Research Funding Updates

Eunshin Byon

Eunshin Byon
Title: BIGDATA: IA: Collaborative Research: From Bytes to Watts – A Data Science Solution to Improve Wind Energy Reliability and Operation
Funding Source: National Science Foundation
The critical barrier to cost effective wind power is partly rooted in wind stochasticity, severely complicating wind power production optimization and cost reduction. Therefore, the long-term viability of wind energy hinges upon a good understanding of its production reliability, which is affected in turn by the predictability of wind and power productivity of wind turbines. Furthermore, the productivity of a wind turbine comprises two aspects: its ability of converting wind into power during its operation and the availability of wind turbines. To enhance wind energy reliability and productivity, modern wind farms are equipped with a large number and variety of sensors.  However, all these data are currently analyzed only in their respective domains.  This project will address the big data challenges, including how to best use spatio-temporal data for wind forecast and how to use data of different nature (wind, power, load etc.) and data of different sources (physical data versus computer simulation data) for power production assessment in a computationally efficient manner. The proposed research activities will demonstrate how dramatically data science innovations can benefit the wind industry.

Eunshin Byon
Title: Collaborative Proposal: A Framework for Assessing the Impact of Extreme Heat and Drought Climate Scenarios on Urban Energy Production and Consumption
Funding Source: National Science Foundation
The modern electric grid, which includes both electricity consumers and producers, faces significant challenges and uncertainties, particularly as a result of potential climate change and extreme weather events. Different from regional- or national-level management, electricity management in densely populated cities poses unique challenges such as elevated electricity demand due to localized characteristics such as urban heat islands. The objective of this research is to provide rigorous and integrative methods for effectively managing city-scale electricity systems during periods of extreme heat and drought. Findings from this research have the potential to significantly impact the way cities and electric utility operators manage electric grids under extreme heat and drought conditions.

Amy Cohn

Amy Cohn
Title: Scheduling Tool with St. Joes
Funding Source: Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
This work will be conducted in collaboration with Research Area Specialist Billy Pozehl, undergraduate CHEPS researchers Anna Learis (IOE), Kevin Li (Engineering Physics), Dale Mallette (CS), Steven MacPherson (CS), and Bassel Salka (IOE), and the St. Joseph surgical chief residents.


Clive D’Souza and Sheryl Ulin

Clive D’Souza

Sheryl Ulin

 

 

 

 

 


Title:
Interactive Training and Direct Assistance to Reduce Worker Risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders
Funding Source: State of Michigan
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as low back injuries and upper limb musculoskeletal disorders are a major cause of disability and workers’ compensation throughout the United States. The objective of this project is to provide employers and workers with information and procedures necessary to identify and control the conspicuous ergonomics workplace risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders.

Ruiwei Jiang

Ruiwei Jiang
Title: Collaborative Research: Enhancing Power System Resilience via Data-Driven Optimization
Funding Source: National Science Foundation
As a backbone of the U.S. infrastructure, the electricity grid transmits around 400 billion dollars of electricity across the country every year. This grid is increasingly vulnerable because of more frequent and severe natural disasters, in addition to the long-standing challenges from random equipment failures and operation errors. The evaluation and mitigation of disruption-related risks and impacts are often computationally prohibitive due to random weather conditions, high-dimensional data and decisions, and the combinatorics nature of component failures. This project will derive analytical models and scalable solution methods to assist system operators to better evaluate and mitigate disruptions. The analytical models employ publically available data on meteorology and transmission availability, and the solution methods will be evaluated on test instances with industrially relevant sizes.

Judy Jin

Judy Jin
Title: Optimizing Reliability Tests for Display by Integrating Reliability Analysis of Field Failure Data
Funding Source: Samsung
This one year research project aims to develop a systematic method to improve LCD display reliability tests through integrating field failure data analysis. It will also enhance the understanding of failure modes of LCD display and provide better reliability modeling and prediction to reduce unexpected failures during field operations.

Viswanath Nagarajan

Viswanath Nagarajan
Title: CAREER: New Mathematical Programming Techniques in Approximation and Online Algorithms
Funding Source: National Science Foundation

 

 

 

Siqian Shen

Siqian Shen
Title: Extreme‐Scale Stochastic Optimization and Simulation via Learning‐Enhanced Decomposition and Parallelization
Funding Source: Department of Energy Early Career Research Program, Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research
The purpose of this research is to incorporate machine learning techniques into decomposition algorithms for solving stochastic optimization and simulation models using high performance computing. We consider a broad class of complex decision‐making problems, where discrete or continuous decisions are made before and/or after knowing multiple and potentially correlated sources of uncertainties. Examples include Cloud Computing service scheduling, sensor deployment for monitoring critical infrastructures, and other resource allocation and operational problems in energy and national security.

Siqian Shen and Ruiwei Jiang
Title: Collaborative Research: Emerging Optimization Methods for Planning and Operating Shared Mobility Systems under Uncertain Budget and Market Demand
Funding Source: National Science Foundation
As the government and private companies start launching new mobility sharing programs with diverse objective criteria and practical restrictions, they are often constrained to unknown budget for launching new services versus expanding existing ones and also face uncertain customer demands responding to different mobility-sharing forms. The objective of this project is to develop mathematical models and efficient algorithms for shared mobility system design and optimization. The research will: (i) push both theoretical and computational frontiers of optimization methods in new transportation problems; (ii) impact applications of shared mobility that relate to critical civil infrastructures, supply chain & logistics, and other service industries. This is a collaborative research project co-investigated by Prof. Siqian Shen, Prof. Ruiwei Jiang, and Prof. Mengshi Lu (Purdue University).

Faculty & Staff Updates

Wanda Dobberstein, Undergraduate Student Advisor, is the recipient of the Fall 2017 IOE “Extra Mile” Staff Excellence Award. The award is given once a semester to recognize a member of the IOE staff for outstanding work. Wanda was recognized for working tirelessly for our undergraduate students in particular and for the IOE program overall.

Seth Guikema

A University of Michigan research team, led by Seth Guikema, crunches data on the fly to predict a storm’s impact on electrical infrastructure. Their models are part of a larger project that aims to predict the probability of power outages from a wide variety of events, including less severe but more frequent incidents like thunderstorms, heat waves, and blizzards. Ultimately, Guikema envisions a rolling model, updated daily, that utility companies could use to allocate resources on a day-to-day basis. Read more here.

Jack Hu, the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing, has been elected a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Hu was elected for his distinguished contributions to mechanical engineering and to the promotion of China-USA exchanges and cooperation in engineering sciences and technology. He was one of 18 foreign experts elected as CAE Foreign Members in 2017. Hu is a professor of Mechanical Engineering, as well as of Industrial and Operations Engineering. Hu is also the Vice President for Research, University of Michigan.

Mariel Lavieri

Mariel Lavieri has been named the IOE Department Richard Wilson Faculty Scholar. She is an outstanding teacher, researcher, mentor, and colleague. This is a very well-deserved honor and follows several other major awards that Mariel and her students have won in the past 12 months.

Mariel Lavieri was honored at the North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards Ceremony & Reception on Monday, January 15, 2018. The Martin Luther King Spirit Awards are given to students, student organizations, and faculty members at the University of Michigan North Campus who exemplify the leadership and vision of Dr. King through their commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusion.

Jon Lee, G. Lawton, and Louise G. Johnson Professor of Engineering in Industrial & Operations Engineering, has been appointed as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Mathematical Programming, Series A (MPA). Published by Springer, MPA is the flagship journal of the Mathematical Optimization Society. MPA publishes original articles dealing with all aspects of mathematical optimization; that is, everything of direct or indirect use concerning the problem of optimizing a function of many variables, often subject to a set of constraints. This involves theoretical and computational issues arising in a wide variety of methodological and applied studies. Previously, Jon was a Co-Editor of MPA.

IOE research professor Matt Reed has been selected to receive the 2018 Arnold W. Siegel International Transportation Safety Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International. This award recognizes individuals whose accomplishments include outstanding international research, innovation, and contributions to crash injury protection, crash injury biomechanics and crash injury design for all mobility vehicles, in addition to exceptional leadership activities that have made a significant transportation safety impact on organizations or on society worldwide. Matt is being recognized for his leadership and extensive work in transportation safety.

Nadine Sarter

IOE professor Nadine Sarter has been elected a fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Election to Fellow status is an honor conferred by distinguished colleagues to recognize outstanding achievement, consistently superior professional performance, exceptional contributions, personal service to the Society, and other meritorious accomplishments by Society Members.

The IOE Department is pleased to announce that Pascal Van Hentenryck has been selected for the IOE Department Merit Award for the 2016-2017 academic year. The award is to recognize a high impact accomplishment in research, teaching or service benefiting the Department and the College.

Cathy Boblitt, Amanda Godwin, and Tracey Adkins of the Fall 2017 IOE Staff Social Committee

The IOE staff social committee helped IOE get into the holiday spirit with two giving campaigns in November and December. Members of committee collected gifts from the IOE community to donate to a family through Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Washtenaw County. The committee also facilitated a food drive for Bryant Community Center.

Student & Alumni Updates

Francisco Aldarondo, Donald Richardson, and Bassel Salka were honored at the North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Awards Ceremony & Reception on Monday, January 15, 2018. The Martin Luther King Spirit Awards are given to students, student organizations, and faculty members from the University of Michigan North Campus who exemplify the leadership and vision of Dr. King through their commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusion.

Tarini Arte and Matt Ross have been awarded the Fall 2017 Andrew S. Crawford Award for Entrepreneurship Excellence for their work in IOE 422. Tarini’s project for the course was Harmonix, a consolidated guitar tool wallet with all the essential jamming tools, including a strap-on capo and slots for 4 guitar picks, as well as compartments for money and cards. Matt’s project was AugmentGolf, a smartphone app paired with augmented reality, sports sunglasses that display critical information to assist a golfer during their round.

IOE student Francisco Aldarondo has been selected as the winner of the Fall 2017 Joel and Lorraine Brown GSI of the Semester Award. The student body was polled and the votes were weighted according to several factors.

The Greater Detroit Chapter of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers has announced Louis Goedker as the award recipient of the 2017 Irv Otis Scholarship. The scholarship is given in honor of Irv Otis, a very well respected past President of IISE GDC and the founder of the Industrial Engineering Institute of Research and Technology. The scholarship candidate must show that she/he is dedicated to the Industrial Engineering profession and IISE. Being involved in programs with their school and promoting the discipline of IE are excellent examples.

IOE PhD candidate Esmaeil Keyvanshokooh has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Seth Bonder Fellowship. The one year Seth Bonder Fellowship is awarded on a competitive basis to a superior IOE graduate student who wishes to study and do research in the field of applied operations research.

Sol Lim

IOE PhD candidate Sol Lim has received the “Student Author Presentation Support Award” at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) annual meeting. The award facilitates student author participation in the Annual Meeting, including presenting in technical group sessions, networking with professionals, and attending TG business meetings.

IOE PhD students Tom Logan and Tim Williams were invited to Seattle to mentor a project in the “City4All Hackathon”. The hackathon focused on generating ideas for how to make Seattle a city that is safe and accessible for populations of all ages and brought together local council members and policy-makers, data and computer scientists, and NGOs focused on aging populations. Among the members of their project team was IOE alum Henry Kendall. Their involvement came following the recent acceptance of their paper “Evaluating urban accessibility: Leveraging open-source data and analytics to overcome existing limitations” in Environment and Planning: Urban Analytics and City Science. They found it a great opportunity to engage with community stakeholders and better understand how their research can be used to improve city planning.

IOE PhD Candidate, Selin Merdan, has been selected by the faculty as the 2018 winner of the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. This prize is awarded annually to one IOE graduate student based on excellence in leadership, academic performance, and research.

IOE PhD pre-candidate Hideaki Nakao has been awarded a Rackham International Students Fellowship. Nominees must have a strong academic record, be making good progress toward the degree, and demonstrate outstanding academic and professional promise. The fellowship assists outstanding international students.

Tauber Team Boeing

IOE Students Allison Ward, William Chen and Tamara Craven were all members of winning teams in the annual Tauber Institute Spotlight! Team Project Showcase and Scholarship Competition for 2017. The First Place team was Team Dell including IOE Masters student Allison Ward and the Third Place Team was Team Boeing including IOE Masters students William Chen and Tamara Craven.

Gary Verplank Named IOE Alumni Awardee

Gary Verplank was named the IOE Alumni Awardee for 2017. He delivered a luncheon seminar to an audience of IOE students, alumni, faculty, and staff on Friday, October 27, 2017. He kept the event casual and asked attendees to come with questions. He spent the lunch hour providing insight and sharing experience and stories from his successful career.

Verplank received his B.S.E. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is the CEO of Shape Corp., Light Corp., and other affiliated local companies that employ over 2,000 Grand Haven, MI area residents and 1,500 associates at their international facilities.

His community service roles include being a member of the Ferrysburg City Council, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, President and Board member of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Chairman of the North Ottawa Community Coalition, and past Spring Lake Yacht Club Commodore and Board member.

Gary’s honors include being recognized by the West Michigan Business Hall of Fame, and he is the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

Introducing the Michigan Lean Consortium Consulting

This article is written by two IOE student guest writers, Bassel Salka and Minjun Zhao.

Lean is coming to Michigan! Michigan Lean Consortium Consulting (MLC Consulting) kicked off the Winter semester with an interactive Lean workshop on Monday, January 28th. About 25 students across a diverse range of engineering disciplines converged in the Crofoot Room of the Michigan Union to listen to a presentation by Tauber Institute Director Raymond Muscat, participate in an interactive exercise with Michigan Lean Consortium founder Debra Levantrosser, and hear about the exciting opportunities available through MLC Consulting.

MLC Consulting is a new student organization founded by IOE Master’s student Minjun Zhao and IOE Junior Bassel Salka. Their vision for this organization is to spread Lean minded thinking across the University of Michigan campus through interactive workshops, enthusiastic speakers, and most importantly, consulting projects with local businesses.

“We believe the best way for students to master Lean principles is with first-hand experience” Salka states, “for that reason, we have started projects to improve local businesses as well as grow our community of experienced Lean minded students.”

IOE Lecturer Debra Levantrosser is the Faculty Advisor for the organization so please reach out to her or the leaders for more information.

IOE Alum Hikes Pacific Crest Trail

What do you do if you have four months off between graduation and starting a new job? If you’re Ryan Kennedy, a recent IOE graduate, you walk from Mexico to Canada. Starting at the Mexican border on May 2nd 2017, Ryan walked 2650 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail through scorching deserts, snow-covered passes and remote forests over 112 days. The trail stretches continuously from Mexico to Canada winding through California, Oregon, and Washington, where he now resides in Seattle, working for Amazon in their supply chain data science group.

Ryan completed his BSE and MSE degrees in IOE at Michigan in 2016 and 2017 respectively. He also earned an international minor, studied abroad in France, worked as a GSI for Mark Daskin’s Service Operations Management class (IOE 419), and served as President of the Club Sports program.  While at Michigan, he participated in the Engineering Global Leadership (EGL) specialization within the Honors Program. The program ends with a capstone project through the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, in which Ryan and his EGL teammate, Kyle Gilbert, placed 2nd. Ryan got a job with Amazon through his participation in the Tauber capstone project.

When asked why he decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, he said his decision came down to a few factors. Many of his friends were already working full time and he had about four months between graduation and his job starting. Ultimately, he thought the hike would be a great way to explore the west coast. “I’m from Chicago originally, so I’ve been pretty rooted in the Midwest my whole life,” he said. “This was a great way to get out and explore before finalizing my stop here in the pacific northwest.”

“One of the best aspects to ‘trail-life’ was the culture,” he said. He enjoyed connecting with people from all over the world; the shared experience of being on the trail was all they needed in order to relate. “Each person I met had a different, wild, backstory and motive for completing the trail. Social divides were forgotten; phones and technology were left behind. There was this openness. You talked to every person you passed and you would make friendships over campfires recounting hilarious trail-stories or exchanging the latest trail gossip only to never see them again, or perhaps see them a thousand miles later.”

When asked if he used any IOE skills during the trip, Ryan said planning the trip was like logistics 101. “You put a great deal of thought into gear selection, training, dieting, planning resupply points to account for all what-if scenarios and develop mitigation plans, yet out there, real-life hits and you learn to make do with what you have on the fly. When I was in my groove, I was eating about 7,000 calories and walking 35 to 50 miles daily,” he said. He credits his mom as his “chief operating officer” while he was on the trail. She sent boxes and did other necessary things when he was on the trail without cell service.

As for gear, Ryan says he focused on bringing as little as possible that would safely get him through each section, which is something he learned about in Mark Daskin’s operations research class. “I essentially lived the ‘Knapsack Problem’ and while it was hard, it wasn’t quite NP-Hard. I would be hundreds of miles from anything and people would be surprised with how small my backpack was. I definitely carried way less than I did freshman year lugging calculus, physics, and chemistry books around from Bursely to Central campus.”

Below is a 1 second per day highlight video Ryan made summarizing his journey.

IOEs Shine at INFORMS Houston

The Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering had a strong showing at the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Conference in Houston, Texas from October 22 – 25, 2017. This conference is one of the largest for those in operations research. In addition to presenting and sharing research, as usual, members of the IOE community both new and old had a great time reuniting at IOE’s Michigan Nite Event.

You can see a sampling of topics that the IOE community brought to INFORMS in the video below.

Many students, faculty, and researchers from IOE were recognized for their work. Notably, IOE students were awarded first, second, and third place at the Minority Issues Forum. Below is the full list of IOE awards at INFORMS 2017.

  • University of Michigan INFORMS Student Chapter, Magna Cum Laude Award
  • Gian-Gabriel Garcia, First Place, Minority Issues Forum poster competition
  • Ruiwei Jiang, Honorable Mention, INFORMS junior faculty interest group paper competition
  • Selin Merdan, Second Place, INFORMS Public Sector Operations Research Best Paper Award
  • Qiyun Pan, finalist in the Best Student Paper competition in the INFORMS Quality Statistics and Reliability (QSR) section
  • Donald Richardson, Third Place, Minority Issues Forum poster competition
  • Cong Shi, Third place, INFORMS Junior Faculty Interest Group Paper Competition (JFIG)
  • Lauren Steimle, Second Place, Minority Issues Forum poster competition

The Value of My IOE Education – A Short Walk through 50 Years

This is a guest post from Mike Kahn, BSE (IE) 1971 and MSE (IE) 1972.

Mike Kahn visiting Michigan Stadium during IOE’s 60+ Anniversary Celebration.

A classical industrial engineer or operations manager I am not. By classical, I mean one who works in industry and has an operations job where process optimization is a primary responsibility. Nonetheless, my IOE (Industrial and Operations Engineering) education has enabled my career, enhanced my value to my employers and clients, and provided a good living. That is the focus of the story that follows.

Before I get to that, let me set the stage. In the fall of 1967, now 50 years ago, I arrived at the College of Engineering without a clear focus on why I was there, other than the most obvious reasons.

  • I was talented at science and math and already was an experienced computer programmer (Fortran), a rarity for a high school student in those days.
  • The College offered 13 engineering programs, which was a more diverse selection than at the three other colleges that I had considered and visited (Duke, Vanderbilt, and University of Pennsylvania). Surely, I could find something for me among all of those choices. However, I never visited Michigan prior to arriving as a freshman.
  • The College did not have a language requirement for graduation and I had a negative experience in my high school French classes.
  • It was far enough from my home in the suburbs of Miami Beach that my parents wouldn’t be visiting regularly (which would not have been the case had I gone to the University of Florida, my father’s alma mater).
  • The cost of attending Michigan as an out-of-state student was affordable, just $500 a term in my freshman year. This was several hundred more per term that it would cost to go to Florida but Michigan offered more, or so I convinced my parents.
  • Most importantly, I applied for early decision and was admitted, thus sealing the deal.

Until I arrived on campus, I had only met one engineer, someone who awarded me a prize at the county science fair. He was an electrical engineer and that’s about all that I knew about him. Our paths crossed a couple of times before I went to college. I really had little comprehension of what engineers actually did, other than applying math and science to solve business and industrial problems. Neither my mother or father studied math or science in college and none of their friends were engaged in the world of technology. Fortunately, I had some exceptional public school teachers to set the stage for me.

At the outset of my college years, I was driven most by my head start with computers, which clearly exceeded some of the backgrounds of my first year instructors (both professors and teaching fellows, as teaching assistants were called back then). I surely wasn’t the brightest student in my classes but my programming skills did make me stand out and gave me a notable advantage.

When it came time to pick an engineering major at the end of my freshman year, I was clueless. I chose Science Engineering, which best could be described as general engineering. It was a non-specific decision for a non-specific program. I did this to buy some more time. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be an engineer, but changing to being a computer science major would have required me to satisfy the foreign language requirement, because the computer science department then was in LS&A. I knew that I was interested in information systems (IS), which I saw back then as the practical application of computer science; IS was focused on where the rubber met the road: data, processes, and user interfaces. At the time, there was no formal program for this anywhere at Michigan, but a number of information-systems-focused faculty had aggregated in the Industrial Engineering Department. So I switched to IE as my major. (The department name was changed to IOE after I received both of my degrees.)

At best, I was a reluctant engineering student. I probably would have been happier if I had majored in computer science, but making that change as a junior would have extended my undergraduate education to more than five years, which didn’t seem like an efficient thing to do. So I stayed in IE and took many computer science courses and most of the IS and computer-related courses offered by the IE Department (such as simulation), some of which were cross-listed with the computer science department and the business school.

I had a couple of life-changing events as an undergraduate, which I can trace back to CCS1 473, which was an assembly language course with a focus on operating systems principles, and its follow-on course, CCS 573. One or both of these was taught by the late CCS Prof. Bernard Galler, who became a lifelong friend. As the 573 course was ending, he asked if I would consider working as a “counselor” at the UM Computing Center; today’s equivalent would be staffing the help desk, where students could get help with their programs. I did this and it became a life-bending moment because in the spring term of my junior year I met my future wife (Bev) at the help desk in NUBS2. Bev needed help with her CCS 473 assembly language program. The rest is history, as we have now been married for 45 years.

Two years before my arrival on campus, Professor Galler and three other Michigan academics (including Mechanical Engineering Professor Frank Westervelt, who was my Engineering 101 professor in my first term, and CCS Professor Bruce Arden, whom I did not know at that time but got to know more recently) co-authored a paper3 published in the Journal of the ACM about how to properly design a time-sharing computer with virtual memory. Memory management was a big issue at the time and classical programming methods required the programmer to manage the limited amount of memory allocated (usually 16K or 64K) by overlaying it and programmatically swapping parts of it in an out (from memory to disk and back), effectively doing the virtual memory paging that we now all take for granted. This paper was a Eureka Moment for me. It lit up my brain onto the possibilities of optimizing (and maybe even automating) computer systems, programming, and systems management processes. Now I was applying industrial engineering optimization concepts to computer systems solutions. I decided I was in the right place (in IE) and decided to invent my own IS major in the IE Department. This was encouraged and enhanced by the presence of an ongoing research project in the IE Department called ISDOS (Information Systems Design Optimization System), with which I interacted both as a student and, much later, as a consultant. In between, for many years, I was on the outside closely watching ISDOS, because my wife was working on that project while she worked on her PhD in IOE; her thesis was on logical database design and largely resulted from her work at ISDOS.

Yes, we were (and still are) a Michigan IOE couple. I turned her from the dark side (computer science and honors mathematics undergraduate) to the lighter, more practical field of information systems, then still anchored in the IOE Department. The family affair was extended, more than three decades later, when our son Bob graduated in 2009 with a BSE in IOE from Michigan. To be clear, this was his idea and not ours, but he too found a career in information systems (managing big data projects for an industrial giant) from his years as a Michigan IOE undergraduate student.

In my later undergraduate terms, I struggled with some of the required but seemingly irrelevant (to me) core engineering courses, especially thermodynamics, but my path was set and I was working on interesting projects, both for course credit and as an employee of the University. Because being a practicing or professional engineer wasn’t my goal, I finished my undergraduate education with a B average (or maybe a B-, depending on where you want to draw the line between them). However, I was getting a lot of As in my computer science and information systems classes. I petitioned the IE Department to let me continue as a graduate student, which they reluctantly agreed to do, as long as I acknowledged that I was admitted on probation. This was the best alternative for me, because there were few jobs for engineers in 1971, as I graduated during a recession.

In spite of my heavy load of computer science courses, I had been clever enough in my junior and senior years to take all of the required IE courses needed for my master’s degree. Thus, I only had to take any six graduate IE courses and take four other “related” courses to get my master’s degree. This freedom allowed me to find the education and experiences that I was seeking and, as a result, I did very well.

Even with BSE and MSE degrees in hand, I didn’t consider myself to be an engineer. I considered myself to be an information systems professional, as I had become a systems analyst and then a manager of a database development team while working on a Michigan economics research project and, thereafter, had my own consulting company in Ann Arbor, PRISM Associates (Planning and Research on Information Systems and Management), while my wife was doing her doctoral research and dissertation in IOE. In reality, it was about three decades later that I concluded that, after all, I was an engineer and proud to be one. More on that, shortly.

Summing up what I learned in IE that proved to be most beneficial, it had to do with cost accounting (engineering economics), resource management and optimization (whether inventory, people, resources, or systems), and thinking about and modeling complex systems, all central components of my Michigan IOE education. These would be in my toolkit for my entire career.

By the time that I graduated with my BSE, somehow I had squeezed in macro and micro economics and two terms of accounting. I considered these essential to being able to understand how systems operated in the real world. These were enhanced and extended by many of the IOE courses that I took. To this day, economics is central to who I am and what I do.

Like many if not most engineers, there is an anal component to my personality. I thrived on details and making sense of the chaos in the systems in which they exist (and I still do). Over my career, two of the most common concepts in my working repertoire have been “effectiveness” and “efficiency”. These concepts, no doubt, were drilled into me as an IOE student. In retrospect, I have spent my professional life focused on the effectiveness and efficiencies of complex systems, which remains a very important topic these days. There have been a wide variety of complex systems on which I have worked (job matching; back-end database computing; tiered, multi-computer information systems; database management systems; manufacturing information systems (both discrete and process), and computer and storage operating systems. In focusing on improving complex systems, I have been practicing IOE for most of my career.

As I said earlier, I really didn’t set out to be an engineer, which I then loosely conceived as someone who was focused on industrial and manufacturing processes, but it was clear from my childhood that I was bitten by an interest in efficiency. This first hit me at summer camp in 1958, when I was in the chorus of a musical that was being produced for parents’ weekend. That was The Pajama Game, in which one of the lead characters was “a time study man” in a pajama factory. I probably still can sing all of the songs, but the one on being a time study man and another on a 7.5¢ per hour wage dispute stand out in my mind. At age nine, I didn’t believe then that I wanted to be a time study man, but I was fascinated by the idea of complex systems, although I couldn’t articulate this very clearly at that age. When they were growing up, I forced both of my kids to listen to these songs on car trips. I wonder if I somehow planted an IOE seed in son Bob’s head. Clearly, this wasn’t my intention.

For the last 29 years as a computer industry analyst and analyst firm executive, I have been focused on the high end of the computer industry, especially the hardware and software products offered by the leading vendors and, related, helping large enterprises decide which technologies would best satisfy their needs, which often were poorly articulated. For much of this time, I have been considered one of the leading total-cost-of-ownership experts on certain segments of information technology, including storage and servers. At the heart of this is requirements analysis, something that I learned in IOE at Michigan. Equally important were the economics and benefits surrounding such decisions, especially when requirements were soft and often not formally articulated. Determining the value parameters of the potential benefits of information technology is as much an art as it is a science. Cost studies of the life cycle of investments in technology are at the center of each cost-benefit analysis. All of this was learned in IOE. I am proud to be an industrial and operations engineer.

More than 15 years ago, I found myself in a focus group meeting with young systems engineers and computer scientists for a sponsored research project that I was doing. Some were seniors in college and others were graduate students (mostly in summer internships), but the majority of them were working in their first full-time job for a large systems vendor. When my colleague and I did the first focus group, we both were not so quietly perceived as being too old to know anything relevant. (We were in our early fifties.) It was clear to me that I (the technical one of the pair) needed to prove them wrong if we ever were to reach the purpose of the meeting. I laid my cards on the table, one of which was that I was a graduate engineer and that everything that they were doing I had done before and likely several times before. We played a game of “ask any IT/computer systems question”, which I played competently. As I realized at the end of that evening, I really had been an engineer for most of my career. Thereafter, I played this trump card again and again, when I needed to gain credibility quickly. I was then and still now am proud to be an engineer. I always will be an engineer.

When my kids were growing up, they called their mom “a fake doctor”, because PhDs were not real (medical) doctors. It’s a frequently told family story. When son Bob was a Michigan engineering undergraduate, one of us, probably me, jokingly called his mom “a fake engineer”, because even with an MS and PhD in IOE, she clearly didn’t measure up to being “a real engineer”, i.e., one who suffered through the requirements of an engineering bachelor’s degree. Bob understood but Bev was not pleased with either of us. Nonetheless, there was serious thought in making this claim. All undergraduate engineers share a similarly arduous journey on their way to their undergraduate degree. Many students drop out along the way. As I have found around the world, an engineering undergraduate degree is a badge of distinction that is well earned and stands, if for nothing else, for persevering a rigorous curriculum. I am proud to be a real engineer.

If I was to design my own grave marker, the words “Michigan Engineer” might be all that needs to be said. Being a Michigan engineer is a special badge of distinction and set my life on its journey. It is respected around the world. I am proud to be a Michigan engineer.

 

1 Computer and Communication Sciences.

2 NUBS – the former North University Building Station that housed the original computing center (IBM 709x mainframes running MAD, Michigan Algorithm Decoder, which was Fortran-like in many ways, with a few adders of structured programming). North University Building was located at the overpass over North University to the dorms on the hill and now only is a memory.

3 Program and Addressing Structure in a Time-Sharing Environment, B. W. Arden, B. A. Galler, F. H. Westervelt, and T. C. O’Brien, Journal of the ACM, December 1965.

 

IOE Celebrates Over 60 Years of Excellence

The University of Michigan Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering has had a profound impact over the last 60+ years. From November 9 -11, 2017, IOE alumni, students, faculty, staff, and other friends of the department gathered for a three-day program that celebrated the past and presented a vision of the department’s future.

Faculty and current students discussed ongoing research in the areas of disease management, healthcare operations, ergonomics, risk analysis, and data analytics. There were also hands-on demonstrations, family-friendly activities, social events, a tailgate with group watching of the away football game at Maryland, a visit to the stadium, a gala dinner at the University of Michigan Art Museum, and numerous opportunities to connect with old friends and make new ones.

Monroe Keyserling, the chair of the event’s planning committee said, “The 60+ reunion was a great opportunity for several generations of IOE alumni and friends to meet current faculty and students. For me, it was a special treat to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in many years. As Chair of the Planning Committee, I’d like to thank all alumni, faculty, staff, and students who participated in the event. I look forward to seeing an even bigger crowd when we celebrate our 75th.”

All photos from the event are available here.

Undergraduates Showcase Research in Poster Session

Undergraduates in IOE 202 “Operations Modeling” had the chance to present their course projects to the IOE community in a poster session held on December 11, 2017. IOE 202 is made up mostly of sophomores who are just beginning their careers in IOE. In the course, students worked in teams on a project in which they identified an operations problem of interest to them and used an operations modeling approach to derive a solution to their problem.

The poster session, arranged by course instructor Lauren Steimle, gave students the opportunity to present their findings. Steimle says she was taking Susan Montogomery’s graduate-level “Teaching Engineering” class as she was preparing to teach 202. One thing they discussed was how a poster session could be a feasible way to have a large number of students present their work. She liked the idea and decided to put it into practice.

“The ability to communicate technical material is a valuable skill for engineers. However, it seems that many undergraduate engineering students often do not get the opportunity to practice presenting technical information until later on in their undergraduate careers due to the logistical challenges of organizing presentations for larger, introductory-level classes,” said Steimle.

Rachel Cooper was one student who appreciated the opportunity the poster session provided. Rachel works as a barista at Starbucks on South Main Street in Ann Arbor. Because the store is located so close to campus, many students work there. Her project came about because she noticed the difficulty her manager was having scheduling around students’ continuously variant schedules.

“Our team decided to create a mixed-integer program through Excel that would help make this problem easier!” Rachel said. “We ended up with so much data that we had to upgrade to a stronger Excel software, OpenSolver, in order to run our program.  Presenting at the poster fair was really fun because I was able to speak from experience about why this mixed-integer program was so helpful to the store. Our group had a lot of fun learning about the magic that happens behind the scenes when scheduling for a corporation. I’m planning on showing my manager the work we did next time I’m scheduled!”

The projects were widely varied, providing many interesting discussions between attendees and the students presenting. For instance, Sajay Srivastava and his team applied IOE principals to televised football, “Our group wanted to see if we could apply the optimization principles that we learned in 202 (specifically, linear programming) to develop an “optimal” college football broadcast schedule. We decided to use the primary ESPN College Football networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) with multiple time slots (in general, early afternoon, evening, night, and late-night). We also created a “matchup coefficient” metric, which we used to gauge the attractiveness of each matchup. This took factors such as poll rankings, overall program strength, and rivalries into account. We then used this metric, in combination with historic viewership data and various constraints, to create a schedule (using Excel’s Solver) that maximized potential viewership over the course of a Saturday slate of games,” said Sajay.

Lauren was pleased with how the poster session played out. She said, “I think the students learned communication skills by gaining valuable presentation experience and evaluating other groups’ poster presentations. Further, I believe the poster component motivated students to produce high-quality work since they knew that they would be sharing their projects with their classmates and faculty members. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the project and the posters.”