Goals of the project
As one of the largest food chains, with annual sales of more than $15 billion, HEB’s need to efficiently distribute food to retail stores is a top priority. Because of this need, a team of four Industrial Engineering students and two faculty members from Texas State University assembled. The goals of the HEB Simulation Project were multifaceted. First, it was aimed to help students learn about applying Industrial Engineering (IE) to real world situations, particularly the students learned to develop simulation models of the HEB’s distribution center. Along with building the student’s resume with experience and potential publications, the project was an avenue for supervising faculty to build experience with IE tools in order to create new knowledge. Successful completion of this project targeted to arrange the location of products in the company’s distribution center in order to increase efficiency and productivity. This project provided a framework of collaboration and reinforced the benefits of a strong relationship between Texas State University and local industries.
Nature of the Collaboration
The success and usefulness of the project relied on collaboration from both the university and community. Project members met with HEB engineers to define the problem. The HEB engineers provided data about their distribution center, and the students build models and analyze the results of the simulation results. Feedback from the project members helped HEB to identify areas of improvement.
Skills utilized for this project consisted of:
Coding, Computer Programming, Statistics, Simulation, Basket Analytics, Optimization.
Tools utilized for this project consisted of:
- R-Studio Software, which was used to analyze massive amounts of data of the items stored in the distribution center, and.
- WITNESS Simulation Software, which was used to simulate and optimize the HEB’s distribution center layout
Following the engineering design problem solving process, the main problem was identified with the help of the local food distribution center. The local company provided the team with all data needed to analyze, test, and construct a new process. During the model development phase, the team developed various models and added an innovative basket analysis to the tests. Experimentation and analysis was conducted and rerun to identify a significant and positive fit. Finally, the students presented their findings to the local company contact and management for feedback.
The project started on January 2015. During four months, the team worked in the data mining and the development of the simulation models. The results of the project were presented in May 2015 in the 2015 Senior Design Event hosted by the Ingram School of Engineering.
Facing challenges are inherent in tackling a big problem. Time arose as a huge issue when committing to this project because of the limitations of a university semester. There was a big problem that needed to be fixed, and only 4 months to do it. Additionally, students who were participating on this project were learning how to use the necessary software and additional faculty manpower was shifted to teaching. Dr. Jimenez, the lead faculty on this project, stated, “one of the main things I learned from this experience is to never limit your mind”. He was unsure if this project was something that his team could accomplish, but in the end he was amazed at all the hard work his students put into providing the client the best recommendation.
The main outcome of the project was to give recommendations to the local company on the possibility of improving productivity of their facility.
Innovations, impact and successes
This project showed how to integrate Big Data into something that can be useful to companies. The team was able to accomplish this by simulation and basket analysis in order to provide the best outcome for the client.