Getting Down to the Nuts and Bolts

Photo By
Kathryn Davis


Engineering Intern at Kaiser Aluminum   

Western Michigan University (WMU) Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engeneering  

Graduation Date
May 2020

Keeping Pace With Production
I work on the engineering and maintenance team. Our main goal as a team is to maintain our equipment, though I have helped with a number of other projects. Kaiser Aluminum’s Kalamazoo facility is a leading producer of aluminum extrusions, specifically rod and bar in different shapes and sizes for general industrial and certain automotive applications. We are a critical part of the overall supply chain and our customers rely on us to keep up production. We need our machines to be up and running 24/7, 365 [days a year], and it’s my team’s responsibility to make sure that happens. I help keep parts in inventory so that if a piece of equipment goes down, we can get it back online as soon as possible. 

Like A Well-Oiled Machine
When I come in at eight o’clock, I get a cup of coffee and read my email, but I have to hit the ground running. After our team’s morning meeting, I like to get out on the floor a lot because it’s hard to get things done at your desk. You have to go out there with the production team and the machines and get your hands dirty. If I have time, I start working on my long-term projects. Recently, one of my projects was to help install automatic lubricators on our equipment, which will improve efficiency and eliminate the process of having to dive in there and do it manually.

Lessons Learned
My most important takeaway from this internship is that I have so much to learn. I’ve always done well in my engineering classes at WMU, so I started here thinking I knew everything already. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There are people here with decades and decades of experience under their belts. I also learned that everyone has a particular niche to match their strengths. For example, when I run into a mechanical problem, I go to our master of mechanics. That has taught me how to work on a team. We can’t afford to be critics; we all have the same goal, and we’re here to support each other. 

Finding the Right Balance
I have been working at Kaiser since last summer, so I’ve been here for over a year. I work about 20 hours during the school year to leave time for classes, and then I’m full-time in the summer. Because I am accustomed to the flow of working every day, I feel one-hundred-percent ready to enter the working world. But because I have to be at peak efficiency all the time, I have been trying to focus on my personal life lately to make sure I stay balanced and happy. A career is important, but I can’t be at my best if I am rundown. 

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