Mathew Alexander was a graduate student studying Industrial Engineering at Purdue University when he participated in the Regional Internship Program. Originally from Bangalore, India, Mathew spent the summer of 2022 as a Continuous Improvement Engineer at Bennington Marine in Elkhart, Ind., working to aid and improve efficiencies throughout the plant.
Bennington Marine is a market leader for pontoon and tritoon recreational boats. The facility finishes a new boat almost every ten minutes. Mathew was asked to tackle a space shortage and capacity issues by using a lean manufacturing approach.
“I came into the internship with three years of work experience in the automotive sector,” Mathew said. “I think they really valued that, and they gave me a project that really was meaningful to them. I had to lead from start to finish.”
Mathew’s project was based in the building where boat rails are manufactured. Bennington makes a variety of fixtures, as every model has a different set of components. Capacity became an issue.
“Every year, new boat models are coming in, so new boat rail designs,” he said. “How do we address the space issues? How can we retain the capacity going forward?”
On the project, Mathew conducted different studies to gain an understanding of the state of the plant. Identifying high density areas, he worked with the Bennington team to alleviate the pain points.
“The freedom on how to address the project was great,” he said. “I think probably the best part was how receptive everyone in the plant was. I would always go to them, observe what they were doing, talk to them, and understand their viewpoints, which were essential to building the project because this was equipment that they would have to use eventually. You know they need to be used to it and fully buy into the project. All of them were really helpful and really willing to give their time.”
Mathew was involved in another project where the solution he determined brought down the load variation by roughly 80 percent and has been implemented by Bennington.
“Achievements where you know it was an actual and quantifiable,” he said. “Not just something for the sake of keeping you busy.”
Mathew first learned of the Regional Internship program when the program coordinator visited a Purdue University career fair and encouraged him to apply.
“Once you put your resume and application into the portal, you can really select the kind of tracks that that you’re interested in,” Mathew said. “This was great because you’re opening yourself to multiple companies.”
Being new to the South Bend – Elkhart region, Mathew took advantage of the activities the Regional Internship Program offers.
He attended his first baseball game with other interns to see the South Bend Cubs. The program coordinator even got him involved in a weekly soccer match that met after work.
“I pretty much went to every event,” he said. “I really liked each one. They had a different taste for each event. There was an event at the South Bend library which was really cool because the library has been renovated recently. I ended up making multiple visits to the library even after the event because it was a great place.”
These events and the opportunity to network with other interns allowed Mathew to make a connection with the area and have a social life outside of the office.
“Especially when you do an internship at a mid-size to small size company where they don’t have such a strong internship culture, you don’t have too many fellow interns to socialize with,” Mathew said. “So, the internship program was crucial in meeting other interns in other companies and just having a good internship and memorable internship life.”
Mathew found the ease of his internship extended beyond the application process and social components. Since he was based out of West Lafayette, Ind., the Regional Internship Program also assisted in finding accommodation.
“As an overall internship experience, I liked having someone who’s really working to help make your internship experience as seamless as possible, because they really help,” he said. “Where else do you get an internship experience where so many aspects of your internship life are taken care of – from having a social life and taking care of your accommodation? It’s quite honestly amazing.”