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 cross-functional collaboration, innovation, quality management, and teamwork.
Twelve consulting projects were featured at the 2012 QUEST Senior Conference, held on Thursday, December 6, 2012. More than 300 people gathered at the University of Maryland’s Riggs Alumni Center to view the storyboards and hear student teams describe their consulting projects on a night that capped off months 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 with a faculty adviser on consulting projects for corporations, all of which have real-life importance and implications. This year student teams worked on 12 consulting projects for nine 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 messy, complicated, often-frustrating world of a real business.
QUEST “Project of the Year”
Tulkoff Food Products Inc. has been a Baltimore business since the 1930s and is known for its horseradish products – processing two million pounds of raw horseradish each year. The QUEST “Project of the Year” team consulted with Tullkoff on the need to increase output per unit time (efficiency) in their production process.
The winning team consisted of UMD seniors Neal Yaffe (marketing, operations management), Nick Yaraghi (chemical engineering), Shirley Qin (supply chain management, information systems), David Rosen (mechanical engineering), and Becca Brown (marketing, operations management). The team formulated a scheduling algorithm for one of the four manufacturing lines at Tulkoff to decrease the amount of overall changeovers, maximize run sizes and ultimately accomplish the goal of increasing efficiency. Tullkoff was running at 47 percent efficiency and thought 50 percent efficiency was the best they could achieve. Through situational research, statistical analysis and trial runs, the students were able to formulate an algorithm that increased efficiency by about 12 percent – much more than Tulkoff expected thought possible.
After a very successful beta test that ran in early November, Tulkoff continues to use the new algorithm.
“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.
2012 Consulting Project Clients
- ATK Defense Group (Complete Compliance, Mergers & Acquisitions)
- Bakery Express
- Bowles Fluidics
- Lockheed Martin
- Middle River Aircraft Systems (Aircraft Manufacturing, Design Process)
- SAIC (Cybersecurity, Propaganda)
- Tulkoff Food Products
QUEST would like to thank conference sponsors ATK, PwC and SAIC.
If your company is interested in working with QUEST, contact Kylie Goodell at email@example.com or visit http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/quest/corporatepartners/.