My experience working in continuous improvement
Optimization, lean manufacturing, and continuous improvement are terms constantly thrown at you when talking about industrial engineering; but, it is not always clear where to apply them outside a classroom. In many companies, there is a specific department called “Continuous improvement” (very original, I know), that has the role of optimizing operations time, increasing production efficiency, and decreasing waste or sources of error or both.
Last summer I got the great opportunity to do an internship at Sanexen (a small construction company), and today I want to share a bit of my experience, and some advice so that students can have a better idea of what a continuous improvement intern does.
Get to know them
For starters, I know the name is pretty self explanatory, I-M-P-R-O-V-E-M-E-N-T… yet, once you start working with a new company in this sector, getting to know all the processes and your work colleagues is very important. Think of it as if you are meeting a potential partner. Before planning the best Valentine's date ever, one must be able to know that person very well, know what they like, what they are looking for, and what things they want to work on so that you can become the best partner you can be.
The first weeks I visited a distribution center, a couple of construction sites, met with different colleagues and got to know what the company’s culture was all about. After a couple of weeks of integration, I started working on small projects to improve the operations while identifying the activities that made employees lose time and how to avoid them.
My goal is not to go all technical, but regardless of the company, you will be given one or a couple of projects to work on, which must improve in some way or another. If we go back to the Valentine’s analogy, it is never easy to satisfy your partner’s (supervisor’s) expectations. I learned that making mistakes is part of the process and it will help me succeed in the long run, or even in “the next relationship”, I mean, INTERNSHIP!
What I wish I knew
In retrospect, the 4 months I worked at Sanexen flew by, leaving me with one big lesson: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. During the time I worked on different projects, I was often shy to ask questions; thinking my co-workers were busy, and I was worried they would judge me for being a slow learner for not understanding certain processes on the first try. There were so many improvements I could have done, yet I was too busy pretending not to seem dumb or unprofessional. My fears were all in my head and I will certainly continue to improve in preparation for my next internship. Best of luck in summer internship hunting!
By Ana Guadron - Vp Webmaster 2022-2023
Special thanks to the author