Engineering students work to improve Berkey Creamery experience for customers

Shane Ramsay and Miranda Buckheit
July 26, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Berkey Creamery will soon be running smoother than its world-famous ice cream. Students in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering’s (IME) Service Enterprise Engineering (SEE 360) program are collaborating with the Creamery to optimize the efficiency of the Penn State landmark. 

SEE 360 enhances students’ fundamental educational experiences by raising awareness of the engineering challenges within the service sector. The program gives SEE Scholars, undergraduate and master’s degree students, and SEE Fellows, doctoral students selected based on their research achievements, access to the entrepreneurial opportunities of the sector and facilitate collaboration with industry and alumni partners. 

Chintan Patil, SEE 360 Fellow and doctoral student in industrial engineering, leads the project. He’s focusing on exactly how supply meets demand in the Creamery’s retail store. Patil is developing a model to help the Creamery determine how many workers are needed on regular days versus on game days, which see a significant uptick in demand.

“The main goal is to improve customer satisfaction by decreasing the time spent waiting in line while managing the employee schedule and cost,” Patil said. “You need to find the right balance between the two.”

The researchers collected data on two different game days during the 2018 season, with focus on the frequency that customers arrive each hour (the demand); service rates, which vary based on the customers and their orders; and customer satisfaction levels — was the wait worth it? 

“The model that I’ll deliver to the Creamery will allow them to input a forecast of demand,” Patil said. “The model will tell Creamery managers how many servers they should schedule throughout the day.”

Concurrently, Madhumitha Sundararaman, who was a SEE 360 Scholar who earned her master’s degree in industrial engineering in spring 2019, researched the Creamery’s production management, inventory planning and waste management. 

From August 2018 through January 2019, Sundararaman collected data on which flavors sell best, when those flavors are sold and how much total ice cream is sold each month. This data will be used to plan production by forecasting what supplies, along with their quantity, are needed in the future. 

“We want to collect data to understand the variations that occur within these processes to propose new improvements as time goes by,” Sundararaman said.

A key component of these processes includes the historical knowledge of Creamery employees and how to standardize their expertise for future employees. 

“We examined how the expertise of long-term Creamery employees can be replaced as they retire,” Sundararaman said. “I want to standardize their duties and responsibilities so that the next generation of employees who perform the daily tasks do not have any issues.”

Sundararaman noted that while their work to improve business operations and enhance efficiency may seem behind-the-scenes, it is ultimately going to benefit the customers.

“We want to see the legacy of the Creamery continue for another 150 years or more,” Sundararaman said.

Other Fellows contributing to this project include Hyunjong Shin, research assistant, and Yidan Wang, doctoral student in industrial engineering.  

Last Updated July 26, 2019