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Engineers in the Wild – Shilpa M Shinde, PhD, of FedEx

We all love getting mail. But how does that mail make its way to you? FedEx is one of the companies that makes it happen every day for thousands of people, and Shilpa M Shinde, PhD, is one of the Industrial Engineers that makes that mail move as fast as possible! She’s tackled everything from package sorting to airplane engines. Here’s what it’s liked to engineer solutions to some of FedEx’s biggest problems.

What’s your title?
Project Engineer

Which team do you work on?
Process / Industrial Engineering group

In your own words, what do you do?
I am an industrial engineer. It’s my job to figure out better ways to do things. Engineers make things, but industrial engineers make things better! I work with different teams at FedEx Express to optimize and reengineer various processes. Here are some examples of projects I’ve worked on recently:

  • Washing jet aircraft engines
  • Off-loading packages from FedEx aircrafts
  • Sorting packages in the huge sort facility at Memphis
  • Aircraft maintenance checks

I have to ensure that with each process, we are making the best use of resources while maintaining safety, regulatory and environmental requirements to deliver a world-class customer experience. I look at a lot of data to discover new information that could help with efficiency.

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What toys did you like most as a child?
I loved playing board games like Scotland Yard & Battleship.

What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted to be a cardiologist.

If you were telling a classroom of elementary school students about a really creative and challenging project that you did, what would you say?
When I joined FedEx, one of the first things I was asked to re-engineer was the engine wash process. Who knew that a process as simple as washing an engine using water and detergent could be so interesting and complex. It turned out to be a textbook example of what a day in an industrial engineer’s life would look like. I had to comb through massive amounts of data to figure out the benefits of washing engines. Then we did some experiments to figure out the best process to wash jet engines. Finally, once the best process was identified, we worked with several teams and vendors around the world to implement the new process.

What’s the most fun thing about your job that you didn’t expect when you chose this career?
Being an industrial engineer gives me the opportunity to work on different processes. At FedEx this translates to everything from aircraft maintenance to package movement in the hub to forecasting package volumes. Before I joined FedEx, I worked as a management consultant and as a research assistant and had the opportunity to redesign processes ranging from diamond manufacturing to software programming, from hospital operating room processes to research processes in a lab, from banking processes to transportation processes.

The possibility to learn something new every single day at my job makes it fun for me.

What do you like to do for fun that your co-workers would be surprised by?
Two things, actually. I write a food blog where I catalogue all the new recipes I try at home. I love to experiment with cuisines from different countries and explore new ingredients. I have experimented with foods from all continents except Australia and Antarctica.

Secondly, my husband and I started climbing mountains (really tall ones) about 2 years back. We plan ahead each summer and hope that one day we will climb the tallest mountain on each continent. In 2015 we climbed Mt. Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in continental United States at 14,505’. This year we climbed Mt. Elbert, which is the tallest mountain in the Rockies at 14,439’.

 

Why do you love working at FedEx?
Being part of a company that truly brings the world together is a really amazing feeling. What makes me proud to be part of FedEx is the fact that anywhere in the world you go, FedEx, even after more than 40 years, is associated with on-time delivery.

Engineers in the Wild is a series of interviews with real-life engineers. Click here to read more!

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