News at Smith

Smith Fellows in QUEST Offer Creative Solutions to Solve Real-World Business Dilemmas

Dec 01, 2005
Experiential / Reality-based Learning

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How might Anheuser-Busch cut the disposal cost of wet grain left over from its beer production? Just ask undergraduates Adam Gabai, Alison Horner, Andrew Narod, Ari Rasekh, and Katya Tomarev, who developed solutions to the beer production dilemma as part of the senior practicum portion of the (Quality Enhancement and Teams) QUEST program. QUEST, one of the Smith Schools specialized Undergraduate Fellows tracks, is operated jointly with the A. James Clark School of Engineering and admits students from the Smith School, the Clark School and the College of Mathematical, Computer and Physical Sciences.

Seniors in the QUEST program spend the better part of the fall semester working with a faculty advisor on consulting projects for corporations, all of which have real-life importance and implications.

These are all real-life projects for Black & Decker, said Mike Weber, corporate champion for the QUEST consulting project, to the team of students working on Black & Decker's projects. We will definitely use this data. I just wish I had the budget to hire all of you.

Black & Decker sponsored two consulting projects with QUEST this year: one which considered the parts distribution process, and one which evaluated a hub-and-spoke model for tool repair.

Both projects involved complex mathematical models for analyzing information provided to the students by Black & Decker. Daimler Chrysler set students to thinking about design innovations that would make their cars more user-friendly, which involved field trips to places like IKEA and Brookstone stores so students could research publicly available technology that could be turned into the latest, greatest new gadget for your car. Ten companies sponsored 13 consulting projects this year, which involved almost 60 students.

During the presentations, students described their methodology, how they evaluated their ideas, and how they conducted benchmarking exercises. Their background work is often highly quantitative as they produce models and databases to process information. Like the case competitions that are part of the coursework for Smith MBA students, the QUEST presentations are timed, adding an extra dimension of pressure for already-nervous students.

Members of the Anheuser-Busch team considered ways to deal with the wet grain that would meet their clients needs: something that would remove the grain from the brewery in an environmentally friendly and inexpensive way. QUEST students are encouraged to think out of the box, so their solutions ranged from turning the grain into pet food to using it as mulch for mushrooms. One of their more unique solutions was Beer Bread, samples of which were passed around to the audience. (It was edible. Or at least not inedible. They're working on it.)

So don't look for Beer Bread to appear in your grocery store anytime soon. Still, another recommendation of the Anheuser-Busch team is under serious consideration and may save the company more than $100,000 a year demonstrating the value of the QUEST program and the remarkable talent of QUEST students.

For more information about QUEST, visit http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/quest.

▓ Rebecca Winner, Office of Marketing Communications

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.