A group of people pose for a photo in front of presentation screen.

Veterans in Action: Carlson School Students Aid TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America Inventory Efficiency

Friday, November 10, 2023

Insights from a team of Carlson School graduate students are helping optimize the inventory management of a company on the frontlines of the semiconductor industry.

Tokyo Electron Limited (TEL) Manufacturing and Engineering of America, Inc., based in Chaska, Minn., builds the manufacturing machines used to create semiconductors, which power devices ranging from vehicles to cell phones.

A group of students pose smiling in front of their presentation.
The MS SCM student team, made up entirely of military veterans, poses in front of their capstone presentation.

This summer, five Master of Science in Supply Chain Management (MS SCM) students worked with TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America for their capstone project. The team, consisting entirely of military veterans, designed a dashboard to help the business better track current and ideal inventory levels for the production and service of product portfolio. Lt. Col. Mark Gile, ‘23 MS SCM, of the Minnesota Army National Guard says the project presented the team with an opportunity to tackle a real-world business problem.

“It was using all the theory, all the applications that we used, but then taking it beyond that and going, ‘Hey, we're in a practical application. None of these models fit what the organization wants.’ Our job wasn't to make TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America fit the application, it was to make the application fit TEL’s need,” Gile described.

Gile says Assistant Professor Necati Ertekin was crucial in guiding the team to create a working model for the dashboard. Ertekin understands firsthand how military skills translate to the business world. Before his academic career, he served eight years as an officer in the Turkish Navy.

“I personally believe that the skills they gain in the armed forces are invaluable in the business world,” said Ertekin. “Business fundamentally revolves around leadership, communication, problem-solving, collaboration, time management, adaptability, and compliance. And veterans inherently possess these essential skills.”

In the weeks following the students’ dashboard presentation, TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America adapted the tool from a pilot instance on one platform to deliver broader supply chain insights across the company’s other platforms. Fletcher Wanless, ’11 MBA, director of supply chain, applauds the team’s high-quality work.

“With greater visibility, we’re able to look at certain areas to make financial gains and also identify opportunities for improvement in delivery, by detecting where our inventory could be stronger to support our growth curve,” said Wanless.

A TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America device.
A TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America device.

Gile and Lauren Pizzi, ‘23 MS SCM, say they both apply their experience from the project and the MS SCM program to their current jobs.

“At the Minnesota National Guard, I work on right-sizing our inventory and using the forecasting tools for the supply chain, but I can also use these tools for personnel growth within the Guard,” Gile described. “I continue to use all these applications to better understand different things I deal with every day.”

“I’ve been able to get really comfortable with presentations and making sure how to deliver the most important information first and determine how to layout our message in meetings,” said Pizzi, who works at General Mills and is a U.S. Navy veteran. “It has helped me grow a lot professionally.”

This project marked the second partnership between the MS SCM program and TEL Manufacturing and Engineering of America. Wanless says he looks forward to working with students on future projects in the coming years.