Educating the process engineers of the future – A hands-on workshop at P&G with students from HTW Dresden

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The Industry Research Project Week (IRPW) was first introduced as the Next Practice Profile in 2017. During the first two IRPW events, we conducted the project week with other Universities, e.g. University of Applied Sciences (HTW) and University of Technology (TU) in Dresden, and research institutes, e.g. Fraunhofer IWU and smart3 network. The principles and fundamentals of this innovative approach were presented at UIIC conferences in London and Helsinki.

For the third year in a row, we are excited to share the results from our newest project, in which we had a very strong university-industry interaction. For the first time, we brought our students out into the real world for a one-week long interactive workshop at the American consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G). In the week of October 7-11, 2019 six students of the Master´s degree program “Industrial Engineering” used this unique opportunity to take part in an innovative new kind of seminar on Lean production.

Master´s degree students visiting P&G Groß-Gerau in October 2019

At P&G´s manufacturing site in Gross-Gerau, the students could become better acquainted with the company-wide used Problem Solving method, called UPS, in both theory and practice. During the workshop, the students gained excellent insights into the complex and highly automated production lines. Additionally, the participants got first-hand experience with P&G´s management concepts and systems, which are used to improve processes and organizational structures on a daily basis.

This time we wanted to gain a fresh perspective by shifting our focus to “real” University-Industry interaction. We are proud to be able to announce that our partner is the market leader in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector. After visiting our University in Dresden to lead a management seminar on Lean Manufacturing, the P&G´s Associate Director, Elke Feierabend, was so inspired by the students that she offered to host a workshop at the manufacturing site in 2019.

After announcing the event, we were overwhelmed by the number of requests and applications we received. Finally, we selected six students from the Master´s course degree while also taking into account the company´s wishes, e.g. diversity. With the participants, we conducted two preparation meetings at the university. The first one focused on logistics, e.g. travel and accommodation, which were made financially possible through our sponsor Higher Education Institute in Saxony (HDS). In the second one, we introduced and discussed the research approach and specific methodology used by P&G. In this context, the students researched and prepared abstracts about Lean production and Kaizen.

In total, six Master students from HTW Dresden registered for the IRPW 2019. Additionally, the supervisor from the university and a P&G manager from R&D/ Innovation joined this group of students. In a mix of input and work sessions, the students got a step-by-step introduction to P&G problem-solving approach (UPS). Students received one-on-one coaching from a process expert and were guided through the five steps of the UPS methodology. The students were divided into two groups, accompanied by experienced line leaders and process experts.

At the beginning of the workshop, each group was presented with a problem concerning an unplanned stop of a high-speed production line. The very same problem had recently been resolved by a P&G workshop team and is now used for on-the-job training of line operators and process engineers. By providing the students with a realistic and especially prepared case study, the assigned UPS company coach was able to steer students in the right direction and thereby ensure their success in solving the problem. At the end of the week, the students had the chance to present their results to P&G´s Integrated Work Systems (IWS) leader, Astrid Kruse.

After being back at the university, the students were requested to write one project report per team. The summary of this report was shared with P&G members as well as with fellow students. In the report, the students responded to the given questions regarding organization, process, and methods. Additionally, the students compared the P&G-specific approach of UPS with the well-known A3-Thinking method from Toyota, which is a crucial part of the Lean production system.

Thanks to our partnership with P&G, the students had the opportunity to work actively in a real-life scenario, e.g. Lean production workshop. According to the feedback from participants, Master´s students feel better prepared for challenges they will face in their professional lives in the near future. The plan to open doors to new perspectives and educating future and current talents was successful. All parties involved gained something valuable in this win-win-situation.

The company had the opportunity to market themselves to students by informing them about the many opportunities all over the world. Additionally, they could introduce and test the new qualification approach for UPS methodology. Based on the success of this year´s IRPW, it is now surprising, that all participants have already expressed their excitement about the next project week in 2021.

* This project week was funded by the Hochschuldidaktische Zentrum Sachsen (HDS) via Ministry of Education BMBF according to the joint project „Lehrpraxis im Transfer plus“ (LiT+) of HTW und TU Dresden within the program 2018/ 19.


Prof. Dr. Swen Günther  | De Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Dresden  (HTW) | Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften 

Image credit header: Dylan Gillis from Unsplash