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Engineering professor, graduate student partner to improve efficiency at Rockford manufacturer

March 26, 2013

Logo of Superior Joining Technologies, Inc.Professors in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology constantly look to engage students in real-world projects, giving them the experience they need to be successful after graduation.

Gary Chen, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and his graduate student, Tricia Fremouw, partnered with a Rockford company to improve their efficiency.

Superior Joining Technologies, Inc. (SJTI) is “building a strong reputation as an innovative manufacturing source” for the greater Rockford area.

The company, which strives to provide quick, efficient service, enlisted NIU engineering faculty and students to help continue that progress: SJTI needed of a way to improve its fixtures, which hold a part in place for welding.

In addition to the improved fixtures, Chen and Fremouw created checklists to help operators work more efficiently.

They also made improvements to a database that track fixture locations. “Results from a time study showed significant improvement in search time, which ranged between 55 percent to 88 percent improvement,” Chen said.

Gary Chen

Gary Chen

“SJTI was happy to be part of the process from this program that would all us to contribute to the benefit of the student. We identified a need and could not allocate personnel to handle the issue,” SJTI owner Teresa Beach-Shelow said. “Tricia stepped in and went above and beyond our expectation. She melded well with our staff. She quickly formulated a plan then implemented it.”

Fremouw said she found the experience of working with SJTI beneficial.

“This research opportunity has enabled me to go outside the classroom to gain real world, she said. “I hope more students will take advantage of such programs as they are a valuable asset in expanding your skills toolbox.”

Chen also views the experience as invaluable.

“I am glad of the successful outcomes of this project with SJTI. It’s a win-win for both of us,” he said. “The company gained immediate benefits with improved systems performance and our student was able to go beyond classroom with enriched learning experience.”