The idea for this blog came to me last week when I presented my mother with a homemade gift; it was a scrapbook of sorts. After the “oohs” and “aahs,” my mother asked me how I was able to create such an elaborate gift in such a short amount of time. After I explained my approach to the construction, she nodded her head and remarked, “I knew you would have a strategy with that engineering mind of yours.” At first, I didn’t think anything of this comment and it wasn’t until later that it had me reflecting…what else do I inadvertently plan or optimize in order to save time, money, or both?
So what do industrial engineers do, exactly?
If you search ‘industrial engineer’ (IE) on the internet, you will be provided with various definitions that include the common buzzwords associated with the field: ‘systems engineering,’ ‘operations research,’ ‘quality,’ ‘continuous improvement,’ ‘lean’, ‘logistics,’ to name but a few. In fact Wikipedia, the most “credible of all sources,” says “industrial engineering is a branch of engineering which deals with the optimization of complex processes or systems.”
In addition, your search might also show you the industries where IEs are most prevalent: manufacturing, insurance, healthcare, banking, etc. At West Monroe Partners, our industrial engineers assist on projects in the industries listed above, as well as the distribution and retail sectors – working with our clients to optimize their workforce, create strategic business solutions to reduce labor costs, and maximize quality and efficiency, among many other solutions. Where there is a process, there is potential for improvement.
The sun never sets on an industrial engineer
Now let’s have some fun and look at industrial engineers in a different light. I decided to do an internet search on the personality traits of an industrial engineer, and was humorously unsurprised with my findings. This time my search included words and phrases such as: ‘resourceful,’ ‘creative problem solver,’ ‘strong desire for organization and efficiency.’ I wasn’t surprised, because of course an industrial engineer would possess these characteristics…otherwise, how else would one design and implement innovative solutions across various industries? The true interesting aspect of an IE, in my opinion, is how their personal traits can not only exist in their profession, but in their personal lives as well. The Aristotle quote, “we are what we repeatedly do” has never rung truer to me. So, what are some things that I do on a day to day basis that exemplify the 24/7 industrial engineer in me? The first example: travel. After making the same, daily drive to the office and back home again (when I’m not traveling), I wondered if there was a quicker way to get there. I decided to take alternate routes to the office and time my travel. I conducted this study over the period of a week, and afterwards, I was able to determine which way was quicker pending the time of day or day of the week. I may only be saving 5-10 minutes, but hey, every second counts! The second example: career expectations. The annual review process each year allows us at West Monroe to set career and development goals for ourselves. Trying to remember all of the projects I’ve worked on, all the events I’ve attended, all of the fundraising and volunteering activities I’ve participated in can become difficult to remember. Why not create an excel spreadsheet that acts as a tracker to keep tabs of all that’s been accomplished throughout the course of the year? It sure does make completing my annual review a bit easier. The third and final example: cooking. I’ll preface this example with the fact that I don’t cook that often…but when I do, hey, I’m going to be efficient, right? (This is probably due to the fact that I dislike cooking and want it to be over as soon as I’ve started). When making dinner, I first turn on the oven so that has time to heat up while I prepare the entrée. Once the entrée is placed in the oven, I’m going to set the table and prepare the salad. This ensures maximum productivity in an efficient process and even allows me time to sip on a cold one. If that doesn’t define a 24/7 engineer, then I don’t know what would.
I didn’t choose the engineering life, the engineering life chose me.
Are you an engineer at heart looking for new career opportunities? If so, contact me to discuss!