Athens, OH 30 March 2018 –
Consider this post a public “thank you” to the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department – specifically those professors who have taken the time to create meaningful work for us.
Perhaps somewhat oddly, I’d like to start out by admitting that I’ve been known to say that I can’t wait to get out into the “real world” and start working on projects that matter and that will actually have an impact on the world around me. (AKA, it would be nice if I felt that all the time and energy I put into my homework was actually worth something!) I’ve started to realize though that saying this does a great disservice to some of the very meaningful projects I’ve been challenged by my professors to complete over the past five years.
In an effort to right the wrongs of my complaining, I hope that you’ll enjoy reading about some of my favorite assignments below. I hope that you’ll also realize much earlier than I did that there is opportunity to impact people and communities even through homework and class assignments.
West 82 Check-Out Process Improvement (ISE 3340: Work Design)
Some of the main concepts covered in Work Design are time studies, analysis of work processes, and balancing workloads for operators.
West 82 is a quick-service dining option at Baker Student Center on campus which is known to experience periods of high demand around lunch time on weekdays. During these periods of high demand, excessive queuing can become a problem and cause lengthy check-out times that make it difficult for students to get their food and then head out to class on time.
Our project was to observe and assess the check-out process with the end goal of providing recommendations to West 82 management to improve the flow of customers through queues during peak hours. This was my first experience completing a time study, identifying and working with stakeholders of an operation, and presenting results to a real client. Looking back, this project was probably the best preparation I had for my internship at Disney doing very similar studies!
Analysis of FEMA Performance (ISE 4930: Humanitarian Logistics)
Humanitarian Logistics is a course that exposes students to the notion that responses to natural and man-made disasters are both similar and different to commercial logistics activities. As such, it is possible to model these responses and to optimize them like businesses optimize the performance of their logistics networks (with a few key distinctions). These optimization models and their results can then be used to influence public policy concerning future responses.
For this course, each student selected a topic related to humanitarian logistics to research for the semester with the goal of “adding something” to the field. I chose to analyze the performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from its inception to the present and make recommendations on how the organization could improve moving forward. By the end of the course, I had completed my first research report that (with extra help and polishing) has the potential to be published in a scholarly journal and actually – maybe – impact this policies governing FEMA in the future!
Alden Library Automation (ISE 4311: Applied Systems Engineering)
Applied Systems Engineering is a course that discusses the importance of thoughtfully planning a system based on specific design requirements. The course stresses the importance of identifying and working with key stakeholders, obtaining specific design criteria, understanding the potential impacts of a project on a variety environmental factors, considering and planning for a system’s lifecycle, and meeting critical milestones.
Our team project was working with Alden Library and the Engineering Librarian to improve their operations through automation. In an age where the internet seems to have all the answers and printed text seems “old school”, the library is trying to add value by way of expertise to stay relevant to the community. To do this effectively, they need more time to do “value-added” tasks!
A main goal of this project was to decrease the amount of time that library staff spent doing mundane tasks (like checking-in books and reshelving them) so that they would be free to do more interesting and meaningful work like helping students. We met with our stakeholders, observed the check-in and reshelving processes, interviewed staff, and eventually recommended both short-term and long-term options to improve the process. We then presented our recommendations to our client for their consideration.
As a side note, you may think that automation equipment is unnecessary in a library—or even that it is unrealistic! To be honest, I felt the same way until we dug into this project. What actually convinced me that it was viable was a chance encounter with the Greene County Public Library (in my hometown) where they had just installed automation equipment for the purposes described above. It was amazing and incredibly timely to see their equipment in action. While I couldn’t find a video from our library, this
system at the Hancock County Public Library is almost identical.
Understanding Human Trafficking as a Supply Chain to Identify Methods of High-Impact Disruption (ISE 4325: Supply Chain Engineering)
Supply Chain Engineering is a course about designing effective supply chains and learning about various techniques to optimize the design of these networks to fit with the strategy of a business.
I am currently taking this class, and our semester project allowed us to select a topic related to supply chain engineering to research in detail and find a way to “add to” the field (much like the project in Humanitarian Logistics…likely because the courses are taught by the same professor!). My partner and I decided to look into how illicit human trafficking could be mapped onto a supply chain framework. It’s definitely a heavy topic to study, but the implications of understanding how illicit supply chains like those of human trafficking and drug trafficking are organized are key to breaking them down.
The action of intercepting and preventing the movement of a prohibited commodity or person is called “interdiction” and is actually a sub-field of supply chain research. Normally in supply chain engineering, the goal is to optimize the performance of a given network. In interdiction, the goal is to identify the most critical links in a supply chain in order to take high-impact action against them and eventually cripple the supply chain.
So there you have it—just a few of my favorites! And of course, a big thank you to our ISE department and professors for some great project experiences!