IE for Life

By Anita Ranhotra

Some people feel that industrial engineering is going through an identity crisis – one of the benefits of our field is that we are so versatile – you find IEs in a variety of jobs, but does that make it harder to define what exactly it is that we do?  Most of us, at some point in our careers, will find ourselves in jobs where industrial engineer (or even “engineer”) is nowhere in our title – does that mean we no longer define ourselves as IEs?

Many of us entered the IE field because of a drive to make improvements, because we often look at a situation and start thinking about a way it can be more efficient.  Jay Christensen, our chapter president, recently posted about how he finds himself analyzing traffic flow patterns.  Have you ever found yourself in a restaurant and thought of a way that things could run more efficiently?

I recently embarked on a health and fitness journey and often catch myself applying my “IE thinking” to the process.  IEs tend to “love data” – so, recording my food and calculating calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein was natural.  Having a Garmin watch and heart rate monitor gave me more data – calories burned, average heart rate, running pace.  Thinking like an IE was a benefit in this part of the process.  However, I had to fight my IE nature in other aspects – grouping like work together may gain you efficiencies in time, but does it best accomplish the end goal?  To save time, I naturally wanted to group exercises together based on where equipment was located in the gym; however, varying the exercises and the muscles I worked was more efficient for the goals I was working towards.  In the spirit of continuous improvement, I wanted to regularly improve my performance – whether it was shaving time off a run or being able to lift more.  As IEs, thinking of this in terms of a production environment, we know that when increasing speed, you have to balance the risk of compromising accuracy/quality.  In terms of fitness, if you push too hard too fast, you run the risk of compromising your form and that can result in injuries or less effective performance of your muscles.  Preventive maintenance is another term we IEs are very familiar with and I find myself constantly reminded by my personal trainer that this applies to our bodies, too – recovery days, stretching, rest – these all help maintain the body (machine).

If any of you have recently caught the show “American Ninja Warrior” (an extreme obstacle course), you may have seen Derek Nakamoto, who (as I write this) is currently in first place in the finals.  Derek is an industrial engineering student at CalPoly-Pamona and I have to wonder how he has applied his IE learnings to his training and to improving his performance!

I’m sure we all have stories like this, where we see ourselves “thinking like IEs” in non-work situations – whether it’s developing ways that a restaurant can operate more efficiently, analyzing traffic patterns, or training to achieve fitness goals.  So, remember – even if you don’t have “Industrial Engineer” in your job title – you are an IE and that makes you an “IE for Life”!

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Membership Update

Membership Update:

95 members, up 4 from the previous quarter

Member Profile: Luke Gardner

Where do you work/what do you do?

Currently I work for Blount International, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of farm, ranch, forestry, lawn and garden, and agricultural parts and implements.  I am the Inventory Manager for the new Distribution Center for all of North America near the KCI Airport.  I am responsible for 40,000 different SKUs worth over $51,000,000 in a 350,000 sq. ft. distribution center.  We are planning on expanding to 1,000,000 sq. ft. with the integration of other Blount product lines.  We currently house 2 of the 5 product lines Blount has acquired.  Right now we are in the start up phase, creating and controlling processes, integrating systems, and merging business cultures.  Exciting stuff!

Where did you go to school? Are you new to the area? If so, where did you, move here from?

I am originally from the Kansas City area.  I went to K-State for both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Industrial Engineering.  I was a former member of the KCIIE chapter and K-State student chapter, and have recently rejoined to reconnect with old peers and friends.

Is there anything about you or your family that you would like to share?

Married my wonderful wife Sarah last September.  No kids yet. 

Any other tidbits of information that you might like our members to know about you?

Love to travel and eat new things.  Of course, being from KC, I am a BBQ connoisseur.

President’s Message

I was struggling to come up with something write about this month and surprisingly inspiration struck in my truck. As I drive around my part of town, it occurs to me that I may have missed my true calling as an industrial engineer. If you live in Lenexa or Olathe you probably know what I’m talking about – road construction. (Of course, this time of year everyone likely feels this pain.)

For 10+ years I’ve driven my wife nuts almost every time we getting the car. I’m always looking for the fastest route, shortest route, least stoplights, fewest left turns – some kind of optimized route. No doubt I’m not alone there. My other mental exercise that annoys her is constantly analyzing traffic flow patterns. There are at least a half dozen intersections that I can’t sit at without complaining about the lack of a right turn lane.

I’ve occasionally thought about going back to school to get a Master’s degree in civil engineering with some kind of focus on traffic management. Seems like an IE would more effective at analyzing city road networks using operations research. If I remember correctly, the OR3 course offered right before I took it focused on traffic. Of course, I’d have to find a city to hire me and let me spend their money to really make it worth the time and effort. One can dream…

Even if going back to school isn’t in the cards for you, continuing education is always an option. Think of it in a lean way; continuing ed is like the small, incremental change of continuous improvement. We all know about the IIE opportunities, but don’t forget about local and online options as well – several options for MBA, KU and K-State both offer an MEM, etc. Maybe if I go one class at a time I can finish a degree before my kids graduate from high school!