December Event – 2013 Planning and Officer Elections

Join us as we start planning for the 2013 program year. We’ll discuss events for each month, so if you have a facility you’d like to tour or an idea for a different event (training session, dinner speaker, etc) we want to hear it. We are always looking for additional members to get involved with the officer team as well – I think I may have mentioned that once or twice, as well as the leadership development opportunity.

When: Monday, December 10th at 6pm
Where: Barley’s Brewhaus, 16649 Midland Dr, Shawnee
Cost: Free (BYOB – buy, not bring)
RSVP: Contact Jay Christensen at kjchrist (at) jcp (dot)com or 913-541-2324 by Monday afternoon


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!

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.

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!