Co-ops for all companies

Aug 18, 2006

Mahar Tool Supply of Saginaw, Mich., once considered itself too small to develop a relationship with Kettering University's cooperative education program. But since 2002, Kettering students continue to make significant contributions to the firm.

For years, Kettering University enjoyed a successful relationship with General Motors Corp., which supported engineering students during their college career at General Motors Institute, then hired them to work for the corporation. But all that changed in 1982, when the institution became an independent college.

Today, Kettering boasts more than 700 corporate partners from around the world in a multitude of industries, including the aerospace field, intelligence community, sciences, biomedical and biomechanical areas. And while many of the University's corporate partners are large corporations that command billions in sales each year, a major source of exceptional cooperative education assignments are available with smaller, specialized firms that offer invaluable services and personalized care to their clients.

Mahar Tool Supply of Saginaw, Mich., is a smaller firm that has employed Kettering co-op students since 2002. Carrie Mahar Kessel, director and assistant to the CEO, said that the relationship between the firm and University is "a win-win situation. We provide challenging professional opportunities for Kettering students and they bring to Mahar their academic skills and the latest information in the field to our customers and organization to help our client partners stay competitive, decrease scrap and increase through-put," she said. In addition, Kessel noted that many of the companies Mahar works with employ graduates of Kettering University, which was formerly called General Motors Institute. Thus, it made perfect sense to develop a relationship with the University-not only does Mahar receive highly skilled and educated co-op students ready to make a significant impact with the company they work at, but by employing Kettering co-ops Mahar is able to quickly develop a connection with clients.

"When they recognize how much value and responsibility we place in our Kettering co-ops, and how much we support the co-op program, clients who are alumni of the school express their appreciation," Kessel said. "Kettering students are very committed and mature, more so than other co-ops we've employed from other universities. They're very capable and require much less management and hand holding relative to other co-ops because they are so motivated to do a great job. I can't say enough about how well they've performed for Mahar and I look forward to many years of employing Kettering co-op students," she added.

One of those exceptional co-op students is Nathan Kohn, a senior III Mechanical Engineering major from Auburn, which is just north of Bay City, Mich. He has worked as a technical specialist for Mahar since 2002 and the firm often sends him to clients to help with tooling needs. When he is not working on his thesis, Kohn works with the Global Manufacturing Engineering Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) in Dundee, Mich., where the "World Engine" is made cooperatively by DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. Kohn's thesis project examines new composite tooling technology developed by TruLine Tool used to bore the camshaft opening within a 3.5 liter cylinder head at DaimlerChrysler's Kenosha Engine Plant (KEP) in Kenosha, Wis.

"In the past," Kohn said, "previous tools used for this purpose were very heavy and somewhat cumbersome to use." The tool that Kohn developed is lightweight and offers special damping properties, as well as superior stability. Additionally, boring tools are typically very expensive to produce. But Kohn noted that this boring bar offers large cost savings and performs well using the latest technology available in the industry today. Currently, his device is undergoing testing at Chrysler's KEP facility and results are very promising.

For Kessel, this is one example of how important Kettering co-ops are to the company and emphasizes an important service that Mahar Tool Supply can provide its clients partners. "Nathan's work is just another example of how Mahar Tool strives to provide the latest and most current technologies and solutions to our customers," she said. "Today, the only way to stay alive in the manufacturing industry is to continually innovate and reduce costs. Mahar helps clients do this through contractual tool management assistance that targets process improvement, inventory management, technical support and training, and overall bottom-line savings. On the innovation side, efforts like those from Kettering students like Nathan help us provide new innovations that ultimately reduce costs for customers. So our relationship with Kettering is truly making a significant impact with our customers in a very direct, measurable way."

For Kohn, his experience with Mahar has been most enjoyable. He has undertaken many diverse tasks and responsibilities, and finds the professionals at the company to be "honest, hard-working people," he said. "It's really a team environment and everyone wants to do their part-it's a great place to learn and work. My card file and network is several inches thick and represents many contacts I've made since working at Mahar," he added.

During his assignment with the firm, Mahar has sponsored him in the Professional Leadership Honor Society at Kettering, which requires students to maintain a high grade point average and receive nomination for this prestigious recognition from their co-op company. And as far as the future is concerned, Kohn expects big things based on his academic preparation and experience.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538


Mahar Tool Supply: A short history
One highly successful "small" firm is Mahar Tool Supply based in Saginaw, Mich. Mahar Tool is woman-owned and certified by the WBENC. Established in 1947 by James H. Mahar (the company will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2007), the organization is ISO 9001:2000 certified and provides tooling solutions and services to many sectors, such as the marine industry, automotive field, wood working area, RV and medical fields. With facilities in Cadillac, Detroit, Kenosha, Ind., Muncie, Ind., Warsaw, Ind., and Saginaw, and more than 130 full time professionals, Mahar specializes in the distribution of metal removal products, industrial tooling and product management programs. With sales exceeding $120 million each year and with only 130 full-time employees, the firm enjoys high operational efficiency. According to Carrie Mahar Kessel, director and executive assistant to her mother Barb Mahar Lincoln, the company's CEO, the firm's quality policy is "customer satisfaction is priority one."

The history of Mahar becoming a Kettering cooperative education partner dates back to 2002, when Associate Vice President of Alumni Affairs Mike VanSlyke '70 met with Mike Kane, who was then president of Mahar. During dinner one evening, Kane remarked that the firm could use technical support for their tool management programs. VanSlyke, a 38-year retired program manager for GM familiar with the field, recognized an opportunity to connect Mahar with Kettering's cooperative education program and suggested it to Kane. Kane's initial reaction, explained VanSlyke, sounded like many others expressed by representatives of smaller firms. "He asked, 'isn't Mahar too small to hire a co-op student?' I said of course not, that in fact Mahar could represent a new market opportunity for our students," VanSlyke said.