Internship at The Dannon Company

Name: Jacob Pleiman

Type of Project: Internship


1)    My STEP Signature project was a project engineering internship working on mechanical and fluid dynamics for The Dannon Company which is a food process manufacturing company.  My main responsibility was to oversee the implementation of waste reduction systems where the waste water could be safely reused in other manufacturing steps.  My responsibilities also included collecting water usage data and analytics of the data, turning the information into useful metrics.

2)     This STEP experience allowed me to learn a lot about the world, my approach to work activities, and more importantly how to interact with the people around me in the work place.   Dannon has a great program because they bring all of the interns from across the country to their corporate office in New York at the start of the program.  They introduce the interns to the history of the company and its objectives which revolve around alimentation or bringing healthy food to all people while doing this in a very environmentally friendly way.  The waste reduction and water usage project that I was assigned to was validation of that objective.  In addition, all of the interns worked together on a community service project during this event.

My internship allowed me to learn how to manage others, specifically vendors with whom I coordinated work objectives.  I was assigned several tasks and given some basic guidance around what they involved.  It was my responsibility to go out and make it happen in a real world setting with people of different ages, background, experience levels, and skills.  My approach could not always be the same and I found myself adapting to each situation differently to accomplish a task.  Some could provide specific details and others may have significant experience and expertise.  Some were willing to work with me from the beginning and others required me to build trust with them.  I learned a lot about human nature and how almost everyone cared about their work and valued accomplishing their daily activities.  A big thing is that I learned how to be adaptable and flexible in my approach.  All of these factors also taught me the importance of planning and staying on top of the next steps needed to complete a project.

3)      My project with water reuse and waste reduction was a great experience because I learned about fluid dynamics and how to resolve the challenges we faced as a team.   As is mentioned in number two, there were so many different personalities and skill levels I interacted with to accomplish the project task.  I remember calling into on a weekend to check on some testing that was being done and the hourly team member responsible for this testing was very knowledgeable and not only provided the information I needed but also shared the activities of his entire day.  I could tell work was very important to him and he wanted to ensure I got what I needed.  I was asked to monitor many of the activities associated with this project and soon I found myself leading many activities when the internal project leader was on vacation for two weeks.  By the end even the leading contractors turned to me for decisions on the project.

My responsibilities also included water usage analysis.  I was expected to update all of the drawings called PNID’s for anywhere water was used, even the bathrooms.  Analyzing and updating drawings can be very tedious.  I used the technology in the plant to monitor and analyze flows and check on volume usage in various areas.  From this I made recommendations around where the plant could save water.  The information I collected was going to be used moving forward to justify future projects and the updated drawings stored for future reference.

Working in a food manufacturing plant gave me great exposure to process manufacturing and to all of requirements of producing a consumable product safely.  One of the steps for a new intern is to be indoctrinated into the yogurt making process.  I was afforded the time to spend time in every department in the plant to see and learn what they do.  Some of the critical learnings were around the quality tests to ensure the product will be safe to consume at its expiration date.  The challenge to plan production and transportation of the product to ensure there isn’t too much that cannot be sold and/or too little to meet customer demand.  Unlike a make to order process, it is very different.  Each area of the plant was a great opportunity to learn and seeing how they all interact to deliver a quality product was very interesting.  I will be able to draw upon this experience my entire career.


4)    Working and collaborating with others is critical to accomplish the goals of a project.  I realized that there are not many who like the role of project engineering and leading the tasks of a project.  Once they realized I was willing and capable, I found myself in the middle of a very challenging project.  I was following up with vendors, coordinating schedules, and making sure the task to ensure the successful startup of this systems were secured.  I even called in while on vacation to make sure things were still moving in a positive direction.  I really enjoyed it and believe this leadership experience will be extremely valuable in the future for my academic and future goals.  As I enter into the workplace, I will know what to expect in these situations and how to interact with the people around me.

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