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Senior’s co-op work puts his hands of some of Walt Disney World’s iconic rides

Tyler "T.J." Burns participated in a co-op for the Walt Disney Company in Florida last year. His work with the company not only gave him experience with a real-world project, but also some of the world's most well known theme park rides.

For most of 2011, “daily routine” for Tyler “T.J.” Burns meant a pass by Cinderella’s castle and the occasional loop around Space Mountain.

It was all in a day’s work for the senior industrial engineering major, who is studying in the University of Missouri College of Engineering’s six-year  dual Master of Science and Master’s of Business Administration degree program. Burns took part in a co-op for the Walt Disney World Company in Florida for about seven months last year.

Most of his work with the company involved Disney’s Bench Stock Initiative, a project that was in its second year of implementation at the time he joined. This project created and applied an inventory storage and organizational system for maintenance and repair parts on the various theme parks’ rides.

“The idea is that we have the inventory for creating the shortest ride downtime as possible,” Burns said.

But the reorganization wasn’t simply a clean-up job. Some of Walt Disney World’s most iconic rides, Burns said, require multiple rooms of supplies that keep the rides operational. The system involves storing and organizing spare parts so that each one is accounted for in a virtual inventory system. Individual parts are stored in bins or boxes labeled with a unique barcode, which is scanned when a part is added or taken away.

By the time he’d started his co-op, the system had been implemented for several of the rides in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Burns said he worked with maintenance teams on how to use the system effectively.

“After the system went live, we developed plans on how to keep up with it,” he said.

The virtual inventory system keeps a database of parts, and also helps employees, known to the company as “cast members,” break down the status of each part, whether on hand, in use or on order, and also how that generates into dollars.

“The new system can tell how much money is tied up in inventory,” Burns said.

Parts are counted on a rotating schedule every 30, 90 or 180 days.

One of Burns contributions was the idea to color code the barcode labels to make the counting schedule easier to determine.

“It makes a more concise way to count the items,” he said.

Burns said he heard about the co-op from his roommate, a mechanical engineer, who had previously participated in a similar co-op for the Disney company. He said the decision to participate in a co-op himself was a no brainer.

“It’s in Florida. It’s in Disney World. It didn’t really have a downside,” he said.

His work also gave him a glimpse into the future. Burns worked on recommendations that helped estimate maintenance and storage space needs for the under-construction rides in the company’s newest theme park venture, Shanghai Disneyland.

Burns took measurements of storage and inventory space at the Florida theme park’s rides for their similar Chinese counterparts. He also  collaborated with other  cast members involved with rides and used this information when creating a recommendation to give to those in charge of the new park.

“I got to talk with the head guy over there. That’s was pretty cool,” he said.

The work experience he gained from Disney was his first exposure to a large-scale project. It also gave him new perspective on a specific industry.

“I definitely had never thought about the vastness that comes with maintenance inventory and the magnitude of that,” he said.

It also gave him a new appreciation for the work that goes into maintaining some of his favorite rides.

“I once rode Expedition Everest, probably, nine times in a row,” he said.