Five new faces have joined the advisory board of the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE) for the 2012 - 2016 term. Paul Flood, IE 1958; Elaine Johns, IE 1985; Stephen Kendrick, IE 1988; Errika Mallett, IE 1996; and Guy Primus, IE 1992, were inducted during the annual spring meeting in April 2012. ISyE’s advisory board serves as a sounding board for the school chair and assists with devising the school’s strategic initiatives and development goals. Jane Snowdon, PhD IE 1994, currently serves as the board’s chair. This summer, these distinguished members offered their perspectives on industrial engineering (IE) and ISyE.
Why does the world need industrial engineers?
Kendrick: Industrial engineers provide a great service by addressing the best use of limited resources to achieve an organization’s objectives. IEs are problem solvers, addressing real-world issues such as the improvement of manufacturing effectiveness and efficiency, how products should be moved on a global basis in a fast and efficient manner, and, in general, how we should do things better. The elimination of waste is a key outcome, something we should be focused on in the resource-constrained world we live in.
Snowdon: Industrial engineers devise ways to make processes, systems, and people work more effectively and efficiently together. Improvements can take various forms including reduced cost, improved quality, higher productivity, less time, and lower energy.
Primus: The world is changing so rapidly that someone needs to make order of the chaos. Whether it is the logistics issues of an increasingly global economy, the increased focus on healthcare, or the disintermediation of the supply chain brought about by e-commerce, the world works a lot better when industrial engineers are developing systems to help things flow more smoothly.
What are some skills that you learned at ISyE that have proven to be most beneficial to you in your career today?
Mallett: The knowledge I received as an IE to analyze processes, identify the deficiencies within those processes, then cultivate new programs and/or processes that would create improvements, greater efficiencies and/or a positive impact to the bottom line, gave me the ability to be a successful account executive for IBM in the oil and gas industry; an impactful program marketing director for BMC Software; an effective managing partner for my own business, which focused on marketing logistics for nonprofits and small businesses; and as an HR Manager who helped identify and initiate new programs to help recruit, acquire, and retain talent for Southwire Company. Although all these positions are different, the common thread is my IE training and development. My IE degree prepared me for success in all of these scenarios by teaching me to look at a situation, analyze it, and be pragmatic in my approach to it.
Primus: I'd say that the most important skill that I acquired was the ability to work on teams. I had been on teams, but never had to rely on others for success. My ability to work in and manage teams is a critical part of my success. Modeling was also another skill that I acquired. The program pricing model that I built for NPR helped reshape the public radio landscape. Even today, I use complex models to ensure that I have the answers before the questions are asked.
Flood: The ability to think in an analytical manner and understand the time value of money when applied to capital investments. Having a broad engineering background has given me the ability to develop practical, cost-effective solutions—often in emotional environments among participants with diverse backgrounds and interests.
Was your degree versatile and flexible enough for today’s world?
Kendrick: Absolutely. The versatility of the degree is why I consider it one of the best majors available. You are prepared to address issues in manufacturing, supply chain= management, and general business, with a mind’s eye on how to make things better. You are not limited to a specific industry; not limited to a specific role. Industrial engineers are hired to do many different things and, ultimately, are well positioned to be leaders in whatever business they choose.
Johns: Absolutely. The ability to analyze and solve problems, to think logically, and to communicate very technical topics at the 50,000-foot level are extremely valuable.
Snowdon: Industrial engineers play many different roles such as manufacturing engineers, cost engineers, consultants, analysts, research scientists, sales and marketing managers, and chief executives.
Flood: Yes, very much so. Learning to apply the seven “magic steps” in the IE classes prepares students for all types of engineering, management, consulting, and executive careers. The magic steps are: identify the problem; analyze the problem and gather the facts; determine alternative solutions; evaluate the alternatives; draw conclusions and determine the solution and course of action; sell the solution and course of action to interested personnel and those impacted by the solution; and successfully implement the solution and course of action.
What is one of your fondest memories of your time as an ISyE student?
Primus: I really enjoyed playing intramural basketball with the professors—especially Professors Goldsman and Hackman. In the classroom, I remember being in total amazement when Professor Ratliff demonstrated CAPS Logistics routing software—that was before Google Maps. I also remember working with Donovan Young on a project to design a system for what was to become the DVR, which was before broadband and high-capacity storage, so I thought that the DVR was a crazy idea back then. Plus, why would anybody want to skip forward thirty seconds at a time?
Mallett: Senior Design. The opportunity to apply our skills and knowledge in a real environment by adding value to a small business’s bottom line is one of my greatest memories within ISyE. What's exciting is to see how the Senior Design program has truly evolved over the past 16 years.
Kendrick: My fondest memories include my time as a co-op student, applying what I learned real-time and further enhancing my overall learning experience. In addition, working on my Senior Design project was great, allowing me the real opportunity to bring it all together. Also, I really enjoyed the faculty. The depth and breadth of skills I came across was amazing and ultimately deserving of our No. 1 ranking.
Thank you all for serving a term on the ISyE Advisory Board. Why do you think it’s important to stay connected to your alma mater?
Snowdon: It is a great honor and privilege to serve a term and chair the ISyE Advisory Board. Staying connected to your alma mater is important for providing advice on and support for academic and financial matters, maintaining and expanding your professional network, and mentoring the future leaders in industrial engineering.
Johns: We all have a lot for which we are thankful. For me, giving back to Georgia Tech, which is a huge contributor to who I am today, is the least I can do.
Flood: ISyE at Georgia Tech put its “print” on me and helped mold me into who I am today. It is, therefore, important for me to give back to the school to help ensure that it continues to do the great job it has done in the past— even in the more complex world that the student will enter when he or she graduates.
This article first appeared in the 2012 edition of the ISyE Alumni Magazine.