Students in the University of Maryland’s Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) honors program are used to making an impact. As part of QUEST’s highly selective, reality-based learning program, they participate in courses focused on quality management, process improvement, and system design.
Thirteen consulting projects were featured at the 2013 QUEST Senior Conference, held on Thursday, December 12, 2013. More than 300 people gathered at the University of Maryland’s Riggs Alumni Center to view the project posters and hear student teams describe their consulting projects on a night that capped off three years of hard work and preparation.
These consulting projects form the senior practicum portion of the honors program. QUEST is operated jointly by the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and admits students from these schools.
Seniors in the QUEST program spend the entirety of the fall semester working on consulting projects for corporations, all of which have real-life importance and implications. This year student teams worked on 13 consulting projects for twelve companies in industries that ranged the gamut from defense to food products.
Each of the consulting projects resulted in a dynamic learning experience for the students as well as creative, real-life business solutions for the sponsoring companies. Working side-by-side with clients gives students a chance to put theory to practice in the fast-paced, complicated, often-frustrating world of a real business.
QUEST “Project of the Year”
Spectrum Foods is a poultry and foods distributor headquartered in Landover, Md. The company services average to low-cost restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, and wholesalers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Spectrum Foods has remained competitive due to their flexible, convenient, and customer-focused approach to business operations. The opportunity that the QUEST team consulted on was that Spectrum Food’s warehouse was over-capacity
The winning team consisted of UMD seniors Elinor Chang (finance and accounting), Ehson Kashfipour (operations management and information systems), Danny Laurence (computer science), Melinda Pandiangan (marketing and supply chain management), and Olivia Sulaeman (mechanical engineering).
The students analyzed sales, procurement, and lastly, current space utilization to come up with recommendations that will save Spectrum nearly $700,000 a year. The company reports they plan to implement the recommendations within a year. In sales realm, the student team analyzed the list of item offerings and flagged unprofitable items. With procurement, they monitored the amount of excess inventory that was being carried. They tackled physical space by recommending the implementation of a racking system to better utilize the dry goods space. Lastly, the student consultants provided the client with a process flow diagram and decision matrices for evaluating item offerings on an ongoing basis to provide the foundation for continuous improvement to prevent overcapacity in the future. The QUEST students helped Spectrum foods eliminate growth inhibitors, implement leaner systems, and create space for more business opportunities, positioning the company to achieve growth to its fullest potential for years to come.
“The Senior Conference is a fantastic event that brings together the broader QUEST community – corporate partners, alumni, families – to celebrate a great achievement,” said Joe Bailey, director of the QUEST Honors Program and research professor at the Smith School. “This is a very difficult project – condensing a semester’s worth of work into one 15-minute presentation – and they all do an amazing job.”
Giving students the opportunity to work with real-life clients on real-life business problems is a win-win situation for both students and businesses. Many of the companies keep coming back to QUEST with new projects every year.
2013 Consulting Project Clients
- ATK Defense Group
- Bakery Express
- Bowles Fluidics
- Millennium Engineering and Integration Company
- Spectrum Foods
- Thales Defense & Security, Inc.
- Tulkoff Food Products
- Volvo Group Trucks
QUEST would like to thank conference sponsors ATK, Capital One, and KPMG.