Ezra Ayoub could do with eyes in the back of his head when he is talking to forklift drivers and lorry drivers in the Waalhaven. During his graduation internship for the Industrial Engineering & Management degree programme, he explored why it takes almost two hours on average to load the metal bars, plates and rods from the ship into the lorry. It is up to Ezra to shorten that lead time. Leave that to him. He always thinks in terms of solutions and likes to include others.

Nice internship through network

Ezra came to Rhenus Logistics by contacting manager Bart-Luc himself. Years ago, with Bart-Luc, Ezra had organised a company visit for all students of the study association. A message via LinkedIn was enough. Bart-Luc saw possibilities, and Ezra has been working on this energising assignment for process optimisation for five months. The context: on Sunday or - with poor weather - on Monday, a ship with thousands of aluminium bars from Iceland docks in the Waalhaven. 

Process is not as simple as it seems

The loading process itself is not complicated: the lorry driver gives the order to the forklift driver, an inspector checks whether the right load has been picked up, the load is lifted into the lorry, and the driver gives instructions on exactly where to put it. However, as is the case with processes, there are many intermediate steps. Ezra has recorded them all in process diagrams. He has also made a time analysis, so that it is clear how much time can be saved at what point in the process. In addition, he does literature reviews and studies data. One thing is certain: it must be possible to load and unload faster.

‘The way a manager outlines a problem is always  different from reality'. 

Ezra: ‘I’m very happy with this assignment. It's nice and practical. There is a lot involved in the loading process and the staff members encounter various problems. That is what I have seen and what they tell me. You cannot get more valuable information than that. How a manager describes the problem is always different from reality. I have learned that in recent years. By involving people on the work floor in the research, I avoid coming up with a solution that is not feasible. By the way, they really enjoyed answering my questions.’

Waiting time is the problem

The internship is not over yet, but it is already clear that it is the waiting time that deserves attention. Ezra: ‘The drivers wait for an hour on average before their freight is loaded or unloaded. The ship always arrives on Sunday or Monday, so there is a peak at the beginning of the week. We are now going to look at how we can use a planning system to spread the arrival of the lorries throughout the day. Then the waiting time can be reduced. At the moment, lorry drivers decide for themselves what time they want to go to Rhenus; in the future, drivers will probably be given an arrival time.’

More needed than just the solution

Solved, you might think, but of course there is more to it than that. So, not only is Ezra going to come up with a solution, but he will also think about what is needed for everyone to work with the new approach. This involves questions such as: is software necessary, what adjustments should be made at what point in the work processes, how are we going to implement the approach? The degree programme addressed this too, so I am sure it will be fine. 

Thinking in terms of solutions

Ezra will graduate soon. How does he look back on the degree programme? ‘Industrial Engineering & Management is a broad degree programme where you learn about - almost - all fields of work. In fact, you can always take part in discussions and analyse every process. The enthusiastic lecturers within the degree programme help you take a critical look at business processes. I have also really learned to think in terms of solutions rather than problems. When someone comes to me with a problem, I ask as many questions as I can until they come to new insights. I like that and it keeps me on my toes.’

Project manager with a black belt

Continuous learning, that's what Ezra likes to do. Continuous improvement, too. After graduating, he wants to advance to project manager, preferably as someone who knows all about Lean Six Sigma. Up to and including the black belt. But for now, he is looking forward to the highlight of his internship. Ezra: ‘During Breakbulk Europe 2022, I get to show around members of the Heavy Lift Group, all people who specialise in transporting heavy goods!’

Would you, as an industrial engineering and management expert, like to think about how the work in businesses can be better organised? Visit the website of the Industrial Engineering & Management degree programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.