Madeline Flandrick: Medical manufacturing

Written by Susan Maas

Enticed by different aspects of different companies, Madeline Flandrick, a student in industrial and systems engineering, was struggling to decide where she’d most enjoy doing her co-op. An in-person tour of one prospective employer’s plant sealed the deal.

“I don’t think I would have picked Heraeus,” a German-based company whose U.S. medical components production site is located in White Bear Lake, Minn. “until I toured their facility. When I got to see how they do everything and the cool robots they use, that really swung my decision,” Flandrick said. “I was pumped.”

Her co-op, which started in January, is Flandrick’s first exposure to medical devices, and she loves it. “Heraeus makes electrodes, coils, implantable housings, guide wires, and other components and assemblies for the world’s most influential medical device companies,” she explains. “Right now the project I’m working on involves leads for pacemakers—the parts are tiny so you have to use a microscope to look at them.”

It’s wildly different from the manufacturing engineering internship Flandrick did last summer, working for a company that makes railroad cars. That’s by design, she said, “I enjoyed myself in the internship, but I wanted to see what other fields could offer.” She’s also getting a work experience that more closely resembles a professional job, with the responsibility and sense of satisfaction that comes with it.

In a co-op, Flandrick said, “you get to see a project from the very, very beginning to the very, very end, and you get to see how the whole process flows. You also have time to figure out how everything works and get to know all the people you work with.

“In my internship, I didn’t feel really comfortable until the very end of the summer—and that’s when you have to leave,” she said.

The benefits of that extra time spent flow both ways, she adds. “It’s not just that you get to work longer and have more experience, but they get to have you longer—and you’re ultimately more useful to the company,” Flandrick said.

One of Flandrick’s roles is to serve as a liaison between the plant’s operations team and the engineers. “Operators will come to me with a question or a problem, and if I don’t know how to solve it, I’ll talk with the engineers and we’ll come up with [a solution],” she said.

“We just sent out our first parts last week,” Flandrick said proudly. “So now we’re working to perfect the process and make sure we can send the rest of the parts out on time.”

Flandrick would recommend the co-op program in a heartbeat. “There’s nothing more important than the work experience you can get from a co-op, because it’s priceless,” she said. “I really like starting to understand how the things I’m learning in school can be applied in the real world.”