Southeastern computer scientist works with Bradken to facilitate expansion
Contact: Rene Abadie
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Aron Culotta, left, assistant professor of computer science at Southeastern Louisiana University, worked closely with Steve Jones, cost improvement manager at the Bradken plant in Amite, to develop a simulation model designed to optimize expansion at the plant.
HAMMOND – After the global manufacturing company Bradken started to expand its Amite facility, their local leaders didn’t have far to go for help in optimizing the additional floor space.
They looked 10 miles south to Southeastern Louisiana University, specifically its Southeast Louisiana Business Center, which works closely with businesses entering the region looking to set up shop or expand their operations.
Bradken’s main question: How do we optimize the new expansion space based on the increase in production?
“Basically, Bradken was looking for a simulation program,” said Aron Culotta, Southeastern assistant professor of computer science. “The process there involves making large steel castings from sand molds that then need some time to cool before being moved. The castings take up a lot of space.”
“In this case, we’re designing the program so it is already customized for them,” he explained.
“It’s a manufacturing logistics problem that takes into account other factors, such as manpower,” he explained. “The program allows the user to make edits and to adjust factors to achieve the best outcome for their situation. The client will be able to determine how different decisions affect the total number of castings made. For example, one might consider adding space to increase the capacity of a particular stage of the operation, adding employees to improve the throughput, or extending the hours of workers. What we’re doing is nailing down the specifics to accurately model the whole process.”
“The simulation software will mimic foundry flow and will help us to predict any problems” said Cost Improvement Manager Steve Jones at the Amite facility.
Under an agreement, Braken will retain exclusive use of the software for its foundry business. Culotta said the product could possibly be adapted for other types of manufacturers.
“If it proves to be successful, we expect to use it in some of our other facilities,” Jones said. Bradken operates 26 manufacturing and service facilities in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, China and the United Kingdom. The Amite facility is one of six plants in the United States.
The expansion of the Amite plant represents a capital investment of $18.1 million. The expansion includes extending the foundry building and installing key manufacturing equipment. Louisiana Economic Development began working with Bradken officials in 2010 to identify company needs to support of its expansion.
Bradken was referred to the Southeast Louisiana Business Center by individuals with the state’s Louisiana Faststart, a program that produces customized workforce training for industries investing in the state. Their initial meeting with center Director William Joubert and his staff led them to the university’s computer science department and Culotta.
“Part of our role is to link university resources and expertise with individuals and companies looking to do business in the region,” said Joubert. “The university has a wide array of specialists in many technical and non-technical fields who are eager to lend their knowledge and expertise to business.”
“Everyone at Southeastern has been very helpful, motivated and timely in getting this tool created,” Jones added.