MIT LGO students can apply their engineering knowledge to sustainability problems that impact a global operations system. Students work with renewable and labor resources, measure company’s environmental and industry impact, and make suggestions based on rigorous data analysis.

Creating Good Jobs in Automotive Manufacturing

Matt Kilby (LGO ’21)

Engineering Department: Mechanical Engineering
Company: Nissan

Problem: Nissan’s Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant has the largest capacity for annual car production in North America, with the ability to manufacture 640,000 vehicles per year. The plant employs over 7,000 people and the frontline technicians are the foundation of their manufacturing business. These jobs are anything but easy and the high turnover rate within this workforce has significant direct and indirect costs for the company. Nissan must develop a solution to make these vital jobs “good jobs” to maintain a stable workforce.

Matt Kilby LGO '21 Thesis Diagram
This solution provided Nissan with a more accurate cost of employee turnover.

Approach: Matt’s approach included three phases: Gemba Walks, Employee Interviews, and Data Collection. Visiting the Gemba provided context about the business terminology and KPIs. Employee interviews provided additional insight into the business problem. Finally, data collection was required in order to quantify findings and confirm underlying problems.

Impact: The Good Jobs Strategy has been applied to many industries and has an overall framework for companies to follow, but this is a first for automotive manufacturing. Matt’s project provided Nissan with more accurate information of the direct and indirect costs of employee turnover. By better understanding the effects of turnover, Nissan can better analyze business decisions and policies surrounding their employees. This project established a baseline for automotive companies to follow on their own GJS journey.

Establishment of Novel Pichia pastoris Host Production Platforms

Ellen Coleman (LGO ’20)

Engineering Department: Mechanical Engineering
Company: Amgen
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA

Coleman, Amgen, 2020
Ellen’s project objective was to perform Pichia cultivations to provide proof-of-concept process data for Amgen.

Problem: The Cell Line Development group at Amgen is responsible for manufacturing and optimizing the cell lines utilized in production of Amgen’s biologic drug portfolio. Traditionally, these cell lines are produced from mammalian host organisms, primarily Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells. Advancing alternative hosts offer a unique opportunity to manufacture biologics at fractions of current speed and costs.  

Approach: Advancing Pichia (alternative yeast host) strain engineering technology will eventually drive broader utilization in commercialized products and help curb the rising cost of biologic medicines. Ellen’s project objective was to perform Pichia cultivations to provide proof-of-concept process data. She aimed to quantify the strategic advantage of the Pichia host in Amgen’s pipeline, and determine when, why and how such a product would be manufactured. 

Impact: Overall, Pichia offers an entirely new operational challenge for the scientists’, engineers and strategists at Amgen to consider.  A few of the key outcomes from Ellen’s project include: 

  • Alternative host materials produce similar productivity as published results 
  • Pichia has potential to reduce raw material cost per lot by ~ 40% 
  • Operational cost savings must be evaluated on a per facility basis  

Enabling Dematerialization of Product Development, Transfer and Manufacturing

Janelle Heslop (LGO ’19) 

Engineering Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Company: Amgen
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA

Heslop, Amgen, 2019
Janelle determined critical evaluation areas for next generation manufacturing technologies.

Problem: Amgen competes globally to advance important medicines in a highly competitive marketplace facing increasing pressures from pricing and regulatory scrutiny. To prepare for this changing business environment, Amgen needs to develop a manufacturing strategy that can enable the production of high-quality products with significant reduction in timelines and cost. Biomanufacturing of tomorrow must enable speed to market, flexible manufacturing, reduced footprint and improved efficiency. 

Approach: Janelle’s project followed a structured approach to develop knowledge and tools that can be used to improve decision-making around next generation manufacturing technologies for both Drug Substance and Drug Product in Process Development. Her project used four major work-streams: 

  1. Technology landscaping for process, prioritizing process units for evaluation  
  2. Development of criteria for technology evaluation  
  3. Evaluation of selected tech based on criteria  
  4. Development of playbooks to capture technology assessment and use cases

Impact: Janelle identified three critical evaluation areas for assessing next generation manufacturing technologies: economic, environmental, and operational attributes. She demonstrated that the evaluation framework helped in meeting a critical need for technology decision-makers at Amgen: the need for an objective and standard methodology for evaluating and deploying new technologies in the manufacturing network. Based on Janelle’s work, Amgen can further refine this framework to ensure that it reflects its most critical business priorities and that it can be used broadly across many process areas.