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From Welding to Winning in Manufacturing Operations

Mitch Breit 1500x400

Mitch Breit

As a high school student, Mitch Breit thought he was destined to become a welder. It was a trade that made sense to him, and the transformation of raw steel into something of value was fascinating. After graduating from high school, Mitch enrolled in training and technical courses for welding, earning a 4.0 GPA. But later, on the job as a full-time welder in Northern Wisconsin, Mitch felt a flicker of doubt that welding was really his destiny. His supervisors warned him that welding was grueling, physically intensive work to do your whole life. Knowing that he had a desire to make things, Mitch began to consider a future in operations management instead.

Since his change of heart six years ago, Mitch has been working full-time and taking classes part-time. At first he took courses online and at community colleges, but once he discovered the operations management courses at CCAPS, he decided to commit to a full undergraduate degree. The Manufacturing Operations Management (MM) degree suited Mitch well, and he made his way steadily through the program, taking classes at night and working during the day to pay for his education. During his senior year, Mitch took an internship for UTC Aerospace Systems, and his application of MM principles at the internship earned him a job offer to be a procurement associate. Mitch accepted and hasn’t looked back.

We sat down with Mitch to learn a bit more about his experience in the MM program as well as the internship that led to him landing a great job.


What do you love about manufacturing and operations management?

I like to make things. As a kid, I was always trying to put things together, take them apart, and put them back together. That was what got me interested in welding and manufacturing in general. Then what pushed me toward operations management was, I’m really people-oriented. As an ops manager you have people report to you and you have to be able to deal with any issues they’re having and be empathetic toward them. If you work in supply chain management, you have suppliers to maintain good relationships with, and that was appealing to me, too.


What did you appreciate about the MM program?

First off, it was really convenient. I could work during the day and go to classes at night. The MM program was also a really nice mix of online and in-person courses. The small class sizes were extremely beneficial because I could send my instructor an email or talk after class and they knew who I was. In addition, a lot of the instructors are adjunct, so they’re approachable and they have a lot of industry knowledge. They could speak about subjects from a variety of different perspectives, which was really interesting. It generally seemed like all the instructors cared about me graduating. They did anything they could to help me, which was pretty nice.


Mitch Breit 500x400


Tell us about your internship with UTC Aerospace. What responsibilities did you have?

For 12 weeks during the summer, I worked full-time as a purchasing intern for UTC Aerospace, making sure purchases for components were ordered and completed on time. At UTC Aerospace, we manufacture products in-house to make parts for aircraft, but sometimes a component will need something done to it that we don’t have the capability of doing, so we send it to an outside supplier to get that operation completed. We then bring that product back in and that operation keeps going. I was responsible for managing that process. I would be given information for making a purchase order, then I would ship out the components to whatever supplier they needed it to go to. While the components were out, I would get updates from the supplier, and once we got it back, I’d make sure it was sent where it needed to go internally. I kept a weekly journal throughout the internship and did a final report and presentation at the end. In the report, I broke down my responsibilities and talked about which MM courses I’d applied during the internship.


What were some of those classes you drew on for your internship?

Regulated Industry Compliance was one. That class is centered on FDA regulations, but I was able to understand more about the need for regulations in general. At UTC we make flight-critical components, like the sensors that tell pilots air speed, outside temperature, altitude, or the pitch of the plane. If anything goes wrong with those components, people’s lives are in serious danger. This MM course gave me an appreciation for why strict regulations are necessary in different industries when making components and products.

The Manufacturing Outsourcing Decisions course was useful, too, because we talked about procurement and purchasing decisions, which helped me in my internship. I also took another supply chain management class that helped with my responsibilities. So there were a lot of classes that informed my internship. That was a big thing I loved about the MM program: much of the content was based on real-life experiences that these instructors had, which we could relate to. That was really powerful.

"I’ve already recommended the MM program to others. It’s a program that doesn’t get enough attention for what it’s worth. This program is really great for people like me who work and need flexibility in their schedule and in what they get out of their degree program." 

Were you faced with any challenges during your internship?

I trained for a couple of weeks on this process I would be doing, wherein supervisors would put in requests for me to send out components to outside processing suppliers. It was a pretty steep learning curve and I had to learn in a hurry and take on responsibility fast. Well, one day there was a miscommunication and some components ended up being shipped out to the supplier and we didn’t have any record of a request in our system. I had to try to solve the mystery myself, trial by fire. The supplier called me and said, “Hey, there’s no purchase order with these.”  I suddenly had people from that manufacturing product line contacting me saying, “Hey, we’re going to run out of these. We’re going to have a line down if we don’t get these parts in.”

Parts usually have a two-week lead time, but they were needed in four days. We managed to turn them around in those four days, but it was something I just had to figure out on the fly. This isn’t something that is done on a regular basis. So expediting issues like that have happened, forcing me to work with the supplier to get them in faster. It gets hectic at times, but it’s a good challenge.  


And you got offered a job at the end of all of that!

Yep! My official title is Procurement Associate. Most of my responsibilities are the same as my internship, but I think this process will be changing. In the future, I might manage a couple of commodities instead of managing the whole process. I’ll have the responsibility of buying new products. I’ll have to look at manufacturing demands and place orders based on when we need different components.


What are some of your future goals?

I’d like to get into commodity management. Commodity managers look at the commodity on a site level and oversee everything. They also negotiate contracts, set pricing, and do all that high-level activity that flows down to the purchasing level. Eventually I’d like to move back into the operations side of things. Then I’m going to go back to school for my MBA.


Any parting words about the MM program?

I’ve already recommended the MM program to others. It’s a program that doesn’t get enough attention for what it’s worth. This program is really great for people like me who work and need flexibility in their schedule and in what they get out of their degree program. The program allows you to take a lot of different electives that fulfill the degree requirements. I think I took 15 credits of electives, which was awesome because then I could try different things. I got to try supply chains, quality, and engineering. It’s nice to get that overview and see what you want to do.