Applying Supply Chain Techniques in Industry Settings

The ISM program effers an experiential course in which students, after mastering process management concepts and techniques (e.g., single minute exchange of dies, value stream mapping, value engineering, etc.), are given the chance to gain experience by applying these concepts and techniques to an on-site industry process.

The course provides student teams with a project formulated by an ISM faculty member and industry partners, such as Stryker Instruments and Stryker Medical, allowing the teams the opportunity to create solutions and then apply them to improve a company’s production management.

The collaboration with industry partners provides ISM students with the unique opportunity to apply their in-class learning to the goals of influential and successful corporations, giving the students real-life experience which is hard to obtain elsewhere.

For more information on this course, contact Dr. Sime Curcovic, director of the ISM program.

Applying lean manufacturing practices

In this project, Stryker Medical sought to apply lean manufacturing practices to several of its production lines. To address this goal, Stryker enlisted a group of ISM students who focused on part consolidation to improve Stryker’s use of production floor space.

Stryker Medical was concerned about reducing the large amounts of inventory on its production floor. The student group was in charge of carefully collecting data on every part by number, weight, location and container. After collecting the data, the students were able to propose ideas that would facilitate reductions in inventory and a Just-in-Time delivery system to the production floor. With that information, the students then created and carried out several successful milk runs to deliver inventory to the lines.

The "supermarket" project

ISM students were assigned to Stryker Medical's “Supermarket” which was a mini warehouse for the Power Pro and Chair division. The students were responsible for taking an inventory of parts used, measuring size and weight, standardizing shipment packaging and holding bins, and implementing  improvements for circulation of parts, known as “milk runs.”

According to Stryker's Lean Project Manager, Jake Ritz, the work performed reduced inventory and shipment costs, standardize holding containers, increase visibility of products and raw materials, and ultimately widen margins and improve ROI. He said "the students effectively focused their efforts on generating efficiencies and creatively thinking outside the box" and that he hopes to collaborate with other student groups in the future.

Stryker Instruments indirect supply consolidation

A group of ISM students collaborated with Stryker Instruments purchasing managers on a project to consolidate and reduce the number of suppliers necessary for indirect material purchases. 

The group formulated short- and long-term goals that included creating procedures for proper oversight of the indirect supply base, setting buyer authorization levels, creating a scorecard to evaluate indirect suppliers, converting transactions from paper form to digitalized form, suggesting up-to-date ERP systems and e-tools, creating a preferred list, using strategic purchasing methods, and improving communication with other Stryker divisions.  The managers all agreed that the group’s suggestions will create transparency, greater communication, more organization, lower overhead and tremendously lower costs.

This project was the first trial of its kind at Stryker Instruments and not only gave the students invaluable hands-on experience but also provided the Stryker managers with valuable information to make beneficial changes to improve Stryker systems.

The Stryker - ISM kanban project

In reevaluating their reorder point and quantities through lean manufacturing concepts, Stryker Medical’s product line team leaders worked with a group of ISM students to effectively change the kanban sizes and reorder quantities of all the parts on an integral product line.

The students suggested breaking up the parts of the product line into three cost categories and developed a strategy for each.  The students reevaluated and changed the kanban sizes by using a model that included historical lead time, daily demand, service level, safety stock, standard cost, and standard deviation of demand and lead time. The new kanban sizes have eliminated excessive inventories while reducing the amount of stock outs.  By reducing stock outs and preventing line shutdowns, the group’s changes will have potentially enormous cost savings for the Stryker Medical division.    The WMU ISM students gained very valuable practical experience that could potentially impact a Fortune 500 company.