HMC Engineers Win Prize for Paper on Supply Chain Optimization

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Harvey Mudd College engineering students won second place at the 2021 Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Western Regional Conference for the technical paper they wrote about supply chain optimization.

Conducted virtually Feb. 27–28, the conference featured networking and workshops in addition to the Technical Paper Competition that garnered the HMC team $300 along with the No. 2 spot.

Members of the team—Halie Kim ‘22, Caitlin Huang ‘22, Nick Zemtzov ’23 and Melody Chang SCR ‘22 (engineering and music piano performance/math minor)—are supported by the Henry E. and Gayle Riggs Fellowship in Engineering Management, which helps students gain exposure to state of-the-art techniques and equipment as well as experience in technical writing and professional presentations. The paper submitted for the IISE competition resulted from work the team completed during 2020 Summer Research. Advised by Kash Gokli, Oliver C. Field Professor of Manufacturing Practice and Engineering Economics, they worked with a Southern California aerospace company to eliminate waste, in the form of excess inventory and inefficient processes, from its supply chain.

Team member Halie Kim says that writing and presenting the paper at the conference was an excellent opportunity to practice communicating the work and its impact. “We made it a focus of our paper and presentation to explain our decision-making process and the lasting results on the company,” she says.

In addition to clear data and visual aids as well as thorough explanations of assumptions, methods and reasonings, the team demonstrated meaningful savings for the client.

“We created a narrative around our project: about how we examined the supply chain at a system level, identified areas of improvement and executed those improvements. Then we shared the impact of our work, which was $320,000 in annual savings for the company. This includes saved time for employees,” says Kim. Continuity was also a hallmark of the HMC project as the team checked in with the client a couple months after they submitted their deliverable and have a future meeting planned.

“With COVID-19 and the global trade situation, increasingly, supply chain plays an important role in today’s business,” says Gokli. “The Riggs Fellowship team was fortunate to have an opportunity during the COVID pandemic to optimize the supply chain for this aerospace company remotely. The team developed a model that the company can use to adjust the fluctuating supply chain needs.”

“We really appreciated the opportunity to share our work to a technical audience,” says Kim. “It was fun to get back together with the team, reconnect and catch up with each other. Working together eased the strain of writing a technical paper and presentation on top of midterms and projects for classes. I’m thankful for my teammates’ hard work, reliability and support throughout this competition.”