As a student who attends the University of Waterloo, an institution which prides itself for its co-op education, I was undoubtedly ecstatic to have my first co-op placement. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work at the P3T Lab.
On my first day, I was both nervous and anxious as I walked into the lab. First thing I noticed was how clean and professional the workplace was. The floor was nearly spotless. The entire lab from the wall to the ceiling harmonized in color, reflecting on the organized nature of the lab.
I was more than intimidated at first, not only from meeting my supervisors for the first time, but also from how professional the lab felt. Despite this being my first co-op placement, I have had work experiences in the past at financial firms and university laboratories. However, this workplace felt much more professional and overwhelming to me at first.
There was a whole arsenal of lab equipment, from precision measuring instruments to universal testing machines, all neatly placed in their respective areas with outlines around them indicating the area they should be stored. Not a single piece of lab equipment was out of place. As I toured the lab I saw my soon to be work area, surrounded by machines and monitors displaying hundreds of pieces of data and charts. In less than a week, I realized how my feeling of intimidation was misplaced; the workplace was professional, yes, but it was also friendly and transparent. There were a lot of initiatives taken up by my supervisors which I appreciated. We had short morning meetings to make sure everyone was up to date, which ensured efficiency in communication and work. We also had weekly safety talks to enhance the safety of all workers in the lab.
All these things, in conjunction with the friendly atmosphere and attitude in the lab, made me feel like we were all part of one team. I was not kept out of the process and it was a legitimate morale booster. As time progressed, I was given training on how to operate the machines and learned to perform physical and mechanical tests on the samples. Every day we are expected to produce accurate, repeatable and effective results in a timely fashion.
I was also introduced to Kaizen, an initiative that aims to increase the efficiencies of the current processes by eliminating the seven areas of waste. As my manager amusingly pointed out, it has the neat acronym of TWO DIME: Transportation, Waiting, Over-production, Defects, Inventory, Motion, and Excess-processing.
There are many “Kaizens” around the lab, from angled cameras to ensure proper placement of samples, to fixture placements. The most fantastic part about Kaizen, in my humble opinion, was that many were ideas formulated by past co-op students.
Co-op students coming from different universities are not only able to contribute to the lab in the immediate sense by providing skilled work and labor, but also contribute to the long-term by bringing their insight on how the lab can improve and increase efficiency even further.
The P3T Lab was a fantastic experience for my co-op and I hope that it will provide a fruitful experience to all future students, staff and customers like it did for me!