Students propose workplace modifications for Dubuque manufacturer

December 5, 2013

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Four industrial engineering students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville are using their classroom training to solve real problems in the workforce. Zak Brinkman, of Cassville, Wis.; Adam Kaiser, of Kieler, Wis.; Stephanie Kirchner, of Sussex, Wis.; and Lee Niensteadt, of Dubuque, Iowa, all senior industrial engineering majors, have spent the past several months analyzing workflow procedures and facility layouts at Andersen Windows & Doors in Dubuque, a producer of aluminum-clad windows and doors.

The primary issue the students have been tasked with addressing is the arrival of a new computer numerical control machine at the company. The CNC machine automates the routing process when making cutouts for the company’s patio door line. Incorporating this new CNC machine — which is approximately 20 by 30 feet — will require modifications to the layout of the facility.

“We are looking at what the best flow is for when this new machine arrives,” explained Niensteadt. “They want our input on where it should go in comparison to their current equipment and layout.”

The students started the project by drafting a current layout of the facility using AutoCAD, and then made recommended layout changes to accommodate the new machine. For a period of time, until the new CNC machine is functional, the company will have their old CNC machine and new one co-exist. This required the students to draft an alternative layout plan to accommodate both machines being there simultaneously.

The students are also addressing the ergonomics of the workplace, analyzing the design of the facility in regards to the employees’ safety. This resulted in the proposal of a lift that would reduce physical stress for employees carrying panels of various sizes.

The students’ involvement came at one of the company’s busiest times of year, affording the students the opportunity to witness and learn about various issues.

“There was a lot of variability,” said Brinkman. “Every week that we go down to the site, a different issue has come up that we need to plan for.”

“I learned how much peak season and peak demand can affect production,” added Kirchner.

The students agreed that the real-life experience the project provided was invaluable.

“The best part about our project is that it’s real; everything we’re doing is really hands-on and will hopefully be used at some point,” said Brinkman.

“A lot of the things we are doing is what the manufacturing engineer would be doing himself, but we’re able to do it for him,” added Kaiser.

The students will present all of their recommendations at Andersen Windows & Doors this month.

The project was arranged by Dr. S. Balachandran and completion of the project satisfied the requirement for the course INDSTENG 4930 - Industrial Systems Design in fall 2013 for the four students.

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526,


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