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Bradley Hilltopics

Winter 2009 • Volume 15, Issue 1  

Notebook

 

Young engineers help major corporation

By ABBY WILSON ’10

globe with people

globe with people

globe with people

Streamlining the manufacturing process of antenna ribs used in satellites (shown) was the goal of three industrial engineering students who completed their senior projects for Harris Corp. LAURA HOGARD ’08; Professor Joe Emanuel; NATHAN LEECH ’08; Harris employees Tom Buschor, Gwen Malone, and James Lawson; ERIC MOSS ’08; and Jeff Ferris of Harris, pause after a meeting in Melbourne, Fla.

 

 

For three Bradley industrial engineering students, a trip to Melbourne, Fla., last year consisted of only one day at the beach. The other six days were spent at Harris Corp., studying the ribs on commercial deployable antenna reflectors. For their senior project, LAURA HOGARD ’08, ERIC MOSS ’08, and NATHAN LEECH ’08 were assigned the task of reducing the manufacturing cycle time of antenna reflector ribs on Sirius Satellite Radio and CMB satellites. (The ribs act as an umbrella frame for the satellites.)

In January, the team had visited Harris, a corporation run by CEO and industrial engineering graduate HOWARD LANCE ’77, to familiarize themselves with the production process of the antenna reflector ribs. During that initial trip, they identified several factors contributing to the 162-hour manufacturing time. They chose to assess three of them: the manufacturing plant had to share tools; Harris had to transport the ribs in mid-assembly to other nearby buildings; and workers had to change production methods to avoid H-52 discrepancies, or manufacturing techniques that did not comply with American satellite standards.

When the students used ARENA, a computer simulation program to map out the production process, they discovered that minimizing transportation and maximizing tool availability would only reduce the manufacturing cycle time by a few hours. However, eliminating the H-52s, which occurred every 22 working days on average and stopped production for hours at a time, would reduce cycle time to only 40 hours. Their findings provided Harris with the information they needed to examine the time wasted when an H-52 occurred.

The three students agree that the most challenging aspect of the project was working with a company over such a long distance — Harris is 1,200 miles from Bradley. Although they had good support from Harris, they found they were unable to get some information without actually being there and seeing the project. “The project completely changed after we saw it over spring break. It more or less started once we were physically there and got the information we needed,” said Moss.

They returned to Harris at the end of the semester, along with Dr. Joe Emanuel, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Technology and professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. They presented their findings to Harris and had a question-and-answer session. While videoconferencing facilities are available in the Caterpillar Global Communications Center, Emanuel felt having a physical presence at Harris for the final presentation was imperative. “Harris wanted everything the students had thought about, everything they had tried but didn’t work — they wanted a brain dump. And they were not going to get that if we were sitting in Peoria. They were going to get that if we were down there.”.