Mar 24, 2008

'IT and Global Economy': WSU program to help small automotive suppliers

LANSING -- Competing in a global economy means keeping costs as low as possible and continuing to look for ways to cut costs. Wayne State University and the state of Michigan hope to help the state’s tier II and III auto suppliers compete by improving their information technology.

Wayne State’s School of Business Administration has been piloting a program called "Information Technology and the Global Economy" that puts students into the small, specialty plants that supply parts to the auto industry and other manufacturers to improve their IT capability.

"If you look at the firms that are successful, they are the ones that are using info technology," said Myles Stern, a professor at Wayne State. "Some companies lack basic info technology."

The pilot program has been so successful that WSU hopes to export it to the rest of the state. Last week WSU presented the program to the state House of Representatives’ Commerce Committee.

"This is a very important segment of our state’s economy," said Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, the chair of the House Commerce Committee. "It is a very important segment of our economy that’s in trouble."

WSU has piloted the program at Lear, one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive interior systems and components based in Southfield, a company that has more than 20 facilities all across Michigan. The program will benefit both students and the plants.

When it starts in the fall, it will be a three-year program. Undergraduate and graduate students will form teams of two to three students and visit four to six plants a year. They will observe, make recommendations for improvements, work with the plant manager to implement the recommendations and train the plant personnel to use the IT fix.

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