Mechanical engineering students inspire NTS team by refreshing and original ideas

Published on by Development & Engineering. The reading time is approximately 8 minutes.

Over the past few months Avans mechanical engineering students Jelle van den Heuvel and Tim Versteeg have been part of a project team at NTS. Their assignment: to realize a cost-down for two modules of a wafer processing machine. In doing so, they were given plenty of room to think differently. And with success. The students proposed various original ideas for reducing costs. Alltogether, they look back on a very successful internship: 'Although the main  focus was on our learning process and there was no real pressure to come up with savings, it does feel good that we were able to propose solutions and inspire the team with our ideas.”

“Last year finding an internship was not easy at all because of the corona virus,” says Jelle. “Due to the uncertainty brought about by the crisis and the lack of capacity to supervise internships, there was little response from companies to my request for an internship. I knew NTS because I came into contact with the company during a physics assignment in high school. For that reason I decided to approach NTS. There was a concrete assignment for two students to make a cost-down for two modules of a wafer processing machine. During the introduction with our supervisors, we immediately hit it off and the choice for the assignment was easy. ”

Complicated but challenging assignment

“I didn't know NTS yet,” says Tim: “but after a supervisor at school asked me if I was interested in an assignment at NTS, I planned an interview. The assignment was quite complicated, but a real challenge. It was an assignment for two people and we joined an ongoing project where we worked with the team. In retrospect, I am very happy that I came across NTS in this way.”

Working with a team is unique and very cool

“The fact that you can participate in an existing project does not often happen during internships,” Jelle adds; “You usually only work on a defined assignment. That is what we also hear from other students during internship markets. They usually work quite isolated from the employees of a company. The fact that you work on a project in an existing team is unique and really cool. You feel like you are really part of the project and the company. We could also appeal to the entire team as supervisors, which was a real plus. ”

Freedom to think original and out-of-the box

“Although it was an existing project, we had a lot more freedom to think originally and come up with out-of-the-box ideas than the engineers working on the project,” says Tim. “In collaboration with NTS, we have established KPIs that relate to the cost reduction per module. An experienced engineer has to save a certain amount per hour. That did not apply to us. The whole idea was that we could think freely and thus inspire the team with original ideas.”

Cost savings and new design

“As mentioned, our assignment was to make a cost-down of an existing machine. It concerned two modules and a minimum desired cost reduction. We got a lot of freedom to figure how to go about it. What we had to deliver were cost reductions and a new design. Jelle had to achieve the cost-down for a frame and I was involved with a module called the FOUP Door Opener.”

Mutual cooperation is very valuable

“My module required a dynamic calculation, Jelle's module was a bit more static. It was great that we could work on our assignments together. Because we sat next to each other, we learned a lot from each other and we were able to brainstorm together. It is ideal, for example, to be able to test with the other person whether you really have not overlooked anything. ”

Room to get to know the subject

“We used the first weeks to really get to know the subject. The complexity of the customer's machine made it very challenging. I didn't know much about the semiconductor industry and about what the machine did exactly. We got to see and experience that. Jelle and I initially started of together. We started with a meeting with the engineers, who gave us an explanation about the machine. We then had the opportunity to look at the model, and really get to know the subject, ask questions and get to know the machine. ”

Cost savings mapped out

“We then applied methodical design and performed a function value analysis. This is part of the value engineering approach that NTS itself also applies. In this way we have mapped out which functions the modules have, what they cost and where possible savings can be realized. From that moment on, our projects grew apart and we each started developing our own concepts.”

Other supplier for powder coating

“A cost-down that I came across was powder coating,” says Jelle. “NTS Singapore produces the frames and after production, they are powder coated. However, the team had never looked into if an alternative to the coating would result in a reduction of costs. I can imagine that you overlook that sort of thing when you have been working on a project for 1.5 years. Together with NTS Singapore I mapped out whether the same coating, in the same color, would generate savings at another supplier. That turned out to be the case. In the end I found a supplier for the coating in Singapore that is significantly cheaper. ”

Exchanging aluminum for steel is a considerable saving

“An example of what I've achieved is a reduction of costs on larger parts of the module that need to be turned or milled,” Tim continues. “Those parts are made of aluminum or steel. To extend the life of the material, it is nickel plated or anodized. In the Netherlands you will end up with approximately the same costs, but not in Singapore. After the necessary research it turned out that switching from aluminum to steel would mean significant cost savings. ”

Nice to be able to make relevant contributions

“Our proposals for cost savings will be shared with the customer by the NTS project manager,” explains Jelle. “The best result of our internship would be when some of the savings we have come up with will be executed. Tim fully agrees: “When I come up with something that the team has not thought of, it gives me a very good feeling. It feels good to be able to contribute.”

Primary focus on our learning process

“Our project manager Ralph already told us that our contribution has been very valuable to the project and that we have continuously stimulated them with our ideas for cost reduction. That's good to hear. And even if we came up with something that did not immediately lead to a solution, that was okay as well. Ralph has emphasized it several times. There was no pressure, it was about our learning process. ”

Nice result and excellent guidance

"Alltogether, this internship has been a really positive experience," concludes Jelle. “NTS as a company, the assignment and the supervisors have all been great. The supervisors did everything in their power to guide us as well as possible and were close to our process.” Tim agrees: “our supervisors have taken the time for us and you see that reflected in the results.”

“This internship was part of an initiative that NTS started last summer to attract
 technical students: student assignments. These assignments are intended to fully utilize the potential of technical students and give them an opportunity to immediately acquire relevant expertise. The assignments are technical project assignments that are fully in line with NTS's daily operations.”


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