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”!