Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

Let's save the world

In my ex-profession of newspaper journalism, many dream of saving the world.

Often, this desire is based upon too many readings of tomes like All the President’s Men, not to mention the Dustin Hoffman-Robert Redford film version that detailed the beginnings of Watergate, which led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.

However, as you can tell from the photograph of the gentleman on the left, newsroom refugees don’t resemble a young Robert Redford. And as you see on the evening news (or from news websites), the world is decidedly unsaved.

But this edition of Industrial Engineer presents grounds for hope, as Yuehwern Yih, Ben Wang and Don Larson are, in their own way, crossing valleys of death.

A sabbatical for Yih, a Purdue University industrial engineering professor, eventually led her to Kenya, where AIDS patients had access to lifesaving drugs. Unfortunately, the chemical cocktails don’t work so well in undernourished bodies, and the consortium of universities working there had trouble getting and distributing sufficient food. Yih’s work led to a Nutritional Information System that feeds 35,000 people every day, tracking that information for doctors and keeping people alive.

Wang’s valley of death refers to accelerating manufacturing innovation and moving those results from the lab to the market to create economic value. As executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, Wang and his team are examining manufacturing as a whole value stream, looking to make sure that advanced manufacturing, or "manufacturing 2.0," takes place in the United States.

Two countries south of Kenya, also on Africa’s East Coast, sits Mozambique. During his travels as an industrial engineer for major food processors, Larson realized that much aid for that continent is misdirected. Many poor farmers could produce enough to eat, but they couldn’t store their produce for lean times. So Larson’s Sunshine Nut Co. is pouring his knowledge and life’s savings into the country to provide jobs, food production and sustainable businesses to avert hunger and starvation.

So as we enter 2014, maybe the best way to save the world isn’t to write about it, but for industrial engineers to just go and do it.

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