A smooth ride

Steve Flanagan, Michael DeCaluwe, Juliann Egide, Carl Vieth, Todd Wilson, Brian Munzel, and Susan Chen

From left: Steve Flanagan, project engineer; Michael DeCaluwe, designer; Juliann Egide, designer; Carl Vieth, Engineering Professional Development; Todd Wilson, designer; Brian Munzel, design engineering; and Susan Chen, project engineer at the Harley-Davidson corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (52K JPG)

MOTORCYCLING ENTHUSIASTS after a great ride may now be more likely to find it due to an innovative partnership between two leading Wisconsin organizations. When Harley-Davidson Motor Company set out to improve the manufacturing design proficiency of its parts and accessories (P&A) and custom vehicle operations (CVO) engineering group, the company turned to a familiar learning partner: the Department of Engineering Professional Development (EPD).

The relationship between UW-Madison's College of Engineering and Harley-Davidson goes back a century to co-founder William Harley, who graduated with a UW-Madison engineering degree in 1907. The decision to look to the University of Wisconsin as a training partner came naturally to a company that values involved, well-trained employees as its greatest competitive advantage.

Working closely with Harley-Davidson training personnel, EPD Director of Corporate Education Carl Vieth, and other engineering professional development staff, assessed the current design for manufacturing capabilities of the P&A and CVO engineering group, identified opportunities, and developed a curriculum to address the group's needs.

EPD then provided the custom training course at Harley-Davidson's corporate training facility — saving the company time and travel costs. Participants in the training have renewed, increased and broadened their individual and team competencies in applying “best-in-class” principles and practices of manufacturing design.

Harley-Davidson expects this training to facilitate design elegance, improve time/cost performance, and ultimately bring a better product, and a better riding experience, to its customers.

Making it easier to be green

IN THE UNITED STATES, buildings account for 36 percent of energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption. Improvements in building science and technology now offer builders and owners opportunities to maximize the economic and environmental performance of their structures, but taking advantage of these systems and techniques requires a blueprint of sorts. Assistant Faculty Associate Joy Altwies develops short course training to help construction professionals understand and meet green building goals.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Builders earn credits from several categories in order to achieve the 26 minimum required for a building to be certified as green. The system addresses a variety of environmental issues, ranging from farmland preservation and storm water to energy efficiency and ozone depletion. In essence, LEED offers a blueprint for creating better buildings and allows owners and professionals to decide the extent to which they want to apply it to a particular project. The commissioning process is a critical part of that blueprint.

The commissioning process is a highly effective quality method for improving the performance of building systems and is a key to specifying sustainable building practices. It's so effective that it is a required component of earning a LEED rating. Altwies offers a series of courses leading to a certificate in building commissioning, including a course devoted specifically to understanding the commissioning process as it applies to LEED projects.

Learning with an immediate impact

DURING THEIR FINAL SEMESTER, mid-career engineers studying in the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice (MEPP) program undertake one last group project. It's nothing new: The students have teamed up time and again during the two-year MEPP curriculum, though they live and work all over the country.

But this time there's a twist. Instead of collaborating with their classmates to solve a problem, students in the course, “Quality Engineering and Quality Management,” join forces with people at their own workplaces to tackle a real-world issue — often with great results for their employers. “Our students are all experienced professionals who have a wealth of real problems and challenges in the workplace. We purposely integrate these authentic applications into the learning within MEPP,” says Wayne Pferdehirt, the program's director. An alternative to an MBA for engineers, MEPP is a two-year master's program delivered entirely over the Internet.

In the capstone MEPP course taught by Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Harry Steudel, students study a host of methods and tools in continuous quality improvement — a systematic, multi-step approach to making a process or a product better. After assembling a team of co-workers at their companies, Steudel's students lead these groups in defining a workplace problem, selecting and implementing a solution, and evaluating the outcomes.

The outcomes can be impressive. This spring, for example, a student from a Wisconsin company led his team in a project to improve productivity and reduce waste on a production line that makes disinfectant wipes. After applying tools learned in Steudel's class to identify key issues and causes, the team made changes that saved the business $45,000 by the course's end, for a projected annual savings of $200,000. That's learning with an immediate impact — a hallmark of MEPP.

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