Applying engineering to real-world problems through Tauber and CHEPS

Optimally engineered operations are vital to the success of a myriad of enterprises - including health care. Tauber Institute engineers who are passionate about tackling the complex challenges of health care operations can find a second home at CHEPS, the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety at the University of Michigan.

Engineering and business undergraduate student Prachi Fozdar talked with engineering student Matt Howard about the skills and confidence he gained through action-based learning experiences with CHEPS and the Tauber Institute.

Applying Engineering to Real-World Problems
by Prachi Fozdar

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations strives to solve supply chain, operations, and technology-based challenges through its collaboration with the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering and Stephen M. Ross School of Business. For over 25 years, the Tauber Institute has yielded savings for its sponsoring companies and furthered field improvements in global management operations. According to the Tauber Institute’s website, Tauber’s sponsoring corporations estimate that the 2021 Tauber team projects will save $989 million over three years, an average of $43 million per project.

Tauber is a joint program that brings together engineering and business students. Some Tauber engineers come to the University of Michigan for a graduate program, but most are part of the EGL (Engineering Global Leadership) program which leads to both a bachelor's and a master's degree. EGL students are required to take additional classes and seminars throughout their sophomore and junior year. During their senior year, students in the EGL program begin taking courses with MBA students and get recruited for projects they will be working on over the summer. These projects tend to focus on everything useful to the business technology world from process efficiency to inventory management.

Matt Howard

CHEPSter Matt Howard is a part of the Tauber Institute and the EGL program. Matt is currently an undergraduate senior studying Industrial and Operations Engineering and worked at CHEPS from winter 2020 to summer 2021. He joined EGL at around the same time, getting accepted after the fall semester of his sophomore year. As Matt begins his project for Tauber this summer, he feels confident as a result of the work experience he gained through CHEPS. Matt remarked that CHEPS specifically enabled him to apply his course work to real-world problems and solutions and gain valuable experience in project-based work collaborating with others.

One CHEPS project that particularly shaped Matt’s knowledge and perspective was the Family Medicine project where the project team made a schedule-building tool for a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon. The chief resident the team worked with, Dr. Mohammad Ali Jardaly, was a CHEPS alumnus, emphasizing the importance of the connections and resources provided through communities like CHEPS. More importantly, this project provided Matt with a new realization regarding the impact and importance of his work at CHEPS. He said, “Few hospitals work with engineers … and very few people do what Amy was able to do and make that connection … so it was very eye-opening to realize that even though the project was just another linear programming code to be written, it’s actually going to help a lot of people.” Matt goes on to say this realization gave him a new perspective on the work he’s learning to do through the Tauber Institute.

Beyond just the similarities in work ethic and impact, Matt points out that both CHEPS and Tauber are a great way to build a sense of community and make friends. Despite working at CHEPS when it was completely online, Matt valued getting to know everyone in his group and the bonding that allowed him to feel supported in such an unprecedented time. His Tauber EGL group was able to go on a volunteer trip to Montana for one week this summer, where they were able to help around a reservation, volunteer at a nearby food bank, and overall just give back to the community.

Through the classes students are required to take by Tauber, students take part in various engaging activities, one being guest lectures. Matt had the opportunity to attend a guest lecture from Professor Amy Cohn, our very own CHEPS Faculty Director. Besides working as CHEPS Faculty Director and the Chief Transformation Officer at Michigan Medicine, Professor Cohn is a member of Tauber’s Executive Committee. As a result of this, she recently delivered a guest lecture where she discussed her uncertain career trajectory throughout college. Professor Cohn first got her undergraduate degree in math, after which she worked in software programming for 6 years. From there she got a Ph.D. in operations research, joined the IOE faculty at the University of Michigan, and began research in freight and passenger transportation. Recently, she took on the previously mentioned new role of Chief Transformation Officer; this new position at Michigan Medicine focuses on operational challenges from an IE/OR perspective.

Matt’s engaging and fulfilling experiences at both Tauber and CHEPS truly show that both organizations employ students’ passions to solve real-world business problems through an atypical lens for the field – that of an engineer. While taking different approaches and aspects of the use of engineering to amplify the business, both have given students the opportunity to explore their interests through first-hand experience where they are directly making a difference in people’s lives.

Hear more from students: 2021 Tauber Team Projects