28 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
The COVID-19 pandemic that caused campuses
and businesses to shut down last spring also derailed
or altered summer internship plans for many indus-
trial and systems engineering students.
Yet three Georgia Tech ISE students found
themselves on the front lines of pandemic response
by helping to improve shipping processes for a company that
makes and distributes medical scrubs.
The trio – senior Mary Claire Solomon and sophomores
Gabi Falcone and Annie Robinson from Georgia Techs H.
Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering
– worked with the metro Atlanta consulting company, Argon
& Co. North America. Their summer assignment paired them
with a client that produced a variety of medical equipment and
uniforms in the north Atlanta suburb of Lithia Springs.
Their main task was to help smooth out the system of pre-
paring shipping orders, a process that was bogged down trying
to fill “short” orders, those that were missing certain items
and faced lengthy delays. The pandemics effect on the critical
need for medical supplies had the company scrambling to ship
its orders on time, sometimes as many as 20,000 units per day.
Short orders created backups that needed to be untangled so
all shipments could go out on time.
“When we first got there, they had very little data,” Solo-
mon said. “Once we were able to gather some of that data,
we were able to do some more. Customer service had a lot of
customers calling asking why their orders were late and they
would not be able to tell them anything. Some of the stuff I
was working on in the beginning was doing some analysis to
look at their data and see where each order was in the process
T
Georgia Tech ISE students, front row from left, Mary Claire Solomon, Annie Robinson and
Gabi Falcone, pose with Rachel Patel and Steve Mulaik of Argon & Co.
Photos courtesy of Gabi Falcone
ISE interns pitch in to help
move medical scrubs, stat
Georgia Tech students break order logjam while learning from warehouse staff
By Keith Albertson
January 2021 | ISE Magazine 29
so that customer service had some-
thing they could tell their custom-
ers.”
As the company tried to ramp
up its stafng to meet the increased
demand, some workers stayed
away because of the pandemic. To
keep operations going, it took on
untrained part-time workers who
were not yet up to speed, adding to
the bottleneck.
They had never seen this kind
of volume before,” said Falcone,
an IISE student member. “It blew
up probably to 10 times what they
normally see. Then they also had
to just start putting in place social
distancing rules in the warehouse
and they lost some workers who
couldnt work because of COVID,
so they had a lot of temporary peo-
ple. It was just not same staff and routines they were used to,
especially with this much volume.
“We started with analyzing how many orders were being
put on short order blocks per day,” Robinson said. “They had
a little bit of data from before the pandemic and they didnt
have many short orders and very
few things to be fixed. Once
they started bringing in tents and
bringing in people who were
not full-time workers and didnt
know the setup of the warehouse,
they started piling up these big
orders. We were analyzing about
how many they were getting and
how fast it took, how long they
would sit on those blocks.
Falcone, Robinson and Solo-
mon put their ISE training to
work creating an “order hospital
to prioritize short order shipments
and get them out quicker. The
process assigned a select group of
item pickers to check those or-
ders, determine what items were
missing and which were available or needed to be ordered.
The incomplete order would then go out to medical facilities,
with the missing items to be provided once they were in stock.
The process they created cut shipping time for short orders
from five days or more to one or less, and eased the logjam.
“When we started, before the order hospital was set up, they
would sit between three and five days on a block without any-
one looking into them,” Robinson said. “Eventually once the
order hospital was set up, we were getting everything looked
at and sorted through the day of.
Toward the end, things were getting fixed within an
hour,” Falcone added. “The main thing we were looking
at was percentages of just how
many orders were short, or how
many orders were placed on the
short pallet but the item was
actually in right location. We
did some recog analysis to fig-
ure out why they were missing
short orders and why their in-
ventory was messed up. We had
to learn about their warehouse
management system and then
talk directly to the employees
and problem-solve and think of
the best way to have them go
out and fix them.
To fully learn how the com-
pany operated, the students
donned masks and joined work-
ers in the warehouse to research
the full process from start to finish so they could better un-
derstand problems and find solutions. Doing so helped both
the students and workers learn from each other and develop
mutual trust.
The people working in the warehouse, some of them had
just lost their jobs and were coming from all different walks
of life, and they were interesting people to talk to,” Solomon
Georgia Tech ISE students, front row from left, Mary Claire Solomon, Annie Robinson and
Gabi Falcone, pose with Rachel Patel and Steve Mulaik of Argon & Co.
‘The way the workers responded to
us, everybody just went with our
ideas. They were really willing to
pitch their own ideas and tell us
what they thought of everything so
they could make sure we weren’t
coming up with solutions that were
not going to actually or realistically
work for them.’
– Gabi Falcone
Rachel Patel, an Argon & Co. consultant, and Mary Claire Solomon work to prepare orders
at the “order hospital” set up to take care of backlogged short orders of equipment.
30 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
ISE interns pitch in to help move medical scrubs, stat
said.
Interacting with the
warehouse crew also gave
the students a different per-
spective on work processes,
one they wouldnt be able to
glean from a classroom or a
project taken on remotely.
They were glad to have
us,” Falcone said. “The way
the workers responded to
us, everybody just went
with our ideas. They were
really willing to pitch their
own ideas and tell us what
they thought of everything
so they could make sure we
werent coming up with so-
lutions that were not going
to actually or realistically
work for them. It was really
helpful working with them
side by side, and that made
the leaders more willing to
step up, too.
Falcone has continued to work with the company as she
pursues her degree. Solomon is scheduled to graduate in May.
Robinson said the experience helped her plan where she
wants to take her career.
This summer taught me a lot about what I want from
my future,” she said. “Every day
I was facing a different problem,
and every project came with dif-
ferent restrictions. I really enjoyed
that every day didnt look the same
and that’s something I want in my
future.
Falcone said interacting with the
warehouse workers taught her how
to share process improvement ideas
back and forth in ways that benefit
everyone.
“I learned a lot about explaining
processes and teaching others, but
really that I can learn from them as
well,” Falcone said. “I really liked working directly with them
and asking them questions, asking what they found helpful or
if something made sense to them or if they had any ideas. ...
It was like where if one warehouse worker thinks that way,
maybe that’s helpful to some of the other ones and we can use
that to come up with a solution that really works for them not
just us.
Each also said that knowing their work was helping medical
professionals do their jobs in treating COVID patients made
their efforts more rewarding.
“It denitely gave it an underlying purpose knowing we
were getting stuff to the doctors and nurses who were on the
front line,” Solomon said.
“We’ve all worked on other
projects where were helping an
e-commerce company getting
clothes or shoes or something,
which is great to help the company.
This time we knew it was super
important to help people that were
saving lives all summer,” Falcone
said.
“It denitely gave you an ex-
tra push,” added Robinson. “You
wanted to get it done early and on
time to make sure they were get-
ting all the stuff they needed. And
all over the news you were seeing how sparse (supplies at) so
many of the hospitals were, and youd go home and see the
news and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I almost had a direct hand in mak-
ing sure they get their stuff.’”
Keith Albertson is managing editor of ISE magazine. Contact him at
kalbertson@iise.org.
‘The people working in the
warehouse, some of them had
just lost their jobs and were
coming from all different walks
of life, and they were interesting
people to talk to.’
– Mary Claire Solomon
Gabi Falcone works in the company’s “order hospital” gathering items to fill short orders.
January 2021 | ISE Magazine 31
Summer internship blends virtual
and on-site learning
By Ally DeVall
Last summer, I interned with a top consulting firm in their federal practice as a manage-
ment consulting summer analyst, where I worked with a small team to deliver stafng
recommendations for one of the client’s distribution centers. The project centered around
the client’s desire to make stafng reductions and efficiency improvements at a specific
site to later extrapolate to all the distribution centers in their network.
Due to the specific need of this project to observe processes in-person, I was fortunate
to fully experience what the role of a government consultant involves by working both
virtually and on-site in California. Additionally, the nature of the project meant my
role heavily utilized concepts I study as a senior in industrial and systems engineering at
Virginia Tech.
My project began by me performing a baseline data analysis of the processes present
at the pilot site, virtually in Microsoft Excel using the pareto principle. I categorized the
existing standards by area and determined which standards represented 80% of the oper-
ating time within each individual area. I then analyzed the selected standards further by
determining which suboperations represented 80% of operating time within each stan-
dard. This analysis determined which sub-processes within each area would be the most value-driven to observe on-site,
given the time constraints of the project.
Once on-site, I observed the suboperations within the determined areas and updated the process steps within each
standard to accurately reflect the current state of the site. To verify the appropriate time estimates for current process steps,
I performed basic time studies using a stopwatch. To calculate appropriate time estimates for added process steps, I per-
formed BasicMOST calculations for each subprocess. After I updated the production rates based on the updated standards,
my team and I made stafng recommendations in the determined areas based on the number of workers necessary to meet
the demand, given the cycle times for the observed standards.
Although my role was technical, my greatest accomplishment as an intern involved increasing my ability to form con-
text and problem-solving skills in unfamiliar scenarios. When I first arrived at the client site, I knew I did not understand
the system fully and did not know how to form my questions in a way that would increase my understanding. I improved
my ability to develop context by asking questions related to subprocesses and, by walking through an entire process, ana-
lyzing each step along the way. This helped me connect how sub-processes combined to form the overall process.
By the end of my internship, I had developed an enhanced ability to apply industrial engineering concepts such as work-
flow efficiency to get to the root of ambiguous issues through context evaluation. I was also able to better communicate
with people of different backgrounds, an imperative skill for me to develop as this profession centers around communicat-
ing with individuals from all levels and backgrounds within a company.
The most rewarding aspect of my internship was the opportunity to work and learn from a supportive, collaborative
and innovative team. I had constant support from all levels of my team, which ensured I had an enriching internship ex-
perience, regardless of whether I was completing work for my project or attending networking events with other interns
and professionals within the company.
Attending the company’s virtual Student Leadership Conference was the highlight of my summer. It was a rewarding
opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals within the company and interact with interns from across the country
from all sectors of the company’s business. My internship was an amazing experience, because I developed myself as a
professional and discovered where I want to be in the future from interacting with driven, inspiring professionals.
Ally DeVall is president of the IISE Virginia Tech student chapter. She is a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering. Contact
her at allyd17@vt.edu.
Virginia Tech senior Ally
DeVall sightsees in San
Francisco while visiting
on-site during her summer
internship as a management
consulting summer analyst.