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Group assesses production systems in companies in Thailand, dives into culture

The group from MU poses for a photo during a tour of the Hong Seng knitting factory. IMSE faculty and grad students accompanied 15 undergraduate students on a study abroad trip to Thailand to study production system assessments earlier this year.

On Dec. 31, 2011 the MU College of Engineering sent me and 14 other undergraduate engineering students on the study abroad trip of a lifetime to Thailand. After more than 24 hours of travel, we arrived in Bangkok and began our adventure.

Every day began with a new factory tour where we were able to practice our production assessment skills and learn more about six sigma and lean manufacturing practices. Tours included a Nike jersey manufacturer, a fine jewelry manufacturer, a Thai spice company and more.

Each day after factory tours, we took in some traditional Thai culture, including temples and a Thai cooking class. At night, we were able to practice the Thai we had learned in our pre-departure class, as we hit downtown Bangkok to find our own Thai dinner.

After a week in Bangkok, we headed to the beautiful vacation destination of Koh Chang, Thailand for the weekend. We took a ferry to the island and spent the next few days scuba diving, snorkeling and enjoying the beach. We enjoyed more traditional Thai food, including Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai, and my favorite, Rotee, a traditional Thai dessert made from bananas.

After the weekend in Koh Chang, we boarded a small plane and flew to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. We spent the next three days conducting production assessments at factories, visiting Thai universities and exploring many temples. We also were able to spend a morning at the Maesa Elephant Camp where we watched elephants play soccer, paint pictures and play harmonicas. We also were able to ride the elephants.

Kelsey Cook “ziplines” through the Thai jungles near Chiang Mai.

Before leaving Chiang Mai, we had the opportunity to attend “the flight of the gibbon,” a zip line course that took us into the heart of the Thai jungle. Zip lining is a “ride” on which the user is propelled by gravity from the top to the bottom of an inclined cable by way of a freely moving pulley. After zip lining, we hiked up to a waterfall where some of us, unfortunately, fell in. Finally, we headed back to Bangkok to enjoy our final days filled with shopping and Thai culture. We made it back to the states on Jan. 15, two days before the semester started.

Overall, this was the most incredible trip I have ever been on. I learned more about manufacturing than I ever could have in class, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity.

Kelsey Cook is a senior industrial engineering major who participated in a study abroad trip to Thailand to conduct Production System Assessments, Dec. 31, 2011 through Jan. 15, 2012, with Professor James Noble. Read Noble’s blog from the trip here.