Chetan Dhole interned at 3M India Ltd, Ranjangaon MIDC, Pune and shares how he learnt number of skills there without even realizing. Chetan is an MBA student at WE School, Bangalore. Here’s his internship story.
I interned with 3M India Ltd. Ranjangaon facility near Pune city. It was very tough to get in even after having one of my super seniors working there. The company truly believes in hiring (even an intern) on pure basis of capabilities. The B.Tech course which I opted for in College of Engineering, Pune comprised of two sandwiched sessions wherein we had to intern in various manufacturing firms for each semester (in 3rd and 8th semester). This was the second one. During my first internship, I knew where I went awfully wrong. I lacked the habit of going in depth for studying a particular problem. Secondly, the mentor was too busy to guide me. And third, I didn’t realize how important MS excel was (more than the technical prerequisites, yes! You heard me right).
Comes the first day-
I come along with my senior who referred my name after clearing the interview process. Everywhere I see is cubicles, people carrying laptops running around and all the scary technical manufacturing jargon I never heard of. Me and one other classmate were looking around all these white painted meeting rooms and people giving presentation where visible all through the shiny glasses. I knew it right away that I am going to have some tough six months ahead to get along with this new manufacturing language. I realized learning things quickly was very much important because people wont be available for an intern all the time to guide them for every little thing. The word which was used by everybody in the floor was “OBSERVE!”
Senior came back to us after making us wait for an hour and asked “Quality or Warehouse?” I was being mean. The only word which made some sense was quality and I immediately answered, “I will go for quality”. I was not too sure about what is going to happen next. I was officially assigned a mentor then Mr. Chawla , Senior quality analyst, Tapes division. “So I reckon you know excel better than me, “he said,” and didn’t even wait for my answer but threw some sheets at me. “Go on the shop floor, see the machines, and come back and tell me what you have studied.” That was too vague. I knew this was going to happen time and again where you will be given some vague assignments and you yourself will have to figure out what you have to do exactly. The reason being the same, mentors don’t have enough time to attend and guide you. So I went around the shop floor, tried to gather every kind of data related to quality in the tapes division, be it excel sheets or registers or the the supervisors tell you. Thanks to the 3M culture, everybody had to be polite with everyone else. So whomever I came across was ready to dose me with their pool of knowledge, be the blue collars or the Supervisors, they were all there with every kind of story possible which made them feel how great they are.
This became my routine for the next one month visiting each machine station, trying to observe how they work, how they are operated and what the material flow is. I used to report Mr. Chawla once in three days. He was too polite to admit and tell me that I was clearly heading the wrong way stating that we cannot complete the project if it continues this way. I was given a computer to work on, in a small quality testing lab to share with one of the technicians. That is the time where you have to learn to shed your ego. The technician right now, is the more knowledgeable person than you and you have to respect him. The same applies with all the blue collars. In this lab at the start I was assigned with some data filling work for a week or two. Not only this, I had to arrange the lab as a part of the 5S training (Activities to SET, SORT, STANDARDIZE, SHINE, SUSTAIN). Maintaining all the files, removing all the redundant documents, preparing SOP (standard operating procedures soft copies ) for the lab equipments, labeling them and so on. What I didn’t realize was that I was learning new tricks in MS excel and, at the same time, I was learning how all the testing equipments were operated. Learning apart from focusing on the project statement was enormous. Moreover, I got acquainted with material flow and sampling for the quality testing procedures of the products at the same time. Although, I found it extremely boring because the food there was too good to make you fall asleep even while walking.
Fast Forward two months later, while I was noting down everything I could learn, and the same time following all the useless instructions from my mentor, I was getting more and more bored by the day. One fine day , my mentor called me to his cubicle with all the work that I had done , realizing that I am actually bored to death and I don’t want to work with him anymore. He took all my excel sheets , all the SOPs I made into one fine document. “SURPRISE!” he exclaims, “We have now completed the training material for all the new joinees and I am forwarding all this material you made to our headquarters in the United states to conform that we have come up with a training manual which matches the overall 3M compliances and ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems”. I had nothing to say but “Okay!” and then give him a huge smile. It was quite a surprise because one cannot expect his daily redundant piece of work might get recognized this way.
The Second part of the project which was assigned to me was purely technical. Since I was not good at studies, I feared that being from prestigious institutes, my mentors would assume that I too have a healthy technical background, which was actually not the case. The project was titled “Yield improvement for XYZ machine center”. The challenge here was to gather maximum data from the workers or make them to that for me to be precise. It was a bit difficult given that I had made friends with them and I used to address them with respect and all. Now, I had to make them work for me for collecting the data for the number of rejections from both, the day and night shifts. Finally came the doomsday when I had to see my new mentor yell at me really bad. It was two weeks into the projects and none of the workers were ready to fill in the hard copies which I had kept at each of the workstations to record all the rejections data. That was one day when I felt that I was good for nothing.
The next day onwards I decided to just stick to the machine centers and make them fill the data right before me, of course by asking politely. Suddenly there was a breakdown and one of the machines stopped working which was resulting in downtime. Maintenance team was preoccupied with some other works. So , it was just the 2 operators along with me and the supervisors to stare at eh machines like fools. I decided to get my hands dirty because I had nothing to loose. I had already shed my ego 3 months ago. Surprisingly I was able to spot the fault in the machine.
Thanks to the time which I spent during early days of my internship staring at the machines, I was able to figure out what went wrong and where. I earned some amount of respect when the complete machine center team gathered, and saw what I had done. From there onwards, all of the workers started filling the sheets I distributed to them way earlier and I was able to collect the data in just one week time (which was already quite delayed). I had to go back to my books to learn more on optimization. Finally I came up with a successful rejections report at the last. This way, I was able to complete my assignments two weeks before the actual completion of my internship. I guess Steve Jobs was not wrong. We always have dots to connect, don’t we?
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