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Anatole Wiering: Machine upgrade

Written by Susan Maas

Anatole Wiering, an electrical engineering student, took an alternative path into his co-op at Kohler Co., the Wisconsin-based manufacturer of kitchen and bath products, engines and power systems, and furniture and cabinetry. He was approached by his high school mentor, a longtime Kohler employee, and encouraged to apply for a position.

Gaining approval from the University’s co-op program was a “piece of cake,” Wiering said.

“I had to contact the co-op program here to make sure everything would work out, because I wasn’t applying through their process,” Wiering said. “There was one small glitch, but it was easily handled. If you’re able to coordinate with a hometown employer on your own, [the U] will allow you to do it.”

Wiering, who is from the Manitowoc-Two Rivers area, had interned at Kohler the summer after high school graduation. The co-op he landed was very different.

"I worked on the manufacturing side, in maintenance. We worked on maintaining a lot of custom-built machines, and a couple new installs as well,” he said. In contrast to a summer internship, the co-op gave him ample time to learn and then to delve into his own project.

In an internship, “you need to take that three months to learn what’s going on,” he said. “With the co-op, you then have another four months to apply that. So you can actually contribute.”

“In the beginning I just tagged along with them; they showed me a lot about the basics of what they do. After that, I started picking up some small projects, working along with them, asking questions. Near the end, I was working quite a bit more independently,” he said.

One of Wiering’s projects was to work with a mechanical engineering co-op student (from a Wisconsin university) to upgrade a machine on the assembly line for small engines. “I designed the control panel and worked on programming the design for the integration,” Wiering said. “I worked with the mechanical engineering co-op student every step of the way to make sure it worked as we expected.” And?

“They were using it on the assembly line before I left,” he said with a smile. “Initially I thought, this is a pretty big challenge because of the [limited] time I had left. I wasn’t sure I would finish. But we did—and it was great to see it work.”

His other main project at Kohler was just as gratifying. “It was a large, long-term project that involved a lot of debugging and testing. It took a long time to finally get that working. I probably put more than 100 hours into the project, most of it by myself. Getting it working smoothly was great.”