Cody Swan: Rhode Island innovation, global advantage

Cody Swan
Hometown: Glocester, R.I.
Age: 22
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Every week Cody Swan brings the classroom to the real world. The intern at Toray Plastics (America) has learned how the knowledge he learns from a lecture or in a book translates in the marketplace.

In class, only imagination limits the design of the next breakthrough. As an intern working closely with engineers at the plastic film maker in North Kingstown, R.I., Swan has found new appreciation for the realities of budgets and limited resources.

“When you work for a company and actually make things, you understand what can actually be made,” Swan says. “You can draw anything with a program but machine shops can’t always produce it. The biggest thing is learning what you actually can and can’t do.”

Swan began interning at Toray in June 2011. Plant engineers tasked him with redesigning inefficient parts on the manufacturing floor and improving safety. They also told him to stay within budget.

Cody Swan
Cody Swan at Toray Plastics (America)

On the manufacturing floor, he noticed maintenance workers regularly removing and replacing a flange held in by a handful of bolts. To speed up the laborious process, Swan redesigned the flange with a single wing nut. The new design dramatically speeds up the process and eliminates the need for tools.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Swan says. “But to compete with the lower wages overseas I really think you need to focus on efficiency, cost and being safe.”

Swan has found success meeting those goals. The mechanical engineering student has worked with the engineering, maintenance and safety staff at Toray, finding ways in each area to reduce costs and improve efficiency without compromising safety.

Toray has invested heavily in training interns like Swan, seeing the value of future engineers who understand the business side and the engineering side.

“It’s important we remain competitive and one of our big objectives here is to make sure we’re a low-cost manufacturer,” Toray President Richard Schloesser says. “URI engineering students are learning the latest and greatest techniques and we may not know about those.”