Grad student visits Milan on Italian Machine Tool Technology Award

The Italian Trade Commission awarded eight U.S. College students a two-week trip to Italy, July 4-16, to visit top machine tool companies and participate in an advanced international engineering program offered at Politecnico University-Milan, Italy. Dylan Schmitter, a College of Technology graduate student, was one of those chosen for the experience. Schmitter, from St. Louis, Mo., earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology at Purdue’s College of Technology, and he is now pursuing his master’s degree in industrial technology. Before and after his trip, he provided some background on the program and experience, on his summer internship with Kenworth, and his educational preparation. - - - - - - For two weeks I was given the opportunity to tour many Italian manufacturers, attend lectures at the Politechnico University-Milan and experience foreign cultures. Not only Italian culture, but also Indian, Russian, Brazilian and Mexican culture as there were students from those countries who also won the 2011 Italian Machine Tool Technology Award. It was very interesting interacting with people from these countries and hearing about their lives, their universities and manufacturing in their country. We started off with three days of lectures at the Politecnico University-Milano, which were on the topics of innovation, disruptive technologies, industrial design and simulation. These lectures were engaging and I learned a lot about industrial design and simulation, which I was not very knowledgeable about. We visited a few machine tool manufacturers, some high volume and some small niche type machinery, such as Pietro Carnaghi, a company which manufactures massive vertical lathes. We also visited the Fiat research facility and the Ducati motorcycle factory. These factories were very similar to factories I've been to in the United States. Topics and tools I had learned about in school, such as Lean and Six Sigma, are being carried out in Italian factories (and world wide), and I was not surprised. On each of these factory tours, the managers or presidents would speak and give their opinion on where they saw manufacturing going for the future. One thing they all agreed on is that it is becoming ever more important for up-and-coming engineers and technologists to be global. These speeches started to give me the idea to go to China to learn Mandarin, as Chinese manufacturing was a common topic. In addition to the educational experiences, I also was able to enjoy Milan and Bologna, two beautiful and historical Italian cities. And of course, the food was amazing. Ever since I studied in Germany as part of a COT study abroad program, I have had the travel bug and really enjoy international experiences and exploring new places. This trip fits in very well with my graduate program. In the Industrial Technology graduate program, we talk a lot about innovation, productivity, quality and technology from a global perspective, which is very much what this trip is about. As I am focusing my master’s on environmentally responsible manufacturing, it will be interesting to see how Italian manufacturers are implementing 'green' initiatives into their organizations as well. At Kenworth Truck Company , I am interning as a manufacturing engineer. They had just completed a high impact Kaizen event as I got there, so they had many continuous improvement projects that needed to be carried out. The first project I worked on was mapping out the current painting process for some components. For this project, I created flow and layout diagrams, conducted time studies and figured out the cost benefit for the proposed improvement. Another project was redesigning the layout for a certain assembly area to add more flow and create space for inventory. I have also been working with suppliers and vendors to make purchases for needed equipment such as an articulating jib crane and ergonomic lift carts. One exciting part of this internship was being able to take part in an ISO 50001 internal auditing course, which is the International Organization for Standardization's newest standard for Energy Management Systems. It's been a truly rewarding internship experience thus far. So much of what I learned through my Industrial Technology education is being utilized everyday. The IT courses and professors really taught me the tools and concepts which are actually being carried out in industry. I feel like my education has prepared me very well for this industrial/manufacturing engineering role. (photo of Panoramic view of Piazza Duomo (Milan) from Wikipedia).