Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Technology - Understanding, Analysis and Improvement by Industrial Engineers

"Industrial engineers design, improve, and install integrated systems of people, materials, information, equipment, and energy." Key among these things we do are improvement and integration. "Industrial engineers are involved in products, processes, and services, from "hard-core" manufacturing to health care and insurance"

Source: "Technology's Impact on the Future of Industrial Engineering"
C. Patrick Koelling, Mario G. Beruvides, and Kriengkrai Tankoonsombut,
Computers ind. Engng VoL 31, No. 1/'2, pp. 5 - 8,1996
19th International Conference on Computers and Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineering improves productivity of production and other engineering systems through redesigning products, processes and optimizing using mathematical and statistical methods. It also uses economic analysis to identify and reject non economic engineering ideas or designs. It measures work, cost and productivity to understand the current performance of engineering systems. It redesign human work to improve productivity. It examines the productivity impact of  management methods and redesigns them also. It also takes responsibility for productivity management of the organization. So whenever a new technology emerges in an organization or a potentially useful technology emerges in the environment industrial engineers have the responsibility to understand it, analyze it and improve it.

Understanding the New Technology

The is the starting point. Because industrial engineers are responsible for productivity measurement and improvement of the use of new technology in the organization, they have to begin understanding it the moment they become aware of it. They have to start reading the articles, the brochures distributed by the sellers of the technology or developers of the technology, attend seminars on technology, and utilise the opportunities to observe the technology in use etc.  

Engineering Economic Analysis

The next step after adequate understanding is the engineering economic analysis. Whenever a new technology appears, industrial engineers have to identify the defender technology in the organization and see whether in the economic analysis the new technology wins or the defender technology wins. If the new technology wins, they have to recommend its adoption. To do engineering economic analysis, industrial engineers have to estimate the costs and benefits of the new technology and defender technology. This forces them to go into more details of the new technology and as they complete the engineering economic analysis, they will have much better grasp of the new technology. 

In case the defender technology wins, the adoption of the new technology is postponed. But industrial engineers have to monitor developments in new technology that are going to improve cost parameters of the new technology. So, industrial engineers have redo engineering economic analysis of new technology versus defender technology periodically to check and find time at which the new technology becomes economically the appropriate choice. In this exercise, industrial engineers become more and more conversant with the technology.

Productivity Assessment and Improvement

Engineering economic analysis is a strategical level analysis in the problem of technology adoption. As the technology is being implemented in the organization various problems crop up and technology implementors come out with various adhoc solutions to solve the teething problems that are more location specific. When  the production bugs are sorted out and commercial production starts, the project of technology implementation is declared success and closed. Now the responsibility of running the facilities with the new technology is transferred to the operations function. Industrial engineers now have the responsibility of recording the actual processes being used by the operations people and evaluate the productivity implications of them. This particular studies can be categorised as "operations industrial engineering analysis." Operation analysis is the term used by H.B. Maynard to study the production process of a component or product. It involves the study of every resource used in the production process to identify waste, come out with an engineering idea to eliminate the waste and do the required design or arrange for the required development and design so that low cost alternatives that eliminate the waste are implemented in the process. This is the productivity improvement contribution by industrial engineers. Productivity improvement studies of a process are to be conducted periodically and also whenever IEs feel that there is a technological development that has the potential to improve productivity of a process. This makes the industrial engineering department responsible for monitoring technology developments that have productivity benefits for the organization.

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