Michael C Hogan

Agile Product Development & Innovation Strategy


IE/OR + programming = ?

Recently, on LinkedIn the following question was asked: “IE/OR + programming = ?” My answer: There are at least a few ways to solve this equation. In this post I take a look at three of them: UX Design, infrastructure automation, and Industrial Engineering tool design.

E / OR + programming = UX designer

IE teaches us various tools for understanding workflows and production processes. Typically, we apply those skills to manufacturing process improvement. Over the past decade, the field of User Experience Design has recognized that similar workflow investigation tools can be used to understand how commercial and consumer products should function. IE / OR techniques can be used to design more user friendly and effective software, hardware controls, and even to identify gaps in the market where a new product might make a contribution. Quick note: I got my UX certification from the UCLA Art Department because I found most engineering schools don’t seem to offer UX yet. I hope this changes in the future and I hope that IE departments are the ones offering UX degrees. See more on UX at Wikipedia.

IE / OR + programming = Infrastructure automation

Check out this 37Signals chart illustrating revenue per employee at some tech companies and this chart illustrating the growth of WhatsApp, accomplished with under 60 employees! These kinds of operating efficiency are accomplished through quality and infrastructure automation. All IEs who graduate have the quality tools to help IT companies improve their process. People who understand IE and understand programming have the tools necessary to help automate IT infrastructure configuration, setup, and provisioning.

IE / OR + programming = an IE who makes his or her own analysis tools

The Industrial Engineering community does a poor job of producing affordable tools that can be used to automate the manual work of Industrial Engineers. MiniTab is a great example. That software costs $1,495 per license! Very few companies can afford to deploy such tools. We need Industrial Engineers who understand programming to develop lower cost alternatives to legacy tools like MiniTab so that Industrial Engineering methods can reach a broader audience of organizations and practitioners. This may be the most important contribution that an IE who understands how to program can make because without more accessible IE tools ours will continue to remain a niche profession.