Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

October 2012    |    Volume: 44    |    Number: 10

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

Heroes and villains

In literature, the concept of heroes and villains dates at least back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, when the titular good guy and Enkidu slay Humbaba the Terrible.

This concept of good and bad abounds in the world of industrial engineering as well. Beginning on Page 28, Donald Kennedy and Michael Huston identify the evil ones as those who game the system for personal advancement – all at the expense of true organizational goals. For this month’s heroes, I happily nominate IIE’s Young Professionals Division.

First, let’s take the cover story, “Don’t Promote the Villains.” For Kennedy and Huston, waste goes beyond material things to the impact that people have on processes and projects. Their villains examine performance metrics and adjust their behavior, budgeting and reports to match.

In theory, this is an industrial engineering success. But metrics and numbers aren’t heroes or villains – they just are. How those numbers are processed and viewed within the system tells the real tale.

So Gilgamesh has spent the last five years arguing for, and getting, massive budget increases. Sure, his department ends each year on or under budget, but he still is spending a ton of extra cash. Barring extraordinary changes, Gilgamesh’s Department of Slaying Monstrous Demi-Gods and Seeking Immortality hasn’t done a good job of leaning operations.

That’s an accusation no one could charge the Young Professionals Division with. Alert readers have noticed that YP members have rotated the Emerging Technologies column amongst themselves since November 2011.

The members have taken to the task, even to the point of, at times, suggesting that their assignments were less-than-IE worthy. Their recommendations, unlike Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality, bear worthy fruit. After all, IEs working in the real world often have better ideas than us office drones. This is how we get a report on innovative travel clothing that seems designed especially for IEs (Page 58).

So who or what are your heroes and villains in the world of industrial engineering? Drop us a letter and let us know.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at or (770) 349-1110.