KEEN grant helps Industrial Engineering faculty member instill entrepreneurial thinking into supply chain course

Dr. Farnaz Ghazi-Nezami, Industrial Engineering, has revamped IME 452 “Design Value in Supply Chains” by encouraging students to consider various aspects of a product life cycle planning process.

Kettering University students learning about supply chain management are being challenged to think differently from their peers due to innovative modules designed by Dr. Farnaz Ghazi-Nezami, Industrial Engineering faculty member.

Ghazi-Nezami has revamped IME 452 “Design Value in Supply Chains” by encouraging students to consider various aspects of a product life cycle planning process and not just the partial elements necessary to design and deliver an item in a supply chain.

“I’m trying to push this course in a new format and increase its organization to make sure our students will get all the required knowledge,” Ghazi-Nezami said.  

Ghazi-Nezami is one of six Kettering faculty members to receive internal topical grants from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) that encourage instructors to creatively infuse entrepreneurial elements in their classrooms. Additionally, distinguished faculty members in multiple departments at Kettering University have received about $40,000 each, for a total of $240,000 over the last two years, from KEEN to embed and incorporate various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship mindset into their individual engineering and science courses.

Through KEEN, Ghazi-Nezami has introduced a course map module that encompasses each of the pillars of engineering entrepreneurship - curiosity, connections and creating value. The students overall task was to take a product from its inception to the end of its life cycle while implementing entrepreneurial concepts along the way.

“Once we teach our students the tools and concepts, the next step is to create connections with real-life examples to make their knowledge more coherent,” Ghazi-Nezami said.

The first module consisted of designing a product based on the needs and expectations of the customer. The students picked a product and addressed the production and marketing concerns, strategies to manage competition and issues associated with its supply chain.

“They were able to make a connection with these concepts to assure the retention of the course material,” Ghazi-Nezami said. “The course is like a puzzle. The students are putting together the pieces of this puzzle using the material they are learning in each class.”

The students were free to pick either a product already in existence or from the past or a hypothetical item. In groups, students chose items such as an iPhone 6, a disposable camera and a store-bought electric vehicle charger. The next step in the project was to address the concerns associated with bringing the product to market. What is the cost-benefit analysis? What is the dollar value of their engineering work? How much of the cost will be imposed on the customer and manufacturer? What are the supply chain constraints and opportunities?

“Often engineering students aren’t good at conducting economic analysis of engineering concepts,” Ghazi-Nezami said. “The main idea of this module is to foster entrepreneurial mindset among the students and let them think about the real-life application of what they have learned in class and not be limited to the examples seen in a textbook or lecture.”

The last step in the module was to consider the sustainability of the product. Depending on how long the product lasts, students were encouraged to consider the reverse logistics or the sustainable disposal of the product.

Modules 2 and 3

The course map module was one of three modules that Ghazi-Nezami created for the class. The second module focused on forecasting. Students were asked to gather and evaluate their cellular data consumption over the past year and forecast future usage.

“It’s a real life example,” Ghazi-Nezami said. “Once you collect data, it is very likely to have outliers. As a result of this project, students learned how they can analyze real data, how to detect outliers and how they can implement techniques they’ve learned in this course on a real-life example.”

The next step was to perform economic analysis to select the best cell phone service provider based on their usage which caused some students in the class to question their own providers based on past patterns and future forecasts.

“Students really make connections. It’s better than putting a table of fixed data in front of them,” Ghazi-Nezami said.

The third module in the class focused on lean manufacturing which entails minimizing or eliminating energy waste during operations. Students were asked to determine locations on campus where they believed energy was being wasted. Once determined, they were asked to  recommend corrective actions to make the operations on campus more lean. The students had to provide economic analysis considering the estimated installation costs and payback period of the potentially proposed solutions to justify their recommendation.

“The students had to walk around campus, find a real problem and perform economic analysis to find a real solution,” Ghazi-Nezami said. “This is perfectly aligned with KEEN’s objectives.”

See a complete summary of Dr. Farnaz Ghazi-Nezami’s modules, including the students’ sample projects.