It’s the summer in the US, which means it’s intern season for Tulip and our customers. One interesting pattern we see every summer is interns using Tulip as part of their summer internship. As an intern myself, here as some of the reasons why I think this makes for a great intern project:

A clear-cut project they can deliver within their internship

The worst kind of internship is the one you have nothing to show for. Intern projects are notoriously hard to scope, however. They need to be manageable enough to complete in a few months but complex enough build new skills along the way. Too often this leads to trivial projects that don’t build skills or massive undertakings that can’t be accomplished before classes start. 

Building a Tulip app is complex enough to learn something significant about manufacturing yet manageable enough that you can do it in 1 month or less. Working with your mentor, you can choose a manufacturing process that could benefit from an app, build the app, and get it going on the shop floor. 

Building the app from end-to-end–from sketching a workflow to adding triggers and connecting IoT devices to seeing the data it collects–is a perfect way to learn about manufacturing in today’s factories, and something you can perfectly well do within an internship.

Lets them have a real and lasting impact on production

Many internship projects don’t move the needle. It’s untrue that most interns spend their time just making coffee runs for execs, but it is true that a lot of interns get stuck on tasks like data entry. In this situation, neither the company nor the intern is getting the most out of their time together.

Building Tulip apps is an easy way for an intern to make a lasting impact on the organization. Even though the apps might take the interns a few weeks to build, they can remain in production as long as the company needs them. Better yet, engineers can continue to customize and build upon the initial app built by the intern. How many interns can say they build a tool that creates value every day? 

Demonstrate ROI on a small scale without disrupting your operations

Digital transformation initiatives such as digitizing work instructions are often put off because everyone has a full-time job. Factories are often staffed with just enough people to run, and not enough to change. 

Having an intern contribute to ground-level digital transformation work lets the rest of your team stay focused on high priority tasks. Interns can help make micro-progress toward bigger picture goals. By the time the rest of the team is ready to take over, an infrastructure will be in place, and you’ll be in a position to demonstrate ROI. 

Lets them gain valuable skills for their career

According to Deloitte, 60% of manufacturers ranked the skills shortage as having a high or very high impact on productivity over the next three years. Training the next generation of workers and helping them get excited about a career in manufacturing is essential. 

Letting interns spend time learning how to build IoT enabled apps is great for their careers as it is a skill in increasing demand. Furthermore, it is great for the industry and your company to train the next gen of engineers with the skills they need to bring Industry 4.0 to your shop floor. 

Helping your interns be successful – the role of the manager

As a manager, you play a pivotal role in your interns’ success. Giving them the opportunity to build apps for production is part of this. But ensuring they have everything they need to be successful is even more important. Here are some best practices we’ve seen with our most successful interns:

1.) Help identify and prioritize the use case at the project kickoff – the better the intern understands the need for the app and the desired outcome, the more likely they are to succeed.

2.) Help define a process you want to digitize – learning Tulip means learning manufacturing. Help the intern really understand how the manufacturing process they’ve been assigned works. 

3.) Provide a space to demo the app they build, give feedback, and iterate – don’t wait until the last day to test the app! An intern can deliver a minimum viable product in a few days with the right guidance. Let them see how the app functions in real conditions early, and give them an opportunity to make changes as necessary. Continuous improvement is a culture as much as a technique. 

4.) Define the criteria for success – This will depend on your operations and your intern. Maybe success is a fully productionizable app. Maybe it’s a template that full-time employees can customize as needed. Maybe it’s something smaller scale, like building a specific set of tables. You know your operations and your intern. Help them understand what success looks like. 

5.) Commit to deploying the app to production if the criteria for success are met – This gives them something to brag about when they go back to school and hear that all of their friends spent the summer on coffee runs. 

How to get started

If you are not currently a Tulip customer, your interns can start a free trial and use the product for free. The free trial includes an onboarding session with a Tulip success manager, which means your intern will have additional resources to help your team scope the project and develop the apps you want.