Industrial engineering students strive to improve healthcare services

A team of UWindsor student engineers has devised a plan that can improve the efficiency of hospital porter services and enhance front-line care.

A team of third-year industrial engineers proposed a hardwired kiosk and swipe card system as a solution to inefficiency problems facing a hospital in Toronto as part of the inaugural Industrial Engineering Case Competition (IECC) held March 26, 2016 at Ryerson University. Ryley Urban, Brande Norman, Deepaul Chunilall and Ted Thompson led UWindsor to a second place finish out of nine Ontario university teams, missing first place by a sliver — the team was one point shy of the winning team’s 86-point finish.

“We live in a world where resources are constantly diminishing, so it’s important for industrial engineers to manage those resources to preserve quality of life or make it better,” said Urban, who is also treasurer of Windsor’s Institute of Industrial Engineers Student Chapter.

The IECC challenges industrial engineering students by giving students real life industrial problems to solve under tight time constraints. The case study selected used data from a North York hospital that is plagued with porter service inefficiencies and communication issues. Each team received data on the average shifts of 38 porters. The team learned time was lost when porters had to continuously return to a distribution centre to receive new tasks. If a job was cancelled, the porter wasn’t informed until he or she returned to the distribution centre. Less than 10 of the 38 porters were ranked as highly efficient.

“It was the best case to apply everything we learned in our education,” Thompson said. “We had no resources and no Internet. All we had was everything we learned in the classroom so far.”

In less than four hours, the team designed a hardwired kiosk system that would provide porters with tasks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements upon the swipe of a personalized card. The kiosks located throughout the hospital also notified porters of emergency calls and secondary jobs including retrieving and delivering items such as medications, syringes or gloves. The system included a built in inventory, which could notify users when stock is running low.

The students had four hours to prepare a 12-minute presentation for a panel of Ryerson professors and alumni. In addition to receiving a plaque and $150, each member’s resume was provided to the company that provided the case study problem.

“It was so much pressure in such short time,” Chunilall said. “It really showed us what we were made of.”