Continuous internship helps NTS develop towards a data-driven organisation

Published on by Systems Assembly. The reading time is approximately 9 minutes.

Last year Hanna van Kessel (19), who is a student industrial engineering and management, took up the torch from her fellow student Pim de Rijke during a continuous internship at NTS Mechatronics. Pim had performed research into how NTS could apply continuous improvement. Hanna structured data and developed Business Intelligence dashboards in order to provide engineers with tools for process improvement. Together the students laid a basis for NTS to become a more data driven organisation. The internship was satisfactory to all parties involved. “I have spent an enormous pleasant and educational period at NTS and I even stayed for a ‘holiday job’.”

“Last year I was looking for an assignment that concerned data for the internship that was planned for the third year of my study,” Hanna explains. “I think that data usage in organisations is very interesting and I participated in data courses in the first year of my study. At that moment Pim de Rijke, who is a fellow student the Fontys University of Applied Sciences, had just seen my post on LinkedIn in which I asked for an internship that matched my wishes. Pim noticed that my question matched with what he had done and NTS and he approached me with the question if I wanted to follow-up his internship: research into continuous improvement at NTS.”

Suppliers are not that well-known among students

“Before that time I had never heard of NTS, whereas a lot of graduates from my study work at NTS. What NTS does is exactly what my education is about, everything here evolves around technology and improving business processes. What you see is that students know the OEMs in the region but there are a lot of suppliers in this region that are a lot less known. You do not have a profound image of the companies in the region until you start your internship.”

Plenty of room to give my own personal touch to my internship

“When I started at NTS, Pim had already performed extensive research into how continuous improvement, the ongoing improvement of business processes, could be applied at NTS. What was great was that Pim and I worked together for some time. During this period, he explained to me what he had already done and I asked him questions about why he had done certain things in a certain way. His findings were not an unalterable starting point, I had plenty of room to add my own touch to my internship.”

Derive possibilities for optimisation from data-analysis

“During continuous improvement you use the data to derive the possibilities you have to improve your business and company processes. The electron microscopes that NTS assembles for one of its key customers are a good example. During the production every now and then lenses get contaminated. The issue is solved on the spot and someone documents it. It happens once more and a later moment it happens again. It is impossible to keep track of this type of incidents by trying to remember it but when you do a data-analysis you can structurally resolve this problem and it leads to efficiency improvement.”

Dashboards allow engineers to trace back the root cause

“By collecting data during the development and production process you can trace back the root cause of incidents when you perform analysis. NTS has got a lot of data. Log data are collected per product. I work on giving insight in and structuring these data and on creating dashboards in order for engineers to be able to make correlations and gain relevant insights himself. In this way they have tools that helps them optimise internal processes for their domains.”

First steps towards a data-driven organisation

“Partly because of the research that Pim and I have performed, you now see that NTS, and mainly the Product Engineering department, is growing towards a data-driven organisation. Both on product and process level as on a company level, steps are taken to transform NTS into a data-driven company. The Product Engineer Department that I am now part of is a frontrunner in this transformation.”

In the process of data collection, it is essential to be able to make connections

“The production department collects data in a database. In this process the most important thing is that it happens in a way that it allows you to draw connections; a relational database so to speak. It needs to contain dependencies. The relations professionals find important, vary. Product Engineers are mainly interested in technical breakdowns, business line managers are more interested in global control variables.”

Examples of Key Performance Indicators

“Some examples of Key Performance Indicators are: time per error, what codes take up the most time and what causes have effect on what kind of symptoms. The main focus during my internship was to gain insight into what we needed to do first in order to improve. My exact research question was: ‘in what way should the KPI dashboard and the operational management be organised in order to enable continuous improvement?’ That is what I looked at and implemented. Initially during my internship and later by working on it during my holidays.”

Primary advice is conserving knowledge

“My main advice to NTS eventually was aimed at the future, namely: make sure that the knowledge the organisation has gained about dashboards is conserved in a project-based and structured way. That would also be a nice assignment for a successive intern. NTS Mechatronics already works with a project charter. Everything needs to be documented in the same way and everything a Product Engineer does of course needs to contribute to the overall KPIs.”

NTS employees showed a lot of interest in my assignment

“Altogether I have done quite a lot here. I was very pleased that I was asked to stay during the summer holidays because it allowed me to really show results. What you notice is that what I have done, did not stay unnoticed in the organisation. A lot of people from different departments came around to see what I did and asked me questions like: ‘You worked with Power BI didn’t you? How does that work?”

Working towards a qualitive source file and a central approach

“For the future it would be very cool if NTS would keep on using my Product Engineering Dashboard. At the moment I have cleaned up a lot of data by hand in order to be able to work with the data but what you actually need simply is a good source file. The best possible situation would be when the central IT-department would take ownership of this product and process optimisation in order for it to get fully imbedded in the organisation. At the moment only, the people who were really enthusiastic and who can apply it directly in their work are the ones who are picking it up.”

Lots of room for taking initiative

“I really liked being an intern at NTS. It was great that I could start early and that I had already learned a lot about the assignment before my internship officially started and that there was plenty of room for knowledge transfer with Pim. Moreover, it is great to have the possibility and room to add your own touch to the research and the assignment.”

NTS employees have an open attitude and are easy-going

“Furthermore everyone was really open-minded and very willing to speak with me. They were very happy with my input. The great advantage of course was that what I did had a direct practical use. The advantage of this continuous internship is that you are working on a subject that the organisation really values.”

“Furthermore, the team of product engineers was really nice. It largely consists of relatively young persons. That is very nice for young persons who join the team. Making contacts is very easy, the product engineers are easy-going.”

Don’t be afraid and transfer ideas

“The most important thing an intern at NTS should do is: ‘not be afraid’. You need to be a bit bold, and you need to dare to take steps. Therefore, my advice to future interns is: take yourself seriously and actively pass on your ideas. This sense of autonomy is something we work on during my education, NTS also supports you very well in being independent.”

Good guidance, lots of room and very educational

“The guidance by NTS was very good. You are not left to your fate here but you get enough room for taking initiative. I could easily contact my supervisor and if he was not present then I could appeal to someone else. It is important, however, to have a supervisor who can refer you within the organisation and who can exert some pressure when needed.”

“Furthermore, I shared a workspace with a couple of interns. That was also very nice. Looking back, I am very glad that I chose for an assignment at NTS. I was guided really well and have learned a lot.”

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