How to save $989 million: Spotlight! 2021 Competition

Ann Arbor, MI - The SPOTLIGHT! event is an annual competitive presentation of operations solutions developed by Tauber Institute business + engineering student teams during their 14-week team projects at top global companies. The 2021 Tauber team projects returned a record-setting savings of over $989 million, an average of $43 million in savings per project over three years, in addition to valuable workflow and sustainability improvements. The 2021 project sponsors were AIP, Amazon, Beyond Meat, Boeing, Brunswick, Curation Foods, Estee Lauder, Ford, General Motors, Herman Miller, Howmet, Mayo Clinic, Mott Hospital, NCMS, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Stanley Black & Decker, Stoneridge, Target, and Whirlpool.

A panel of distinguished judges from diverse industries selected first place, second place, and two teams that tied for third place. Tauber Institute benefactor Joel Tauber announced the winners at the SPOTLIGHT! 2021 Awards Ceremony on November 12. Students on winning teams each received $5000 scholarships for first place, $4000 for second, and $3000 for third.

At the awards ceremony, the Tauber Institute presented the Tauber Trailblazer faculty award to Michigan Ross Lecturer of Technology & Operations Eric Svaan, who has served as business faculty advisor for 45 team projects. The institute also recognized The Boeing Company, Pfizer, and American Industrial Partners with Longevity Awards for reaching milestone years of team project partnership. The Tauber Alumni Board presented three Tauber Alumni Scholarships to students selected for their outstanding contributions to the Tauber community over the past year. 

1st Place: Stanley Black & Decker

Industry 4.0: IIOT Machine Condition Monitoring and Analytics
The Tauber team was tasked with assessing the current state of machine health monitoring, building business use cases to generate a minimum of $150,000 value for 3 sites with the opportunity to scale globally, developing a data analytics model, and creating a roadmap for future deployments to other sites of Stanley Black & Decker divisions.
Student Team:
Janice (Yin Yin) Lau – Master of Science in Industrial & Operations Engineering
Akshay Seth – Master of Science in Industrial & Operations Engineering
Faculty Advisors:
Lennart Baardman – Ross School of Business
Line van Nieuwstadt – College of Engineering

2nd Place: Pfizer, Inc.

Batch Changeover Velocity
The Tauber team focused on accelerating the pharmaceutical batch process velocity of clinical manufacturing in Pfizer's Sandwich, UK facility. They evaluated non-manufacturing activities and resources to identify specific improvement areas, create optimization mechanisms and tools, implement efficiency recommendations, and develop performance tracking measures.
Student Team:
Lyndy Burnett – Master of Business Administration
Jackson Cummings – EGL (BSE & MSE Industrial & Operations Engineering)
Faculty Advisors:
Luis Garcia-Guzman – College of Engineering
Len Middleton – Ross School of Business

3rd Place: Beyond Meat

Overall Equipment Effectiveness and Continuous Improvement
The Tauber team was tasked to measure Operational Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), recommend improvements, create training materials, and pilot programs to help Beyond Meat reach World Class OEE benchmarks.
Student Team:
Gilbert Pasquale – Master of Business Administration
Channing Wan – EGL (BSE & MSE in Industrial and Operations Engineering)
Faculty Advisors:
John Branch – Ross School of Business
Debra Levantrosser – College of Engineering

3rd Place: Ford Motor Company

Using AI to Automate and Scale Digital Twin Technology for Advanced Manufacturing
The Tauber team worked with Ford’s Factory Digital Twin team, a key driver of the company’s Manufacturing 4.0 transformation that delivers advanced manufacturing technologies. The team developed an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that automates the asset identification and classification process and provided a blueprint for future additional implementations.
Student Team:
Michael Fanelli – EGL (BSE & MSE in Mechanical Engineering)
Matthew Rosales – Master of Business Administration
Faculty Advisors:
Vijay Pandiarajan – Ross School of Business
F. Andy Seidl – College of Engineering

The 2021 Tauber team projects resulted in a record-setting $989 million in savings according to sponsoring company calculations, an average of $43 million per project over three years.

Each year, Tauber student teams uncover significant savings for sponsoring companies – and champion major improvements in project fields such as data analytics, sustainability in operations, supply chain, and strategy.


The Tauber Institute for Global Operations is a joint venture between the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Michigan Engineering, working together with industry partners to facilitate cross-disciplinary education in global operations management. The Tauber Institute is an inaugural recipient of the UPS George D. Smith Prize for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research, management science, or analytics. For more information visit tauber.umich.edu.