8-month industry projects with ASB, Douglas Pharmaceuticals, Foodstuffs, HansenCX and United Steel

04 December 2018

Another year over for the ISOM “Industry Project” course. As always, teams of students eager to gain real-life working experience tackled several very real problems. Teams of three-to-four students worked for eight months at the companies and were supervised by ISOM faculty staff. Most of the projects concerned the core business of the hosting companies. In 2018, the projects were as follows.

At ASB, employees use different messaging and scheduling systems. However, keeping track of and timely re-prioritising various TODO items emerging from several sources is a difficult task on its own. The team has built a fully integrated messaging module that pulls messages and tasks from several in-house messaging systems to a single place.

Over recent years, Douglas Pharmaceuticals has been growing fast, their annual sales are currently about $200m. While this is certainly a good problem to have, ramping up capacity to keep up with growing demand is next to impossible in the pharmaceutical industry already, due to regulatory processes such as certification of the new production capacity/processes. However, in a complex production environment such as one at Douglas (tens of products being made with more than 20 machines), there is often a possibility to increase the effective capacity by optimising production schedules. As an intermittent solution, our team proposed a scheduling tool using the same grade optimisation engine as SAP APO.

For large retailers such as Foodstuffs, introduction of new products is a routine activity, part of “business-as-usual”. However, regardless of how many times you did this in the past, predicting the demand for a new product is a challenge. Students worked with several category managers to learn, operationalise and share their expertise by means of a tool that could be used across all product categories. The team created an Excel dashboard that uses the company data to evaluate critical factors such as past sales of similar products, the expected degree of cannibalisation, etc.

Competing on the enterprise software markets presents several challenges for HansenCX. An obvious one is the presence of much larger companies such as SAP and Oracle. Another is “sticky customers” – corporates don’t change their platforms very often. To grow the market share under such conditions by offering solutions that are as good as SAP’s or Oracle’s is not enough, you have to offer something unique and innovative. The team worked on making one of the core HansenCX’s products distinct, and, by both the company and supervisors’ assessment, quite successfully.

At United Steel, one of the country’s largest suppliers of steel for the NZ construction industry, the challenge is to keep a large selection of products in stock while not expending too much working capital. The problem is exacerbated by long lead times from steel mills in Asia and lumpy, project-driven demand from customers. Our team approached this problem from three directions, primarily aiming to help the company increase the stock turnover with the use of analytics tools.

The 2018 project supervisor team: Lech Janczewski, Koro Tawa, David White, Ursula Dantin and Valery Pavlov.

If your company has a problem that is either too costly to solve or impossible to the extent that it is part of “business as usual”, or you are simply keen to help students gain real-life working experience, just get in touch with us. Let’s talk it over. Contacts: Dr Lech Janczewski l.janczewski@auckland.ac.nz (Information Systems), Dr Valery Pavlov v.pavlov@auckland.ac.nz.