Swanson School students provide production models to a growing pharmaceutical company, receiving mentorship and real-world experience along the way
PITTSBURGH (February 4, 2019) … A group of University of Pittsburgh industrial engineering undergraduate students spent the fall 2018 semester helping a local pharmaceutical supplier balance production and optimize distribution strategies. The work was part of a Swanson School of Engineering senior capstone project, a program that allows students to gain valuable industry experience with local companies while pursuing their degrees.
“We work with a diverse set of industry partners around Pittsburgh to identify problems that take advantage of the range of skills learned in class, the industrial experiences the students have from internships and cooperative engineering programs, and the experiences of our faculty,” said Louis Luangkesorn, assistant professor of industrial engineering and coordinator of the department’s capstone program. “The project puts the students in a setting where they have to work with the customer to identify the underlying problem and develop a solution within a limited timeframe.”
The group of undergraduates worked with Grane Rx, a pharmaceutical supplier for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), skilled nursing centers, and personal care homes in multiple states on the East Coast. The company is planning an expansion of their PACE Pharmacy services to the West Coast with a significant amount of new participants expected in a short period of time. To help manage this growth, Grane Rx recruited the help of Pitt IE students and faculty to strategize ways to meet production and distribution needs.
The students’ first goal was to create a working production scheduling model that optimizes weekly and daily production and allows for business growth. The second goal was to provide a weekly production cost analysis that compares the options for overtime production once the new Colorado facility reaches its capacity.
“We created both models by having meetings with the Grane Rx resources, analyzing data sets provided by the company, holding group design sessions, and coding in VBA and Matlab,” said Julie Shields, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. “The project helped improve our coding and project management skills, both of which may be useful in our future careers.”
As part of the capstone, students created weekly progress reports and met with Grane Rx employees along with University of Pittsburgh faculty who served as mentors and advisors.
Quintin Graciano, an operations project manager who helped supervise the group, said, “The production model created by the students provided Grane Rx a fresh and unique view of our new PACE production processes. We have incorporated several new production tools at our Denver PACE pharmacy. The students were engaging and committed to providing a tool that made a difference. Mission accomplished!”
According to Shields, the most important skill that the group gained was effective delegation based on the talents of each team member. She said, “Being able to improve these skills and gain meaningful industry experience before we graduate was extremely valuable.”
The team presented their project at the Swanson School of Engineering’s Fall 2018 Design Expo where they took first place in the industrial engineering category. Dr. Luangkesorn said, “The work with Grane Rx provided a good example of a project that showcased the abilities of our partner and our students, enhancing the students’ project management and technical skills while helping local industry grow.”
About Grane Rx
For nearly 25 years, Grane Rx has been a leader in pharmacy solutions and services for PACE organizations and post-acute care providers across the United States. Our customer centric pharmacy approach optimizes Care Center operations so providers can deliver the most seamless, accurate and convenient pharmacy experiences to their patients and participants. Our PACE Pharmacy Solutions include Meds2Home packaging, EasyRead Pharmacy labels, and LearnRx literacy tools available in 22 different languages, which are designed to revolutionize pharmacy services and outcomes. Grane Rx leverages senior care pharmacy experts and the newest technologies to provide universal, best-in-class service to patients, participants and Centers alike.