South Eastern Regional College (SERC) have a number of partnerships with local companies who provide students with real-life projects. Through working with these companies students not only get the chance to develop their interpersonal, critical thinking and problem solving skills, but the companies also get results which can help save money, increase production and turnover and have the opportunity to develop the workforce of the future.

Here are two great case studies, where SERC students got the chance to work with Coca Cola and Royal Mail, providing successful solutions to real-life problems.

Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland

PROJECT AIM

To help improve the efficiency of water usage in the canning process, the students were asked to use their engineering knowledge and skills to design a viable solution to help control the flow of water. 

PROJECT OUTLINE

Working in partnership with the engineering team at Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland, the two students created a system which switches off the water flow when no cans have been detected in the line for more than ten seconds, switching it back on when cans are detected.  An intelligent timer was incorporated into the programme, measuring the duration of each time the water was switched off, demonstrating the savings in water usage that could be generated by this solution.

PROJECT EVALUATION

Coca Cola commended the students for coming up with this innovative solution: “We are very impressed by the quality of the students' work and their ability to apply their knowledge to a ‘real life’ workplace scenario. This experience will stand them in good stead when applying for jobs in the future. It is important that young people understand that it is not just their knowledge but also their skills, creativity and attitude which matter in the workplace." - Martin McNeill, Electronics Project Manager at Coca Cola

SKILLS GAINED

Through participating in this project student gained the following skills:

• participating in meetings

• working as a team

• hands on industrial experience

• project management skills.

PROJECT OUTCOME

Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland is currently developing a solution based on the concept created by the two students and hopes that this will generate increased water savings, adding to the company’s existing sustainable manufacturing processes.

ADVICE TO OTHER STUDENTS

“It’s great to get hands on experience and I’ve been able to put the theory I learnt in my first year into practice. Both Jonathan and I have also had the chance to develop our project management skills. I’m moving onto the Higher National Diploma in Engineering at SERC next year and hope to work on more industry projects.” - Jonathan Hamill, student

Royal Mail

INTELLIGENT BAG WEIGHING SYSTEMS

In partnership with the engineering team at Royal Mail, the students designed and created an innovative spring balanced weighing system for small parcel sorting as part of a health and safety solution. The innovative system allows operators to efficiently fill posting bags up to 11KG, the safe allowable weight, through the use of a set of intelligent weight sensing load bars designed to offer a more sophisticated method of weight gauging while also taking the risk out of despatch at a critical time. An intelligent sensor was incorporated into the programme, measuring the weight of each bag quickly and easily, dramatically reducing the risk in manual handling and resulting in savings due to rework and safety checks.

VOICE RECOGNITION SORTING SYSTEM

A device developed by students Kyle Turner and Rory McCutcheon which makes use of a voice activated system as part of an efficiency solution has received positive feedback from the company. The innovative system allows operators to efficiently sort letters and reduce misreads adding to the company’s existing efficient postal processes. The young innovators designed and developed a working prototype of the one-off system which is programmed to an individual's voice, recognising input commands. An intelligent voice recognition system was incorporated into the programme to identify each postal area quickly and easily, resulting in savings while also reducing the risk of errors at a critical time.

PROJECT OUTCOME

Royal Mail are currently developing a solution based on the concept created by the students and hope that this will be integrated into their processing centre at Mallusk initially. This will enhance safety and efficiency and lead to savings, adding to the company’s existing efficient postal processes.

ADVICE TO OTHER STUDENTS

“It was great to get the opportunity to work with Royal Mail, the whole project was a fantastic experience for us and will look great on our CVs.  Also, the fact that we won an award for our project has given us real confidence in our engineering ability. We also had the chance to develop our project management skills which will now help us with our coursework.” - Scott Elliott, student

Here you can watch a short video interview with Chris Lees, Royal Mail Manager, regarding his thought on the project and the benefits of working with SERC students.

South East Regional College are a Further Education college based in Northern Ireland and offer part-time and full-time courses. You can find out more information about their projects and about them on their website.