North­eastern senior Neil Hannah says his co-​​op at a plas­tics and elec­tronics fac­tory in Feng­gang, China, gave him a “foot in the door” with prospec­tive full-​​time employers all over the world.

Working in China for six months is invalu­able in this job market,” says Hannah, a mechan­ical engi­neering major who com­pleted his third expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity with Eastek Inter­na­tional in June.

Almost all man­u­fac­turing takes place in China, Korea and Japan, and I’ve already shown an ability to suc­ceed there,” he says, noting that the growth of industry in Asia has con­vinced him to pursue a career at a technology-​​based start-​​up in China. “They’re building, and building and building, and more and more is going to go on there.”

At Eastek, Hannah increased the oper­a­tional effi­ciency of its injec­tion molding machines—devices that man­u­fac­ture plastic prod­ucts such as iPod cases, routers and med­ical supplies—by decreasing the changeover time between run­ning one product to the next.

After watching video of the old rou­tine, he got to work, making the most out of every move­ment on the fac­tory floor. He built a cart for tools that fac­tory workers used on the machine, and stored it close by. He sub­sti­tuted quick con­nects for screws and tubes that attach to the equip­ment. He econ­o­mized the process of taking out and returning molds.

By the end of the co-​​op, Hannah had reduced the time con­sumed by the process from 45 min­utes to 35 min­utes. He saved the fac­tory 10 to 16 hours per week, making it finan­cially fea­sible to man­u­fac­ture spe­cial orders and increasing the chances of on-​​time delivery.

And although he occa­sion­ally found him­self longing for a slice of pizza, Hannah says he wouldn’t trade the expe­ri­ence for anything.

He motor­cy­cled through Vietnam during the Chi­nese New Year, learned enough of the lan­guage to order food, buy sup­plies for work and give taxi dri­vers direc­tions and got a hands-​​on look at Chi­nese manufacturing.

The last six months have been awe­some,” he says.