For my second MECOP internship I was placed with OECO, LLC, a 300-person company located in Milwaukie, Oregon that manufactures electromagnetic devices and power conversion products, mostly for the aviation industry. I worked for Tim Krajcar, head of OECO’s three-person IT team. My role as an MIS intern mainly encompassed the development of web applications for the company intranet. My applications will be used on the manufacturing floor to support operations.
- Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) System – Web solution consisting of a comprehensive database of MSDS files kept by OECO as per OSHA requirements and an application for management of the database.
This project consisted of several distinct sub-projects:
- Requirements gathering
- Gathering of MSDS files
- Database development
- Application development (general user and administration components)
- User education (including nearly all 300 OECO associates)
- Reconciling the digital system with the pre-existing vertical file containing physical datasheets (printing new datasheets, scanning old datasheets)
- Resin Mix System – Web solution to address costly miscalculations when mixing resins.
- Receiving/Inspection System – Web solution to replace existing MS Access system for processing incoming inventory before use in production.
- Electronic Stamps – Digital versions of stamps used on physical documents such as engineering drawings for a number of uses including conformance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
- Obsolescence data – Parsing of data stored in an awkward format so that it could be provided to buyers.
I designed the MSDS System to enable OECO associates to quickly access information on potentially hazardous materials. I did this by providing a simple search interface for them to use to look up the material safety data sheet for any of the 740+ materials used at OECO. The benefits of the MSDS System are twofold. Firstly, the time taken to locate and update MSDS files is reduced. And secondly, there is a significant cost savings associated with maintaining MSDS records in-house. An outsourcing alternative considered before I was assigned the project would have had a recurring cost of $8,952. The cost to have me do it was estimated at $5,600. That’s a cost savings of $3,352 in the first year alone.
Resin Mix System
The Resin Mix System is designed to address a problem that occurs periodically when production workers mix resins in incorrect proportions. While uncommon, when this does happen, it is often the case that large amounts of product are rendered useless and must be discarded at a high cost. Jeff Williams determined that a key reason for such an occurrence is that an associate has made an arithmetic error when calculating the various amounts of ingredients needed to mix the resin. He came to me and Tim with the suggestion that we create a system that does the arithmetic for them. While I developed a working prototype, it needs more data. What remains to be done is for a complete set of resin recipes to be added to its database.
Jeff tells me that last time a resin mistake was made, the cost was $10,044. Since this happens an average of twice a year, my solution could potentially save the company $20,088 a year.
My Project for Receiving/Inspection is essentially a redesign of the system they had in place when I started. The old system is very inefficient, often forcing associates in the Receiving/Inspection department to find other things to do while thousands of records are accessed merely for the sake of displaying a handful of them. The Receiving/Inspection System I put in place requires that only the records to be displayed are loaded, thus drastically reducing the time users take to do their job.
Of my two MECOP internships, this one has certainly been the more rewarding and productive. I truly feel more accomplished for the time I’ve spent here and the work I’ve done.
In return, I have given them a complete solution for managing Material Safety Data Sheets, provided them with a potential solution to costly errors in resin mixes and developed most of what is needed to reduce lead times in Receiving/Inspection.
Here are some lesson’s I’ll take with me:
Finishing a solution is not the same as implementing it – When I wrote the last line of markup on the MSDS application, my job wasn’t finished. In fact, it had practically just begun. In order to ensure the system achieved its goals, I had to tie the processes associated with its precursor in with the new system and integrate it with parallel workflows such as the labeling of materials using it. This required that I train many people on how to use it and also that I do plenty of low-tech, labor-intensive hand work to integrate it with what was already in place.
When intimidated, start small and build up – I spent perhaps more time than was warranted hesitating out of intimidation by the Receiving/Inspection project. It seemed like such a big undertaking that I was afraid I would waste time if I took the wrong path when addressing it. I should have taken a lesson from any of my many math classes throughout the years; To tackle a big problem, you’ve got to break it into smaller problems and tackle those. Another strategy that helped was to go and talk with users to gain a better sense of the situation. This helped me to pick a portion of the whole as starting point that I could duplicate in altered form until I had about half of the project practically completed.
User buy-in and cooperation is a must – Even with all the potential benefit and the high degree of completion on the Resin Mix system, it’s fate seems uncertain without the expertise and labor required of administrative users who will have to supply it with data.
This is a truncated version of the final report I wrote for OECO and the MECOP administrators. Feel free to contact me if you want a copy of the full report