New Course Offers Students Hands-On Food Industry Management Experience

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By Linsey Maughan

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A new course offered through the food science and nutrition department, FDSN 535 Food Operations Performance Management, is offering students the opportunity to gain real-world experience through a partnership with 87P, a company offering local, fresh-to-market food products that is based in Carol Stream, Illinois.

Students in the course visit 87P to conduct research, ultimately working as consultants to help improve line operations issues within the plant.

“As a rapidly expanding company in a competitive new product category, fresh foods to market, it’s always a challenge to balance anticipated sales with the expense of bringing on the needed talent to make it happen profitably,” says Bill Besenhofer, president of 87P. “That’s where I became interested in an opportunity to test the merits of a novel Illinois Institute of Technology graduate student program that brought innovative talent into our plant operations on a project challenge basis.”

The new course is led by led by Will Maurer, industry professor of industrial technology management, and Armand Paradis, adjunct industry professor of food science and nutrition. Students participate in classroom training as well as on-site visits to the plant to observe and collect data during production shifts. They’re also given the opportunity to interview plant management. At the end of the semester, student groups act as consulting teams, presenting their findings and recommendations to senior management as 87P.

“The students are extremely insightful and will identify key steps that can be implemented to make our production line more efficient and profitable,” Besenhofer says.

Some students have also gone on to be hired by 87P following their student work experience with the company.

Maurer and Paradis are now looking to expand the program to additional food companies operating in the Chicago area, and to share this educational opportunity with students majoring in other fields at Illinois Tech.