This spring, students in professor Shereazad Jimmy Gandhi’s manufacturing systems engineering class MSE507 benefitted from a special partnership between the nonprofit organization New Horizons and California State University, Northridge’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.
New Horizons is a local organization that helps people with special needs and disabilities to acquire significant skills for different work environments. The organization provides vocational training, work placements and supportive housing. New Horizons reached out to CSUN for help implementing lean manufacturing practices and processes within the organization, which supports the training of people who aim to work in manufacturing and assembly processes.
“As a nonprofit, we are always challenged with finding resources to assist us to remain innovative and grow our services, in order to fulfill our mission of empowering individuals with special needs to fulfill their dreams,” said Roschell Ashley, chief operating officer at New Horizons.
Over the years, New Horizons has developed partnerships with several departments and colleges at CSUN, such as the Department of Social Work, the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics and the College of Health and Human Development. After collaborating with the College of Engineering and Computer Science in spring 2014, when CSUN students worked to improve New Horizons’ warehouse and production operations, the organization turned to CSUN again.
“We were so impressed with the level of sophistication and recommendations from the students that we reached out to CSUN again to provide an opportunity for students to work on other sub-divisions,” Ashley said. “It was without hesitation that we turned to CSUN — a university with great expertise in business and teaching lean principles in manufacturing — to assist us to rebuild this division.”
Gandhi’s service-learning class is targeted at undergraduate seniors and graduate students in the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department. The course is only an elective, but it is one of the most popular classes because of its hands-on opportunities, said Gandhi.
“The collaborative project is very well organized and developed under the leadership and guidance of professor Gandhi,” Ashley said. “The students display a high level of professionalism and are eager to assess and provide recommendations for challenges that can make or break your business.”
According to the professor, the hands-on approach to real-world issues helps students develop better problem-solving skills and builds an understanding of lean manufacturing implementations. Students identify current processes and evaluate them to understand constraints and make recommendations for improvement.
“If recommendations are implemented, they can help [New Horizons] to have a better-flowing process, which can help them to reduce their costs,” Gandhi said. “We would love to help more nonprofits in the area to achieve similar efforts.”
Esteban Estrada, director of work services at New Horizons, said that two CSUN students who participated in the 2014 collaboration became volunteers with the organization. They worked on improving inventory processes in the warehouse and created a cleaner and more organized warehouse environment.
“CSUN is a great partner for New Horizons, a true win-win, positive community relationship,” said Erik Sjogren, New Horizons’ director of business services.
“The teams come equipped with the latest tools and knowledge of best practices,” Ashley added. “They display compassion and creativity while solving issues that involve a workforce of individuals with and without disabilities.”