Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

May 2012    |    Volume: 44    |    Number: 5

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Emerging Technologies

Innovative tools of the trade

Software to simplify

Software application design is in constant development, striving for a user-friendly interface resulting in the most accurate and efficient solutions to simplify the end user’s experience.

One example of software application “made to simplify” is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. ERP systems connect an entire organization from customer to finance to manufacturing. They embrace all aspects to achieve a real-time image of a business. To serve this goal, Microsoft offers its newly edited Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. This solution provides a pre-built foundation along with comprehensive, core ERP functionality for financial, human resources and operations management across five industries: manufacturing, distribution, retail, service and the public sector.

It is customized to its end user and provides versatile reporting tools. This includes an environmental sustainability dashboard for a manufacturer, item traceability and shelf-life tracking for a distributor, sales vs. inventory for a retailer, or any built-in reports based on Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services for public sector or service industries. Users can generate custom reports automatically with Microsoft SQL Server Report Builder, an ad hoc query tool. This allows you to convert any reporting tool to a key performance
indicator to guide the business.

What distinguishes this product is its ability to run discrete, lean and process manufacturing operations in a single ERP software environment. This allows the integration of these functions, providing
more accurate reporting tools. It also includes integration with Microsoft SharePoint Server for report sharing and synchronization of address book with database, as it not only accurately reports but facilitates delivery to appropriate users.

Another “problem simplifier” is ChoiceAnalyst, a product by Catalyst Development. This product is designed to be used as a decision maker for a task at hand based on given parameters.

The application essentially guides the user through Six Sigma’s steps of define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC). First, the choices available to the user are entered (define), followed by the judging criteria and their appropriate weight associated by user (measure). Then the number of people who are to make the decision are entered, along with their associated stake in the matter. Using a systematic algorithm to compare all possible option pairs (analyze), the application ranks your choices based on a matching scale to the parameters. Finally, implement the highest ranked option (improve followed by control).

Only a “sampling” of all possible pairs of the choices is presented for you to judge, rather than requiring you to go through all possible pairs. This allows large and complex problems to be analyzed in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise. However, this is said with caution as this application process may not suit every problem, and you should consider the decision as a statistical recommendation only.

Dana Wexler has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the Rutgers School of Engineering. She is an operations improvement supervisor for UPS and the Northeast Region representative for IIE’s Young Professionals Division.