Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

The 21st century stopwatch

Since I washed up on the shores of IISE, I've noticed a bit of a divide over work measurement.

Practitioners are quite interested. Academics, not so much. And admittedly, I first looked askance at the idea that the bossman would patrol the floor with a stopwatch. In my former life, such a thing would have led to a newsroom revolt, as newspaper journalists are notoriously thin-skinned and don't like people peering over our shoulders, even though that's how we made our living.

But eventually I learned that what could be considered anathema was foundational to Frederick W. Taylor and the history of industrial and systems engineering. And it's quite useful too – IISE's work measurement seminars and classes are among the first to fill up.

But it's easy to see why our academic friends cast work measurement aside. The tools are more than a century old – all that cuttingedge research has been done. They might be viewed as tried, true, but maybe tired. New and important frontiers await.

On the other hand, practitioners note that industrial and systems engineers need work measurement skills for a host of job responsibilities. Industrial and systems engineering is all about doing work more efficiently, and as the old saying goes, you cannot improve what you cannot measure.

This month, Adrienne J. Dickerson and Larry Aft tackle the 21st century addition of video in "For Work Study, Let's Go to the Video." They note how video adds the possibility of "instant replay," unlimited people can view the process and multiple engineers can pore over the same data sample. Plus, if employees are doing things right the first time, ISEs don't have to record additional video for documentation and training.

But integrating any new technology has pitfalls, and Dickerson (president of a process improvement company) and Aft (who directs continuing education for IISE) use their wealth of experience to guide you through.

So read the article and see how the stopwatch is getting drawn into the digital world.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IISE. Reach him at mhughes@iise.org or (770) 349-1110.

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