Western Pallet Magazine May 2020 - Page 24


Spotted lantern fly, originally from China, has invaded the US East Coast, and is expected to make its way to California. Credit: Stephen Asmus / USDA-ARS

Report from Atlas Pallets after Caliente Fire

train for the culture." Students are exposed to lean for four years, so when they leave, it is part of their DNA. "When they go into a facility," he adds, "they need to have this type of structure."

Shortcomings in Horvath's educational journey have informed his approach. "I worked on industrial projects during my Ph. D. research, but I never gained management experience," he says. "I always felt that was a problem." At Virginia Tech, he wanted his students to gain management acumen.

Graduate students manage the day-to-day processes, while undergrads act as technicians in performing the testing projects. "The system works really well," he states. Involving the undergraduates in the lean program has proven to be highly successful. They love being able to "put their own touches" on the laboratory.

"When our graduates enter the workforce," Horvath states, "they don't just have extensive knowledge on packaging engineering and design processes."" With their lean training, they are ready to integrate into lean corporate settings. Or if a lean culture isn't present, they start pushing for lean documentation. "It is quite unique for a university packaging program to focus on lean," he observes.

Horvath tells the story of one student who went to a cosmetics firm for a job interview. She said to the employer in a straightforward way that their laboratory had a "way to go" to be more organized. While the move might have backfired, it didn't. She was hired. He observes that companies have a feeling about whether or not their operations are at the desired level of performance. They are interested in hiring employees who can move them in the right direction.

"So that's what we want to achieve with the students," Horvath concludes. "We want them to gain experience. And, if we say that we are a state of the art level laboratory doing state of the art research, then we should look like one." Thanks to its lean transformation, the William H. Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Testing Laboratory is precisely that.

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