Improving the Process of Business
When Todd Pinter was hired by Boeing after graduating from the University of Idaho in 2013, he immediately began diving into complex projects, such as determining what additional staffing and updated machinery was necessary in order to increase production rates of the company’s 737 airplane.
But the tasks were no big deal for Pinter. After all, he had already done a similar project for the aerospace manufacturer and reported his findings to senior management at the company before ever becoming an employee.
Pinter, a College of Business and Economics graduate with a Bachelor of Science in operations management and finance, completed two group projects for Boeing while a student in U of I’s Business Process Center. The program was created in 2008 to help operations management students get experience on projects for local and regional companies.
Pinter, who grew up in Garfield and Palouse, Washington, transferred to U of I in 2011 after completing two years at Eastern Washington University. Even though his interest was initially more on the finance side of business — he was leaning toward studying accounting — Pinter became interested in operations management and the idea he wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk every day.
“I started talking to people who had gone through the U of I business program,” Pinter said. “They talked not only about being behind the desk and diving into the data but also engaging the people and processes in the field.”
Pinter soon began focusing on operations management and became involved in the Business Process Center. The program is composed of two courses, Quality Management and Systems and Simulation.
“The Business Process Center creates a better understanding about what work and processes are all about,” said Scott K. Metlen, head of U of I’s Department of Business.
“These classes allow students to get a deeper understanding of process management and about how businesses really operate.”
Prior to each semester, Metlen contacts companies to see if they have projects Business Process Center students can tackle. These include past contributors to the program such as Boeing, Boise Cascade, Lamb Weston, Bennett Lumber, Clearwater Paper and Gritman Medical Center, as well as companies Metlen recruits to become involved.
An estimated 3-5 U of I graduates are hired each year at Boeing, Micron and Lamb Weston as a result of participation in the Business Process Center.
Projects submitted to the Business Process Center include all facets of the business world — production, supply chains, logistics, hardware and software solutions, and human resources. They can range anywhere from making recommendations regarding automated garbage trucks in Latah County to analyzing production data for Boeing.
Both Pinter’s projects were for Boeing. He and his teammates would begin the semester by taking a day trip to the company, taking a facility tour and meeting their company contact to discuss the project. The student team returned at the end of the semester to Boeing to present their findings to management. Their task was to look at ways to improve or optimize Boeing’s operations.
“We were working with current professionals on real-world problems,” Pinter said. “It wasn’t a story. It was a real data set. You don’t get that from a textbook.”
Pinter’s contact at Boeing for both U of I projects was Doug Whitehouse, an industrial engineering manager. Because Whitehouse was able to see firsthand what Pinter could do for Boeing, both through U of I classes and a company internship, Pinter was ultimately hired after graduation.
Boeing is one of the largest and most consistent contributors to the Business Process Center, Metlen said. He estimates Boeing, Micron and Lamb Weston each hire three to five U of I graduates each year as a direct result of participation in the program.
About 70 U of I students have been hired by Boeing, Whitehouse said.
“Boeing makes a big investment in the U of I, but it takes a true collaborative effort to make it successful,” he said. “Through this partnership, we’ve established a pipeline for U of I students where they can work real-world problems with Boeing mentors and technical experts. We have great jobs and good salaries and this gives the students a chance to see what it’s all about. They see us and we see them. The Idaho brand has grown considerably in stature for us at Boeing.”
Currently working as a methods process analyst for the Skin and Spar business unit of the company’s fabrication division in Puyallup, Washington (manufacturer of aluminum wing components for the 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplanes), Pinter has already transformed from a Business Process Center participant to a business professional looking for the next U of I hire at his company.
“Now I’m providing the data, giving tours and creating a partnership with U of I students,” said Pinter, who has been back to Moscow three times to assist with intern recruitment. “I’ve been in their seat. It’s pretty cool for me to give back to U of I this way.”
Article by David Jackson
Published in the Spring 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.