Roy Tomlinson (high school mathematics teacher) writes on his recent collaboration with the Japan Center to take AP Statistics students to a GE manufacturing facility.
On August 31, 2016 I sent a letter to the Japan Center to start the ball rolling on a potential AP Statistics field trip to a GE manufacturing facility. I wanted students to have a hands-on statistics experience that could integrate some quality/process control. Over the course of the next seven months, Mariko Yokosuka, our liaison at the ASIJ Japan Center, linked us up with the GE Healthcare manufacturing facility in Hino and, after multiple meetings, conference calls and emails, on May 22, 2017—264 days after my initial contact—an amazing face-to-face learning experience took place.
Mariko arranged a conference call with GE, my students and me in an effort to try to make the experience a quality one, not only for the students, but for the GE Healthcare representatives as well. The GE representatives were incredibly giving and forthright, offering my AP Statistics students a large set of data from a real-world manufacturing problem that they were experiencing at the plant and, in turn, presented us with the standardized data, along with a rudimentary description of the problem and manufacturing process.
The problem? “Scrapping of the final product due to failing to meet quality standards had increased.” Scrap creates waste and hurts the efficiency of running a business. Our mission? Solve the problem by figuring out where the problem is. This was a big challenge!
Our students attacked this problem with vigor, analyzing the data and coming up with an assortment of graphs, charts, regression analyses, inferential tests and other analytical tools, all using our TI Nspire software and Microsoft Excel. The resulting analysis was really interesting, with our students producing creative ideas for the problems, some which led to failures.
After analyzing the data, we finally arrived at GE Healthcare on May 22 and were immediately taken aback by the entry foyer. It was beautiful and we were greeted by Ms. Sakuya Tamura, one of the Brilliant Factory project leaders, who showed us to our work area. There, we were introduced to our host for the day, Mr. Juro Kawakami, a data scientist with over 25 years in design engineering. Mr. Juro gave us an introduction to GE the company and introduced us to the team of people who would be supporting us for the day.
It would be an understatement to call these folks “very impressive.” Mr. Shinpei Ijichi was a “6 Sigma Master Black Belt” with GE and provided training for GE manufacturing people all over the world in all areas of manufacturing and quality control. Mr. Ijichi was particularly impressed by the ASIJ students’ statistics presentation.Our plant tour was fascinating, and we had a chance to see a “Brilliant Factory” in action. It was interesting to see, because of the level of quality and number human hands involved in the manufacturing facility. At each machine station, and each fixture data gathering computers sent mountains of information to the company computers. From this data, we were able to attempt to identify possible “culprits” of the scrap problem.
We were led on the tour by “Mr. Scrap Reducer,” as he jokingly called himself, Mr. Okuyama, our resident manufacturing expert and “real world” master. His insights into using data and examining the production line were incredibly insightful, and showed our students that the story of data is only the beginning of the whole story. His mission: control costs in manufacturing through many ways, only one of which was to control scrap.
We then moved to the major part of our journey at GE Healthcare, our statistics presentation. We had a group of energetic and knowledgeable students presenting, led by our “Team Captain”, Arnaud Avondet. Arnaud, along with Lauren, Hanae, Prat, Billy and Rachel, delivered a great presentation concentrated on the machines and fixtures throughout the manufacturing process. In Statistics, we often talk about making our data “tell a story.” The students analyzed a great deal of data, and even had the opportunity to analyze more data in the workroom after the presentation. It was fun to work side by side with GE folks and communicate our findings.
When Mr. Kawakami gave our team feedback, one of the things he mentioned was how impressed he was with the ability of the TI Nspire software to manipulate data and our students’ ability to present effectively. Mr. Okuyama added that our student work was really high quality, and our tools to utilize and manipulate data in this fashion were not generally available in local schools.
Reflecting on the visit, Hannah noted that “It was so inspiring to witness the confluence of various academic fields in just one part of one company. Behind the manufacturing of just one product are experts of thermochemical engineering, chemical engineering, statistics and of course, communication between all parts. I was inspired to see some of the opportunities that my education could lead me to, and to discuss and work with professionals who have paved their own paths. ”
Arnaud said, “The experience was a great opportunity to see how the content we learn in the classroom can be applied to a real world situation. It was rewarding after a year of study to understand data the statisticians in a big company such as GE work with.”
After the presentation and feedback, GE provided us with a nice bento and ate lunch with the students. It was a real “power lunch”.
We would really like to thank Mariko and GE Healthcare liaison, Masato Yokosuka (ASIJ class of ‘98), for all their hard work in setting this trip up. It was a terrific learning experience for our students, and they gained a ton of first hand experience with data analysis. We are already looking towards next year and solidifying our relationships with our new friends at GE Healthcare. Good times!