IIE Annual Conference blogging – Tuesday sessions

I hope my notes from yesterday were beneficial or at least interesting to read. Here are some notes from the sessions and tour I attended today. I think this could be a good way for members to get an idea of what they can find at the Annual Conference so I hope to continue this for future conferences. I also met up with a couple other chapter members who are here and I will see if they would like to share information from additional sessions. (Ed note: I started this on Tuesday so that’s why the time-sense seems off.)

Coaching and Advising the Next Generation of IE’s (panel)
• Successful IE’s not only have good technical skills, but strong leadership, finance and analytic skills. The are usually self-motivated and perform well with minimal direction.
• IE’s should pay attention to diverse tool sets – solving the next unknown problem – and core fundamentals – how to tackle a problem regardless how technology makes it easier to solve.
• How do you get someone out of a rut? Get uncomfortable. You are typically too comfortable if you’ve been in your role 5+ years.
• Best career advice the panelists have received? Deb: Plan your next move a year ahead; it usually takes that long to set in motion so be a step ahead. Mike: Look/plan for your 2nd move, and do the best you can in your current position. Hans: Run for an IIE office; it is a safe place to develop leadership skills (he is on the IIE Board of Trustees)

Pepsi Bottling and Frito Lay tours
• The Pepsi site was equipped to fill all 4 types of vessels – cans, bottles, gallon jugs (iced tea) and bag-in-box (for soda machines). All production lines are fully automated, from vessel loading to palletizing.
• They have separate quick turn (local distribution) and deep (regional distribution) storage.
• 1-2 years prior they insourced part of their bottle manufacturing. They realized that they were wasting money shipping air when a vendor made their bottles. They now order preforms – basically looks like a large test tube with a twist cap top – and do their own blow molding on site.
• The Frito Lay site is the oldest facility in that part of the company. On the production side they are very similar to the Topeka facility (which is key if the product is going to be uniform for all customers from 30+ facilities).
• As a result of their current location and neighbors, they do not have the room to expand to automate the packaging and warehousing functions.  All post-bag fill processes are done manually. Despite this, the Orlando facility has been in the Top 4 facilities in cost and production improvement over the previous year for the past 4 years. (Most sites are only on there one year at a time.)
• Internal studies have shown that newer facility in Perry, GA, which has approximately twice the production capacity with the same staff as Orlando, can nearly cover the Orlando production demand at the same cost – transportation included.

What Leaders Look for in Promoting IE’s to Management (panel)
• Some qualities looked for in leaders: transferable leadership skills – moving between groups and still being effective; collaborating for the greater good; big picture perspective; big picture perspective; connecting the dots between technical requirements and strategic outcome; developer of talent; ability to influence outcomes.
• Understanding the importance of cultural fit: “Drink the Kool-Aid!” Being a leader is about inspiring the people you work with, embodiment of the culture.
• Recognize, understand and navigate office “politics”, but stay above the fray. Don’t burn trust. Use politics to your advantage – know how to effectively lobby your decision makers.
• Biggest challenges of transitioning to management: the aspect of delegating tasks and accepting the work/answer received without trying to re-do it yourself; delivering negative feedback.
• The need for IE’s in the future: Human Resources. Their systems and processes are similar to where health systems were 20 years ago.
• How to recognize potential: keep an eye on the results your new talent is producing, give direction to their leader as needed; identify candidates that can be your replacement; “Strong leaders hire people smarter than themselves.”
• Needs beyond the technical background to get into high positions: Operations experience is always well received; transferable skills and lateral moves; be willing to volunteer to take on new experiences; external volunteering – charity, religious, philanthropic, etc. (not just an IIE plug); learn what to do from your good bosses and what not to do from your bad ones.

Guerrilla Transformation – Change an Insurgency into a Movement
• Even though many companies hire “the best and the brightest”, a feeling persists that they eventually become lazy and uninspired. This is usually because they are beaten into cogs via corporate culture.
• Corporate culture is rooted in nostalgia – compare Facebook and Google to General Motors, IBM and Kodak. It creates incremental evolution at a glacial pace, even in technological areas.
• Corporate culture is a type of social network/community. Communities have predictability, they hold core beliefs and values, and embrace customs & traditions. This is why it can be very difficult to affect change in corporate culture.
• An element of game theory is needed. A variant of the Nash Equilibrium posits that people in a group (community) continue to behave as naturally expected. Therefore you need to create a credible disruptor to create actual change.
• Creating a credible distruptor consists of 1) defining the strategy, 2) determine the tactics (how to achieve the strategy), 3) organize the logistics (what is needed to support the plan), 4) execute – do it, don’t just talk/think about it.
• Communities have subgroups that you will need to be aware of. Minority 1 is those keen on change, such as new hires. They are usually not a problem. Majority 1 is those who resist/resent change, still embrace the good old days. Majority 2 is those who don’t care either way. Obvious focus should be on Majority 1.
• Control the distruptor: Communicate the vision & program to all; Commitment & Support – dedicate a proper budget and allocate proper resources; Reinforce staying power of program and consistently highlight accomplishments; Don’t try to do too much to fast – set a sustainable pace for the program; Monitor progress & Reassess.
• Change the emphasis of measuring dedication from inputs to outputs
• Reward failure. Innovation requires risk and if they are afraid to fail they won’t take risks.


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IIE Annual Conference blogging – Monday sessions

Industrial Engineering in the “Talent Age”
• The “Talent Age” started around 2000 as the Digital Age started phasing out
• In the Talent Age people have a wide range of skills, leadership & self-direction are important career components and they integrate knowledge and talent.
• A new part of professional development is emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) – book recommendation Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradbury and Jean Greaves
• Celebrate milestones & accomplishments of your team

Keynote speaker John McGlade
STEM education is not the only thing the US needs to focus on. We are facing a potential gap of millions of jobs related to “middle skills”. There are jobs such as welders, maintenance mechanics, etc., that don’t require 4 year college degrees but are vital to many companies. These vo-tech skills and opportunities are disappearing from high schools, reducing exposure to many kids.

Managing in Tough Times (panel)
• Having a management depth chart can be helpful in reduction (staff cuts) and growth (promotions & replacements) scenarios
• Employees appreciate being in the know when things are bad. They may even help find creative ways to reduce costs places other than labor.
• Many companies have ineffective, “Byzantine” procurement policies and organizations.

Managing High Variable Demand of High Variable Customers with Analytics
• “Make the Complex Simple”
• Providing international trip planning for high profile customers – business execs, entertainers, heads of state (even POTUS). Customers expect perfection and mistakes are highly visible.
• Needed to minimize staffing while meeting highly variable demand. Used integer programming (OR) subject to particular constraints – shifts and days worked must be continuous, minimize Sat/Sun coverage, looked at 8/10/12 hr shifts
• Model recommended 12 hrs shifts with a 2 week pattern of 3 days on/4 off/4 on/3 off, which was win-win-win for the company: problem was solved, COO was hesitant about working OT but model proved it was lower cost than 8 or 10 hours, and employees were already working 12 hour shifts which they wanted to keep.
• Did you know? Early pilots flew cross country via visual markers, often railroad tracks. When cloudy they would drop down low which unfortunately caused many to fatally crash.

A Novel Low Cost Web Based Labor Scheduling System for Retail Operations
• A restaurant is basically a food factory, but with some variations: there are several small locations vs one large plant; production demand is unknown (but can be forecasted); service time is measured in seconds instead of days; hold time is measured in minutes instead of weeks (because food expires); labor is much more transient (100-200% turnover) and is usually less trained and multi-tasks vs highly trained specialized labor.
• IE disciplines can still be applied – Measure, Quantify, Calculate, Verify & Test the activities being performed – perform process improvement and time studies.
• Having the right labor in the right place at the right time still applies; cross-training and activity sharing can reduce overall labor needs
• Unfortunately, I felt that this transitioned into a sales pitch for the particular web software this company provides. The presenter explained how it worked and why it would be beneficial, which may have had value for some of the attendees. However, as an IE who has worked extensively in food service, including time spent as a manager responsible for scheduling, it failed to teach me anything new.

Hope you enjoy reading about what’s going on at the conference. I’ll be back tomorrow!

IIE Annual Conference blogging – Advocacy of the Profession

One of the most commonly asked questions about IIE membership is “What am I getting for my dues?” And if you’ve ever talked to an IIE staff member or a volunteer leader you’ve heard the standard spiel – professional networking, leadership development opportunities, job searches, education and training, licensure, etc. One thing that I have a passion for (and I may have written about it once or twice before) is something that occasionally gets overlooked: advocacy of the profession.

Think about these questions for a minute – why did you become an industrial engineer? Why should we be directing high school students to study IE in college? How do we build the STEM skills in K-12 so that those kids are prepared for any of the engineering disciplines? I’m only scratching the surface, but you get the idea about the issues we face on a daily basis to promote the profession of industrial engineering, despite making some career top 10 lists over the past few years. As you may have surmised from the title of this post, this is an area that IIE is working in.

IIE CEO Don Greene gave a quick status update to the RVP’s Friday morning (as a sneak preview to the State of IIE address on Tuesday). He shared some information on what IIE is doing to advance the profession.

  • ABET – IIE provides guidance on what ABET should be looking for when accrediting programs, as well has having members serve as trainers & reviewers (we have a chapter member doing this).
  • NCEES – Similar to ABET, IIE provides guidance on content on the FE and PE exams and licensure.
  • National Engineering week – IIE work with other associations, such as ASEE, to sponsor e-week.
  • Future City – IIE is a sponsor.
  • New Faces of Engineering – IIE selects the representative for IE to be highlighted in USA Today and elsewhere.
  • Public Policy Symposiums – As a 501(c) non-profit, IIE is not allowed to get involved in lobbying. However, we do work with the National Academy and 30+ engineering organizations sponsor & participate in these symposiums, educating Congress on key engineering issues.
  • Today in America with Terry Bradshaw – This is a new program that produces 5 minute featurettes on differing industries. They recently decided to do an episode on industrial engineering, and in their research they discovered IIE and reached out to the organization. They will be filming part of the episode during the annual conference. (Stay tuned for more information!)

On top of all these opportunities, my former “boss” on the Regional Operations Board is starting to expand IIE’s role in K-12 outreach, such as mentoring with BEST Robotics. Our chapter has also been presented with K-12 opportunities in the past few years, which I expect to continue based on the volunteering principle that people will get involved with things their children are involved with. That should allow us even greater opportunity to provide mentoring, leadership and education about industrial engineering.

If you have any questions about or want to get involved with the topics above feel free to reach out to me. If I don’t have an answer I have 2-3 contacts that I can put you in touch with. I think that my continued involvement with IIE on the national level (now that my RVP term is over) will drift in this general direction.

Harvester’s Recap

Beans, Meats, Soups, Meals, Tuna, and Peanut Butter!!
For those who attended the May 8th meeting at Harvesters, those 6 foods have great meaning.  For 90 minutes we helped sort the  “proteins” for Harvesters. Whether it was by the pound or by the count, we completed several pallets of food that will be sent out to area food pantries.  In addition to the IIE members, this was an excellent opportunity for a few of the kids to help out as well.  Working the tape gun was my son’s favorite part, but whether it was taping boxes, sorting foods, counting or weighing cans, they definitely we able to lend a hand.

The final 30 minutes included an informative tour of the volunteer sort area, storage warehouse, and both the refrigerated and freezer warehouses.  It’s very interesting to see the various ways the food arrives to the warehouse, is handled, and then distributed to those who need it most.  Thanks to all those attending!

Coleman Distribution recap

In April we toured the (fairly) new Coleman distribution center in Gardner, KS. We had 7 members and 2 non-members participate on the tour.

The 1 million sq ft facility opened in October 2009 and is the first tenant in the new Midwest Commerce Center near the New Century Airport. The facility runs 24/7 for picking and shipping operations, with a standard 8/5 shift for receiving. On the receiving dock they primarily build the merchandise to stacking frames which are then stretch wrapped, scanned into inventory and set aside for putaway. Tickets are run at the end of each day and merchandise is picked and delivered to the shipping lanes, where loads are built per customer preference. Some customers use a center-point model where the merchandise is delivered in bulk to a few DC’s and then they distribute further within their network, while others prefer direct to store distribution. They also offer a few value added services of some of the product, such as specialized packaging or repricing. They also do all the walmart.com order fulfillment for their products.

Thanks again to the Coleman team for providing the tour!

Please let us know if you have a particular facility you would like to tour. Email us: kansascityiie-at-gmail-dot-com.