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Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Industrial Engineering and Operations Research is concerned with improving organized effort within systems with regards to some objective. These objectives usually need to take into consideration some limitations or constraints within a given system as well. Some objectives could be to minimize costs, minimize defects or maximize system throughput. Some constraints could be restrictions on inventory levels, requirements to meet demand within a certain time limit, or even lower bounds on process capability.

It is important to understand that the word “Industrial” in Industrial Engineering, means industry in the broadest sense of the word, so Industrial Engineers can be seen not only in manufacturing but in industries as diverse as healthcare, entertainment, banking, pharmaceuticals, sports, semiconductors, communications and e-commerce just to name a few. It is probably best to think of Industrial Engineers as applied mathematical modelers that also consider the human component of the system that they are working on.

This human component is perhaps the most important, but often overlooked aspect of being an Industrial Engineer. The study of Human Factors or Ergonomics examine how humans interact with machines and try to design machines that are easier to use. Before World War II, there was too much emphasis on trying to fit the person to the machine through more and more training. After World War II this philosophy was reversed through ergonomic studies and trying to fit the machine to the human by building better human-machine interfaces in terms of cockpits in airplanes, drivers’ seats in cars, and even better virtual interfaces. For example, this could allow individuals to interact with online interfaces more efficiently so they can order online goods with less frustration in trying to find checkout options. The industrial engineers that focus their careers in this area use principles such as Hick’s law and Fitt’s law. Hick’s law says that as the number of choices increase on a user interface such as a webpage, then the time for the user to make a decision increases logarithmically with the number of choices. Fitt’s law states that the time it takes for a pointing device such as a computer mouse to move to move on a screen to a target area is proportional to the logarithm of twice the distance to the center of the target divided by its width (or tolerance). These kinds of industrial engineers who are well grounded in information theory are often called UX Researchers in industry.

Faculty in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Russ Krenek’s research interests lie at the interface of deterministic/stochastic operations research and advanced probability/statistics, with the aim of improving processes and systems. Dr. Krenek is especially interested in filling the research gaps by developing novel process improvement methods and by challenging fundamental assumptions in quality engineering. His research efforts are being expanded into complex manufacturing systems, pharmaceutical formations, and healthcare, particularly in personalized medicine. Dr. Krenek also has a keen interest in engineering education.

Last updated: 11/9/2020