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Five Engineering Students Make Permanent Impact on the Coca-Cola Company with Their Productive Co-op Projects

Mechanical and Industrial engineering major Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz

Five College of Engineering Students recently participated in the first ever co-op program run by the Coca-Cola plant in Northampton, and, because of their superior performance, they were each asked to make five-minute presentations to 11 company plant managers from the Northeast region and one vice-president from the Eastern U.S. “This is Coca-Cola’s first iteration of its co-op program,” explained co-op participant and mechanical engineering major Michael Schwartz, “and the company as a whole is looking to possibly expand this program to other plants across the nation based on the success the UMass students in Northampton.”

In response to the UMass co-op project, Coca-Cola Training Coordinator Michael Denno said that “I would love the opportunity to comment on the exceptional time we (Coca-Cola) have had with the interns. They are collectively and individually one of the best groups of people that I have ever had the privilege to be associated with.”

Schwartz noted that this internship experience has many implications for “the university’s reputation and role in being a building block for such a major corporation, as well as the potential effects that could be had for the careers of each of the interns…We interns feel that this could be a major milestone and step forward in our careers.”

The other co-op interns at Coca-Cola were industrial engineering majors Nicholas Murner and Maksim Vasilchenko, chemical engineering major Tri Le, and computer systems engineering major Manali Palwankar.

As Assistant Dean for Experiential Learning & Corporate Relations Cheryl Brooks explained, “This whole relationship came about because of a reach out from Coca-Cola Director of Operational Excellence Michael Terrell, who had come from Atlanta to help resolve some problems that the Northampton facility was having.” Brooks then met with various key personnel, including Terrell and Denno, to identify specific areas of engagement with Coca-Cola.

As a direct result, the UMass co-op interns were engaged in a variety of high-level responsibilities, which they presented in oral reports to the Coca-Cola executives in November.

“I was presenting on an inventory management project and statistical incident control,” said Le. “For inventory management, I was presenting another method to manage the chilled warehouse to create more space for production and storage and avoid storage space overload. For statistical incident control, I was presenting on the teamwork with other interns on a format to manage meetings that allows everyone to tackle daily issues more efficiently, while keeping track of collected data. It was well-received by the executives.”

Meanwhile, Murner reported on the collaborative industrial engineering work he did with Vasilchenko. “Max and I presented on the training documents we've written for the new process of making one of Coca-Cola's billion-dollar brands, Gold Peak Tea. We've written process, autonomous maintenance, lock-out tag-out, and cleaning training documents, each of which has been well-received and considered for use in all Coca-Cola's plants in North America.”

For his part, Schwartz had the opportunity to take part in a range of important projects at Coca-Cola in Northampton.

“My main undertaking has been working in the maintenance department optimizing preventative maintenance procedures, or ‘PMs’ as they are referred to,” said Schwartz. “To give a bit of context, every machine in the automated bottling process here has maintenance procedures that must be done periodically to prevent breakdowns.”

Schwartz said that these procedures can range from things done daily, like greasing, to things done periodically. Most machines have several different PM procedures that are performed daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Schwartz reported that “My job has been to go through these procedures and to optimize them, meaning I compare them with OEM recommendations for scheduling, ensure proper directional language specificity, and ensure correct formatting for each task within a PM procedure. To do this, I have had to consult mechanics, electric and instrumentation techs, planners, production staff, and managers. I have also begun working on using a function within our scheduling system for our PMs based on hourly runtime of the machine.”

Schwartz added that “I have worked with the rest of the UMass students on co-op here at CC Northampton on adding more value to a daily meeting, where information on efficiency of manufacturing lines is presented to a team of managers and supervisors, and tasks are assigned with the goal of remediation to produce a higher output and thus higher efficiency.”

Schwartz noted that the team of co-ops also worked with the plant management to design formats for visual management boards to transfer information being presented and aid with the assigning of tasks.

“Each co-op student took turns leading this meeting in its different forms,” Schwartz concluded, “and it has since been passed over to the managers and supervisors to run autonomously.”

As Mechanical and Engineering Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty responded to the successful internship project, “Congratulations on your outstanding accomplishments during your co-op tenure at Coca-Cola, and the fact that you presented your findings to 11 plant managers as well to a VP is a testament to the exceptional quality of your work.” (January 2019)