Campus & Community

Stevens Engineering Management Students Design Workflow Model For L'Oreal

From raw materials to finished product, discrete event model identifies bottlenecks and improves forecasting

The mere mention of beauty elicits all kinds of responses, because as the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But there is a science to beauty. After all, L’Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics company, can trace its roots back to a hair dye formula developed by a young chemist in the early 1900s. 

Today, beauty is big business. In the U.S., revenue estimates for beauty products in 2016 exceed 60 billion dollars. 

Gina Salmins is a consumer of these beauty products, and she recently got a behind the scenes look at what takes place at the warehouse of L’Oreal. Her fellow Stevens engineering management classmates – Michele Meade, Robert Sarrow and Peter Yeung – joined her on a tour of the L’Oreal DemiGrand facility in New Jersey. They were selected by the company to review their current flow of raw materials and provide them with solutions to the following areas: waste management, inventory control, and movement of raw materials.

“What I found most interesting was experiencing the backbone of a company so prevalent in its industry and one that I am a long time customer,” says Salmins who is joining the IT Leadership Development Program at Johnson & Johnson after graduation.

The four students got a first-hand look at the process of getting beauty products to market. “A lot goes into planning things out before a chemist even gets started making a product,” points out Meade who plans on working in the construction industry after graduation.

An engineering approach to addressing market changes

In your neighborhood drug store, on the subway from Hoboken N.J. to New York City, or on your favorite cable news network – images of beauty products are everywhere. Beauty is ubiquitous, but the market is in constant flux.

And even the world's largest cosmetics company struggles with forecasting for potential market changes. 

As part of their Senior Design Project, these four engineering management students leveraged what they learned in their Stevens engineering management coursework to develop a discrete event model and layout recommendation for L’Oreal’s storage facility. 

“The engineering management curriculum has assisted me throughout the entire design process, most notably, the modeling and simulation course where the members learned how to use modeling software to create an environment where assumptions are backed by data,” says Sarrow, who will start his consulting career at Protiviti.

Their solution addresses fluctuating inventory and demand at L’Oreal, and helps ensure an efficient workflow from raw materials to finished product. It also identifies bottlenecks in the system and allows for any proposed change in the process to be tested and analyzed before applied, therefore minimizing risk.

The team based their design on L’Oreal’s raw materials workflow operations, but the model combined with the application of Lean Manufacturing and 5S methodology can be adapted for use in other types of warehouses to improve processes as well, according to the team. 

Yeung points to the technical skills and knowledge he obtained from Stevens as well.  “It helped us identify the flaws of their software system that many other companies have already switched over to for better efficiency and user-friendliness,” says Yeung, who is targeting client-facing project management positions after Stevens. “The modeling classes at Stevens definitely contributed to our efforts to provide options for use in any type of inventory systems,” he adds.

In addition to leveraging engineering approaches, their fresh perspectives on the beauty and cosmetics industry enabled them to provide unbiased recommendations based on data. 

“Working with L’Oreal was a very fun and new experience for me because it is the first time that I am applying my skills and knowledge to a product found in almost every household, and advertised on thousands of billboards, commercials and magazines,” says Salmins. 

Meade enjoyed her experience too. “This is the first time at Stevens that I worked on a project that I had little background knowledge about, but working with L’Oreal was one of my favorite projects,” she says.

For Sarrow, it was seeing the results of their work. “The most interesting thing about working with L’Oreal was seeing our simulation actually make an impact on the company,” he says.

The project will be on display at Stevens Institute of Technology’s Annual Innovation Expo on May 3.