BUFFALO, N.Y. – Pat Curtis has three words to describe a
partnership that has immersed University at Buffalo engineering
students at General Motors Components Holdings (GMCH) Lockport for
the past three summers: a huge success.
As plant manager of the 2.8 million-square-foot facility, he has
witnessed the contributions of budding undergraduates from the
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which are made possible
through the outreach and project management of UB TCIE. Some have
impressed GMCH management enough to attract full-time job offers at
the company’s Lockport and Rochester plants.
“They help solve problems. Maybe that’s
oversimplifying it. But you know what? That’s what we do
here,” Curtis said. “We solve problems so that we can
get better. And the better we get, the more competitive we are. The
more competitive we are, the brighter the future is going to be for
For the fourth year, GMCH Lockport leaders are welcoming a batch
of summer interns. The program has featured an average of seven
interns each year. They come from several engineering departments
including the mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical
engineering, and industrial and systems engineering. Their
assistance helps to fulfill the plant’s mission of
manufacturing the world’s best thermal products.
Curtis explained that in a plant with 1,650 employees, there are
never-ending opportunities for improvement. Students have the
potential to boost scrap reduction,improve process streamlining and
influence the implementation of cost-saving
Each student works under the guidance of one supervisor. This
year, projects focuses on the areas of quality, integrated
industrial resources manufacturing, and heating, ventilation and
air conditioning (HVAC) engineering. One student, for example, is
spending time examining product defects and evaluating processes to
rectify them. Journals are maintained throughout the summer and
project presentations conclude the program.
Peter Eichensehr is a quality engineer at GMCH, but got his feet
wet during the summer internships after his sophomore and junior
years at UB. He was involved in numerous projects to improve
product quality, most notably scrap reduction and new product
Eichensehr said he learned a lot, particularly soft skills,
during his experience. Forming relationships with co-workers and
operators on the floor, sharpening communication skills, and
refining time-management capabilities helped to boost his job
performance and provide qualities that he continues to build upon
in his career.
“An internship anywhere is a great opportunity that can be
what you make of it. If a lot of effort is put in, great things can
come of it,” Eichensehr said.
Growth isn’t limited to the interns. GMCH Lockport
personnel glean new insights through the partnership with UB
“Having students here has given us an opportunity to learn
about what’s going on in college,” said Greg Conley,
site quality manager, as he joked about the sizeable time lapse
since most supervisors were in the classroom. “It’s
good to have new ideas and a fresh set of eyes.”
Different perspectives surface through daily work, as well as
during final presentations when interns are asked what they would
do differently if they were managing the plant. One suggestion
spurred changes to a training program for hourly employees.
“I’m always amazed at how much they’ve learned
in a short amount of time. The capabilitiesof these students just
floors me,” Curtis said. “They’re high tech.
They’re intelligent. They present themselves very well.
It’s very refreshing.”