Kettering graduate thriving at a Michigan ‘Company to Watch’

Jul 30, 2013

“Kettering just makes good engineers,” Will Sommerville said. “If you look at the roster of alumni, they just do abnormally well."

As an Electrical Engineering student at Kettering University, Will Sommerville ‘05 noticed the success of the University’s graduates early on.

Will Sommerville ‘05“Kettering just makes good engineers,” Sommerville said. “If you look at the roster of alumni, they just do abnormally well, and I’ve heard that wherever I’ve gone in both industry and other colleges. The trick to it is you’re working while going to school, so you have the right perspective and can ask the right questions going back into the classroom. Everything you’re learning at Kettering is needed in the engineering world.”

Now Sommerville is counted among those successful alumni. He’s currently the Chief Technology Officer at OPS Solutions in Novi, a company that produces Light Guide Systems. Light Guide is a software based system developed for industry that uses projected work instructions in the form of text, images, animation, and videos to guide an operator through manual work. The technology is applicable to assembly, material handling, gauging and fixturing, inspection, and training activities for companies both large and small.

 Light Guide Systems“It’s really innovative technology,” Sommerville said. “It’s the kind of technology that is taking our economy in the right direction.”

The company was recently recognized by the state of Michigan precisely because the innovation is a driver of economic growth --OPS Solutions was named one of 50 Michigan ‘Companies to Watch’ by the Edward Lowe Foundation and Michigan Celebrates Small Business.

That role in helping the company spur Michigan’s economic revival was an exciting draw to the company for Sommerville.

“What drives economic growth is higher productivity, fewer mistakes, less waste and that’s exactly what Light Guide Systems is for,” Sommerville said. “Working on this, I feel like we’re helping to bring Michigan back and bring U.S. manufacturing back to a competitive position in the global economy.”

 Light Guide SystemsOPS Solutions works with a variety of companies with manufacturing needs, including meeting stringent quality standards or production goals, keeping costs low and keeping their processes flexible to allow the companies to more easily meet rapidly changing demands. Sommerville, as Chief Technology Officer, has several responsibilities, including developing new features in the Light Guide software, ensuring the systems function well in the customer environment, and making sure both the PC software and the hardware interfaces are robust.

Being versatile is a big part of Sommerville’s job, and that’s something that his education, which started at Kettering, helped prepare him for.

“Kettering helps you understand that, in a corporate setting, it’s not enough to just understand the math or science or engineering principles,” said Sommerville, who also has a master’s degree and is getting a PhD from Oakland University. “Through co-op, you learn the context that your skills are valuable in and you learn about other elements of fitting into a company -- quality constraints, office politics, logistics constraints and so on. You learn that there’s often more than one solution to a problem. Kettering students have to apply what they learn in a way that students at other schools don’t always get to.”

Sommerville also joked that while the process to get his senior thesis approved at Kettering seemed like an annoyance at the time, it was actually great preparation for the corporate world.

“I always joke that when you get a thesis at Kettering, it’s a pain to get through the process,” he said. “Everyone always says, ‘Why is it so hard to get my thesis approved?’ Well, that’s exactly what the corporate world is like. You have to know how to go to people’s offices, get their attention, make them sign documents, chase people down and find them. That’s the best experience you can get.”

More information about OPS Solutions.