Externship shapes QVCC instructor's teaching

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Engineering technician and QVCC graduate Hans Wanner and QVCC instructor Jakob Spjut stand in front of a sorting machine at Spirol. Photos by D. Coffey.
Engineering technician and QVCC graduate Hans Wanner and QVCC instructor Jakob Spjut stand in front of a sorting machine at Spirol. Photos by D. Coffey.

Quinebaug Valley Community College instructor Jakob Spjut was one of 10 Connecticut high school and college educators who took part in a manufacturing technologies and practices externship this summer. Sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the program aims to enhance manufacturing education by bringing the business and education communities together, said Judith Resnick, executive director of CBIA's Education Foundation. The goals are to prepare students for high-tech manufacturing jobs and help Connecticut's manufacturers maintain a skilled and competitive workforce.

Spjut spent 160  hours at Spirol International, in Danielson. The engineering and technology instructor spent time setting up heat treatment machines, working in a sorting room and performing hardness tests in the quality control department of the 160,000-square-foot facility.

Spirol is a leader in the fabrication of coiled, slotted and solid pins, spacers, shims and a host of other components used in the office furniture and the aerospace industries. Spirol products can be found in green, automotive and agricultural industries. Their products are in office chairs and pilot control assemblies, cabinet locks and hydraulic pumps and motors for landing gear. The company has a global network of engineers and manufacturing centers with locations around the world.

The experience gave Spjut an opportunity to work with quality products manufactured in a facility that is equipped with high-caliber machinery. He was able to ground the engineering concepts he teaches around a specific process. And it provided him with a series of case studies he could use in his classes.

“One of the ideas of lean manufacturing is to be on the floor,” Spjut said. That concept of being on-site is necessary for the success of recommendations for improvements. “If you want to be able to manage something or improve something, you need to be at the location and spend some time working there,” Spjut said.

He concentrated his efforts on the work flow processes involved in finishing and treating different pins. After the pins are manufactured, they need to go through a heat treatment and tempering process. It can take close to three hours, not all of which is productive.

“When you make something on a machine, it has to exist somewhere,” Spjut said. “Ideally you want to have stuff flow from one machine to another, but a process like heat treatment tends to be a batch process and that takes a long time. You have to heat product up at a certain rate. You have to temper it at a certain rate. Because of that, there are bottlenecks that appear in the production.
He looked at how the company might reduce that down time and improve product flow and safety. The project required him to work, conduct historical research, gather employee feedback, and test samples on a variety of machines, including a $100,000 Vickers hardness tester.

That experience will come in handy for the metrology, or science of measurement, course he is teaching this fall. Spjut had to create a work-based learning project for his students that included testing for a variety of properties such as sheer and tensile strength as well as testing the uncertainty in measurement systems used. He'll be able to use examples from his summer experience in a static engineering and engineering overview course he's teaching as well. “It's always nice to have case studies,” he said.


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