Every year, Physio-Control selects a small group of promising college students to participate in the 10-week Physio-Control Summer Internship Program. But it’s hard to call these students “interns.” In fact, they’re nothing less than highly valued team members—going on local EMS agency customer ride-alongs, interacting with senior leadership, identifying areas for improvement and making significant and lasting contributions to the company’s success.

The program is structured to give the students both a broad-based overview of Physio-Control and a specific project to focus on. Throughout the summer, the interns meet with senior executives in operations, finance, marketing, R&D and other departments to learn about the different areas of the company and how they function as a whole. Each student is also assigned a mentor to help the intern identify, plan and execute a project that addresses a critical business need. In a sign of just how seriously Physio-Control takes the internship program, at the end of the internship the interns summarize their research and findings in a formal presentation attended by all of the company’s senior managers, including CEO Brian Webster.

For Physio-Control, the benefits of the internship program are numerous. Representing some of the brightest students in the Pacific Northwest in fields such as electrical engineering, materials science, manufacturing and supply chain management and marketing, the interns put their considerable talents to work for the company. The students’ energy, fresh perspectives and curiosity invariably lead to new insights and improvements. In addition, the internship program gives Physio-Control a pipeline of potential team members who have already proven themselves as interns. Even among students who haven’t participated in the internship program, the program’s stellar reputation boosts recruitment efforts. The word is out: Physio-Control is a great place for talented young people to start their careers.

As interns at Physio-Control, students have an extraordinary opportunity to apply their academic training at the world’s leading emergency medical response device manufacturer. Rather than performing low-level work, they’re creating solutions that directly impact the company’s bottom line. With the skills and experience they gain at Physio-Control, the students are well-positioned to succeed in the medical device industry and beyond. In many cases, though, they find they enjoyed their internships so much that they choose to come back to Physio-Control as full-time team members following graduation.

“I’m consistently amazed by the intelligence, drive and eagerness to learn displayed by every one of our interns,” says Brian Webster, Physio-Control CEO. “This is not an easy program, and certainly not a typical internship. Yet these students step up to the challenge and, through their diverse projects, make Physio-Control a better company. But it’s not just Physio-Control who wins. Our interns gain skills that will serve them well the rest of their careers. At the same time, their work is helping us give people around the world a better chance of surviving a medical emergency. With this kind of impact, it’s no wonder we value the internship program—and our interns—so highly.”

The summer of 2012 brought another exceptional class of interns to Physio-Control. These 11 students made outstanding contributions across the company, from HR to operations to R&D. Here’s a look at three interns and their projects:

Luke French – mechanical engineering

Luke graduated in spring 2012 from the University of Washington with a degree in mechanical engineering. His internship project focused on the design of one of Physio-Control’s flagship products, the LIFEPAK® 15 monitor/defibrillator. At the beginning of his research he asked three questions: What accounts for the weight of the 15? How does its durability and weight compare to that of other defibrillators? And what can be improved?

Like all the interns, Luke was extremely meticulous in his approach: He disassembled 15s and competitive devices, analyzing each component and recording the data in a set of detailed graphs. Luke’s data confirmed that although the 15 is slightly heavier than some similar devices, this is because the LIFEPAK 15 is ruggedly built and packed with useful features. As a result, emergency medical teams in the field have a device they can count on in the toughest conditions.

Going forward, the focus will shift to creating devices that are both highly robust and lighter in weight. Luke investigated promising ways to reduce the weight of future products without compromising durability. His research will play an important role in the future design of our LIFEPAK devices.

“I tip my hat to Physio-Control,” says Luke. “I was really impressed with the internship program. The projects are great and the leadership is engaged and interested, which was very motivating. For me, it was an excellent example of how a company can invest in a program that helps itself, but also gives young people an unparalleled experience.”

Kiah Lesher – industrial mechanical engineering

Kiah Lesher is a Seattle native now entering her senior year as an industrial mechanical engineering major at the University of Washington. She spent her internship looking into an issue of critical importance: How can customer orders be processed faster and more efficiently?

For answers, Kiah turned to Lean Manufacturing, a production philosophy pioneered by Toyota in the 1980s that seeks to eliminate waste and inefficiency. Utilizing a Lean technique called value stream mapping, Kiah created detailed diagrams that mapped out every stage of the Physio-Control production process. Kiah then used the value stream maps to suggest specific, actionable improvements.

For example, Kiah found that a simple schedule and procedural change would reduce part of the order process to a fifth of its current time. She also identified the fact that streamlining the process for international credit checks would get overseas orders out the door significantly faster. In addition, Kiah drew up a new floor plan that reduced by 50% the distance team members need to walk in the shipping area, resulting in faster order completion.

For Kiah, improving manufacturing processes “is all about really basic things. You don’t need brand new, expensive machines—you just have to get to the root causes of problems and find the simple solutions.”

Kiah reports that her internship was a great experience. “At first you think, ‘I’m just an intern, no one will listen to me.’ But then you start seeing your suggestions being implemented, and it’s really rewarding.”

Duane Garrison – manufacturing and supply chain management

Duane Garrison’s internship project, like Kiah’s, focused on improving operations within the Physio-Control order fulfillment process. It was a perfect fit for Duane, who studied manufacturing and supply chain management at Western Washington University. In fact, his internship gave him the final credit he needed to graduate.

While Kiah approached the order process from both ends, looking to simplify and speed up the way orders are entered and shipped, Duane addressed the middle of the order process (Duane compares their two projects to a sandwich). In this stage, parts for the LIFEPAK devices are taken from warehouse shelves and assembled into the final product. Duane’s task was to identify more efficient ways to move components from the warehouse to the production floor.

Toward this goal, Duane first analyzed the current order assembly procedure and then created a comprehensive replenishment schedule to better regulate the flow of parts. With this schedule, material handlers are assigned specific rotations, so they know when to be at each assembly station to collect empty parts bins for refilling. At the same time, the schedule lets the handlers know how many empty bins to expect at each station. If a bin is not empty, they can flag it as a possible problem.

Duane also mapped out a more logical “delivery route”—the path from the warehouse to the assembly stations—which would reduce distance per route by 67% and the time needed per route by 21% over current figures.

For Duane, the internship was an excellent opportunity to put his classroom learning to work in a place where his outsider’s perspective was appreciated. “The people at Physio-Control really wanted to hear our opinions,” says Duane, “because we weren’t tainted by the status quo. To go into a meeting, suggest changes, and see heads nodding in agreement—for an intern, it was a great feeling.”

Three interns, three unique experiences. Yet these students—and all of the participants in the internship program, past and present—have something in common. Their work, in ways large and small, has helped Physio-Control further its mission of giving emergency care patients everywhere their best possible outcomes. No matter where they go in their careers, the interns at Physio-Control have made a contribution of which they can always be proud.

Physio-Control has already begun recruiting for the 2014 Summer Internship Program, which runs June through August 2014. Students interested in applying or who would like additional information about the program should visit the Physio-Control Careers page.