to some unrest in the region andwe were not able to build the latrines that we set out to build. However, everyone got back to the states safely.Since we were back in the states early, I had no place to live in Ann Arbor. As a result I have been staying in Miami and Houston with friends. Despite being disappointed that we had to return from Honduras early, I have not had a bad time back in the states!

Tomorrow at 7 am I am flying back to Ann Arbor and my freedom will end before the impending fall semester starts. From talking to older students from the EGL program, the fall semester with recruiting can be a bit of a whirlwind. I have heard that some students spend upwards of 20-30 hours a week on recruiting activities. This is on top of the classes I will be taking and teaching. As a graduate engineer it is possible to apply to be a graduate student instructor and teach part of an undergraduate class.

In addition to having class and recruiting there are also some major Tauber activities in the near future. The culmination of all of our summer projects will be the Spotlight event on September 16th. When I get back to Ann Arbor I will be spending many sessions with my summer teammates practicing our Spotlight presentation. The event consists of hundred of executives watching 25 minute presentations about the Tauber students summer projects.

Despite having a busy road ahead of me, I am very excited for what awaits! I will post again soon to explain more about the Spotlight event.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blogging from Singapore

It's been a while since I even visited this blog! Post-graduation has indeed been very hectic! However, it's been very heart warming to read the stories of this year's Tauber students - definitely brings back a lot of fond memories! :)

Post-Graduation Travels
I graduated on 30th April 2011, from the EGL program with a BSE/MSE in IOE. I spent 2 weeks travelling the USA with my family (Niagara Falls + San Francisco + Yosemite National Park), and then spent an extra week in Seattle exploring Washington & the city of Seattle, before heading back to Ann Arbor for 3 days. Then, it was back home to Singapore, on May 22nd.

10 days later, I was on my way alone to Turkey to meet up with 2 fellow IOE students from UM. We then did a 9day stint on a tour group travelling across Turkey and taking in the unique culture of the Turks. It was indeed an eye opener because Turkey was so different from what I had expected, and it is such a beautiful country. On a side note, Turkey has very very good wines, which are rarely exported out of the country. ;) Following Turkey, we headed to Vienna for 2 days, and also did a 1 day trip to Budapest, before I headed back to Singapore.

5 days later, I was on a plane for an 8 day visit to Melbourne, where a good friend of mine is studying.

If you're confused, this was my travel plan:

Ann Arbor (Graduation) -- Niagara Falls -- San Francisco -- Yosemite -- Seattle/Washington -- Ann Arbor -- Singapore -- Turkey -- Vienna -- Budapest -- Singapore -- Melbourne -- Singapore

June 30th - touch down back in Singapore, the end of my travels.

Back to Reality - Starting my full time job
July 4th - I started work (Independence Day, the irony) at Singapore Technologies Kinetics, a company that specialises in land systems & solutions for both defence and commercial customers. This article talks about one of our recent achievements. Currently, I am involved in a lot of process improvement initiatives, where my training in & exposure to Industrial & Operations Engineering (IOE), the EGL Program & the Tauber Institute, has proven to be invaluable.

I am extremely thankful to the staff, managers & students of the Tauber Institute, for putting together and maintaining such a top notch program. From the start, the Institute pays careful attention to selecting only the best and most suitable students, and then puts students through a thorough training program that imparts strong managerial & communication skills, along with a an extensive exposure to operations knowledge. I can't put into words what my experience at the Tauber Institute & EGL program has done for me, except to say that they have shaped me into a competent worker, leader, manager and individual; and I know that this operations-focused, broad based training that I have had will help to propel me towards the higher ranks of the company. After all, processes make up the building blocks of any company, whether banking, manufacturing, or retail; and someone who possesses a strong grasp of these operations and how to make them perform better, will undoubtedly find him/herself move up the ranks of the company to a position where he/she can make a difference.

Wrapping Up
2 months into my job, I have been tasked with several key initiatives that will help drive our company's processes to a higher level of competency. There are days when I feel like I am working on 5 Tauber projects at once (OK, maybe 3....), yet I find myself enjoying every single minute of it.

Congratulations to all the Tauber Students who've just completed their projects! I'm sure you guys all did an awesome job! Safe travels (I know for sure you guys are now all over the world) & best of luck for Spotlight! That itself, is an experience! ;) (Be sure to make good use of your communications coaches!)

Cheers to all from Singapore!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Powered by 500+ Horsepower at General Motors

Wow, time flies!Sorry for the lack of updates, but it’s not for a lack of material or activity.We’re in week 12 here at General Motors, so nearing the finish line.It has been an amazing project thus far.One of the benefits that I’ve seen of Tauber Projects, relative to other MBA internships, is the amount of planning and focus that the project has.Having a sponsor that is engaged in the project, and has done a significant amount of work coming up with a potential scope is extremely important.Instead of showing up to the company and trying to figure out a project for the first few weeks, Tauber projects are generally well thought out and the sponsors often work with you even before you arrive so that you can hit the ground running.

Ed Grubb, my Tauber project partner, and I have been “pedal to the metal” here at GM examining supplier sourcing strategies and how we can best utilize them in key areas to expedite the overall vehicle development process.We’ve had to leverage a lot of our project resources, including our librarian back at the business school, our faculty advisors, as well as our communications coach.

Moving beyond what someone might consider typical “operations” for a predominantly engineering and manufacturing driven company like GM, our recommendations have as much to do with the overarching strategy as well as the physical operations that result from them.We have looked at academic research, case examples from both within and outside of the automotive industry, and the current state analysis of supplier relationships at GM.We then proceeded to focus on a few key areas to study product development and work directly with a cross-functional team within GM and with suppliers to come up with specific process changes that could be proposed for full implementation.While this would represent a drastic shift in culture for GM, we have been given direct and open access with executive level management from all departments and shared our initial findings and hypothesis with them.We used their input and guidance to help formulate our final recommendations, which we are now in the process of presenting back throughout the company.

So we feel like we’ve been working hard for the past 11 weeks, and still have a lot to go through in the next few until the “Spotlight!” presentations in September, but we’re pretty excited to share our results with everyone!Through the help of our sponsors and faculty advisors, we may also look to get our final paper published!

It’s not all work all the time though.We definitely have been given the opportunity to explore and have fun.We have visited supplier and GM factories as well as the GM Powertrain development facility to see the engine test cells.We were able to visit the Battery Assembly Plant, where they put together the batteries for the Chevy Volt.One trip got us into the wind tunnel, where GM was busy testing the aerodynamic properties of a full-scale clay mockup of the next generation Cadillac Escalade.Sorry, no pictures allowed in there, haha.On a daily basis we also see running prototypes of the upcoming Cadillac XTS and ATS and Chevrolet Malibu sedans running around the campus as well as others that are yet to be named…Another great perk is the Ambassador program at GM, which allows employees to reserve and use nearly any car in the GM fleet for either the work week, or a weekend.A few weeks ago I was able to find a Cadillac CTS-V Coupe (pictured above) to use for my weekend trip down to Cleveland.With 556 horsepower, and a 0-60 mile per hour time of 3.9 seconds, if you have the means, I’d highly recommend one.I can even extend you my employee discount.=)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cardinal Health through 6 weeks

It has been a while since I have posted in the blog, so there will be a lot to update on from the first six weeks of my Tauber Project at Cardinal Health (CAH). In short, we have been very busy working on the project and are currently preparing to pitch some of our suggestions to the management teams at CAH. The ability that we have had to shape the project has been a refreshing change from previous corporate internships where you may be given more more task related work. Along with my team we have, with the help of the CAH managment, been able to totally scope and control the direction of the project. I think that part of the allure of these projects for the companies is that they are able to give basic guidance to the student teams and then allow them to run with the ideas and craft totally new knowledge for the companies.
To step away from the internship for a bit, I am currently living in a extended stay hotel. Most of the Tauber sponsors provide housing or at least housing assistance during the summer. I have been able to enjoy the luxuries of daily maid service and free breakfast and dinner during my stay. It may be a wake up call when I return to the UM in the fall and the dishes don't do themselves!

To shift back to the project that my team has been working on, the sheer scale of the operations are incredible. I think this along with the industry were some of the things that drew me to the project. It is incredible for us to look at the changes we are making in a small subset of products and then look at the potential if theses changes can be scaled company wide. It is a surprisingly scary but empowering felling to have this much influence. At least in my case, the sponsor company has done a great job of getting our team access to all of the information that we need. There is no hesitation allowing us to talk to different VP's about our project. I think in the first week we talked with 3 VP's who have all been supporting our project since.

Despite being located in Waukegan, IL our team has been able to do some exciting traveling. Just a few weeks ago we spent a week in El Paso looking at some of the companies operations at a large replenishment center.
We worked long hours, but were still able to enjoy some great Mexican food and checked out the UTEP campus. CAH was event nice enough to get us a sexy red 4 cylinder Chevy HHR for the weekend!

I will try to post a picture that we took with the team in El Paso, but I can't seem to find a good one right now.

I am looking forward to presenting our preliminary findings in the next few weeks and then working to add our advisers recommendations to our findings. Our whole team is hoping that we will be able to being our pilot project to verify our findings soon!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh yeah...the blog...

Its been quite a while since I last posted here... but trust me its all in good reason. My Tauber project here at General Mills has been keeping me quite busy (as does any Tauber project to be honest.) For those of you looking into Tauber I encourage you to think of a Tauber project like so....

Imagine your typical internship: a steep learning curve of the company (culture, methods, hierarchy...), industry (key drivers, trends, competition...), and the division you are placed in (history, role, importance...). Oh yeah, I failed to mention the actual tasks / responsibilities you are to complete by summer's end. This usually has a few deliverables, pending on what you are doing, such as a tool or model, a plan, statistical analysis, a report, etc. This is not to mention the time it takes to get acclimated to your surroundings and enjoy yourself wherever you are staying.

Now, imagine that internship experience is a balloon animal. It takes a while to learn how to make it, get comfortable with your material, and create some sort of creature from it. After a while you figure it out and finish your task at hand, usually with something that looks like this...

To put a Tauber project into comparison, its like taking your typical balloon animal (a dog) and making trying to make it into something like this...

The project is longer (14 weeks v. a typical 10 weeks), there are more "legs" under scope (cross division relationships, larger tasks, integration), and higher expectations (both from the amazing sponsors and yourselves.) The projects are certainly great tasks that tie operations concepts to vital business needs. Oh, and there's an academic report that I forgot to mention...

If I am scaring you, let me clarify something before you stop reading... The Tauber Institute sets you up for success! First, the projects are scoped before they are even pitched to ensure students can make an impact. Second, you gain great training / exposure in modules (as mentioned in previous posts) and the detailed structure of deadlines. Third, you get access and the strong support of a Team Dynamics Coach, Communications Coach, Faculty Advisors, and Co-Director. In other words, you and your partner are not alone. To put things back into perspective.... think of creating an "Elmo" balloon animal on your own when you are just trying to figure out how to make a dog! You need the help of a friend or clown (okay, this is not a good comparison anymore... but you get my point...)

Back to my project! Since my last post I've learned a great deal more about the CPG industry, past efforts to solve this Chewy capacity planning issue, and most importantly what drives decisions here. In a nutshell, I've assessed the original project scope and made a proposal to solve these issues. To solve the issues that currently exist, my partner and I are working on two models: 1) a model to help the day to day tasks and scenario planning (done in Excel) and 2) a model to aid in long term optimization (done in a program titled GURU.)

Now, I am not an expert modeler in Excel, and had no idea of GURU before I came here, but I've been working with two modeling teams in India to revamp an existing model and build a robust optimization model. We meet twice a week (on average) and discuss which input data to use, how granular the detail needs to be, and other questions of the like. If this wasn't enough, my partner and I have been looking into the workflow of how these efforts will be implemented once the tools are in place. This is the most challenging part as the tools and processes currently do not exist, past efforts had inter-dependency bottlenecks, and these tools will be new (or updated) from the current process.

The great benefit of both tasks is how much I am learning. This includes things like how to influence people, how to the impact of technical drivers, or where to go when you need an answer. I've met over 45 people to date and each has had a contribution to our project and our thought process. As a summary, I love what I'm learning and have learned so much. The project is challenging, as are the academic responsibilities, but you have all the resources you need!

Also, I should share that I had my "mid-point review" yesterday with my Faculty Advisors, Co-Director, and General Mills team. We discussed our learnings, progress to date, and future steps. The feedback we received was not only helpful but positive! Hence, I pat myself on the back and am ready to keep moving! Shocking this is nearly the "mid-point" of the summer already!

Following our 3 hour get together, a few of us attended a Tauber Alumni Dinner in the city. We went to an outstanding restaurant called "112 Eatery" which left the crowd (GMI employees, Tauber Faculty, Alumni) full and satisfied!

Minneapolis Tauber Alumni Dinner Attendees
From left to right: Tom Hamilton (Tauber Student), Judy Jin (Faculty Advisor), Bruna Ferro (Tauber Alumni), Natalie Henderson (Tauber Alumni), Lindsay Lyons (General Mills), Billie Fienhage (General Mills), Al Woodliff (Tauber Co-Director), Paul Lokar (General Mills), Mike Peterson (Tauber Alumni)

Looking forward, I cannot promise when I will post next. What I can promise is that my Tauber experience will impact me as an employee, leader, and person (if it hasn't already!) Until next time, enjoy the great summer weather wherever you may be! I'll be busy coaching baseball (http://www.miracleleaguemn.com/about.html) and enjoying the outdoors!

Monday, May 23, 2011

General Mills - Weeks 1 and 2

Wow! Just realized that this blog hasn't gotten much action since April. Hence, let me keep it short and try to provide an update on my summer experience(s).

Since graduation, I've been able to catch my breathe with my family and gear up for the summer ahead. I took a week to enjoy my friends in Ann Arbor before they all departed and then moved out of my apartment. After spending a week with my family and friends in Troy (suburb of Detroit) I reloaded nearly everything I had in it on the way home and got it ready for Minneapolis.

My dad and I then took 2 days to drive to Minneapolis as we stopped in Chicago and stayed with my Uncle. The drive took about 12 hours, or 10 with my lead foot, but served as a great bonding period. We spent a two days together and ventured around Minneapolis as I set up and got ready for work.

Okay... now the Tauber stuff. We were greeted on our first day of work and I couldn't believe it. The Snacks Division hooked me up... (see below)

Snacks, a welcome Teddy, and my new Mug!

Honore and I spent our first week or so re-scoping our project and learning more about the whole General Mills company / Snacks industry. With all the jargon of chewy bars and production lines, we were ultimately led to Hannibal, MO to view a real production line. We returned on Friday and grabbed a meal together. It was eye-opening to reflect on how much we had learned in that first week alone! Our second week included meetings with upper management (great exposure!) and much more learning. I could go on and on about chewy bars and whatnot but I think I'll save that for Spotlight! (and the Fall). However, I should share the fact that I've felt very positive about the access to top management and interest people have here for our project. General Mills has been an awesome sponsor thus far!

Outside of work, I've been able to enjoy the amazing Minneapolis outdoors, improve my cooking, and explore the city. It was also my birthday, which led me to a few bars near Target Field, home of the Twins. There seems to be a real love for baseball (sadly the Twins), food, and shopping around here. In other words, I may spend every penny I make... but a penny wellspent. I've also been exercising a lot as General Mills (and Minneapolis for that matter) is a very active place! Everyone seems to be either doing triathlons, or one-upping me in some way... who knows maybe I'll do the Warrior Dash (Warrior Dash)!?!

Anyways, one thing I will be doing is helping with the Minneapolis Miracle League as I hope to help children learn some baseball and make some friends! Games are on weekends, so it'll serve as great release. Until then, I'll continue to brainstorm about my experience and hope to share in the next three weeks. Cheers!

An overcast view from our apartment - note the skywalks!

By the way, deadly storms have come through here (not quite as bad as those in Missouri) and tornado sirens have been frequent. I should note that we are safe and my thoughts are with those affected!

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