Because an Industrial Engineer works on a number of different type of projects: plant layouts, CAD, work measurement, and the like, people will ask me what is my favorite type of project and which one do I like the least. That is a difficult question to answer. While it is true that some projects are more interesting than others, I find that the challenge involved in any particular project is the part to be savored and enjoyed. The old stand-bye’s like work measurement are challenging enough in and of itself. Plant layouts and anything that uses CAD are challenging because of the thought that goes into the layout and translating that thought into CAD. The most challenging, however, is anything new. Social Media management can be the most challenging, right now, because of the unknown paths that I can follow. Every turn can be something new by itself. That leads to great fun!
Some of the new techniques that I learned because “I Just Can’t Say No” are:
Data base programming. I’ve written some applications for clients to help them in their day-to-day operations. Some keep track of their sales force and the commissions earned, scheduled machines, and absences. I even programmed some spreadsheets.
Social Media Management. Everyone uses Facebook and Twitter, but there are some techniques to using them effectively. Also there are other places on the internet to get one noticed.
CAD. While I have been using CAD to create plant layouts and piece part drawings, I had to learn some 3D techniques.
Different techniques. There is always something new to learn to keep the old ways fresh. While some things will always stay the same, there will always be new and better ways to achieve them
Whatever the client needs to get their job done. New and improved ways of doing the old techniques are always coming along. If I don’t learn or do them, someone else will. Once learned, I have used these techniques for different clients.
As a consultant, I am continually asked to do projects that require me to learn something new. Consequently, if I want the business I have to say yes to almost any project that comes my way. Therefore, I have said yes to some projects that I don’t know how to do at that time. After I leave the client, I have to figure out how to do what it is that they want me to do. Through the years I have learned how to do multiple new things. I have learned how to write data base programs, I have learned how to use spreadsheets to better advantage and some CAD drawings that I wouldn’t have otherwise known how to do. When it comes time to billing the customer, however, I will not bill them for the time that it took to learn the new project. However I will have gained the knowledge how to do it for another time and it has come in handy for some later projects. Have you found this to be true for anything that you’ve done?
When I first started out as a young Industrial Engineer, there were really only two ways of measuring work content. There was pre-determined time systems (Work Factor and MTM) and the stopwatch. I had to learn Work Factor and use a stopwatch. Work Factor became ingrained in my head. I haven’t used it in 30 years but I think I could use it today as I still have my original “chart.” The timing device became the measuring tool of choice. The original stopwatch hands flew around the dial at breakneck speed, but I had to note the location of the hand on the dial and record the element. Talk about inaccuracies! After a while, a new device entered the market, a digital stopwatch. Wow! What an improvement. That remained the device of choice for a long time. Now comes the PDA. This represents a dramatic improvement in accuracy. Not only is it accurate in and of itself, there are apps that are written specifically for work measurement. This is a long way from the analog stopwatch. What will be next?
I have been consulting to small businesses for over 20 years now. While the old tried and true methods are in demand, there is always something new to learn. The use of the computer was still in the early stages. When I first started out, word-of-mouth seemed to work for me, for awhile. I didn’t know about networking. And I certainly didn’t know that there were formal groups that helped to provide that opportunity. I tried to slug through the old fashioned way to find new business; send out mailers, cold calls, answer ads, etc. Of course none of that worked. Eventually, I met someone that suggested that I join a Chamber of Commerce. I was reluctant at first as I thought all the wrong things about a Chamber. Through persistance of that other person, I did join one. I quickly found out about networking. I also learned about the concept of “giving to get.” If I can attend a networking event, I will be there. Also there are no more preconceptions about any group. This also brings up the phrase “If I would have known then what I know now!”
Well, as expected, I grew tired of this, too. Before I could act on this, a decision was made for me. The company was sold and was going to relocate. I didn’t want to uproot my family (they didn’t want to either). I tried finding a job, but wasn’t successful. There was only one thing to do. Hang up a shingle and go at for myself. I hired a small PR firm to help me get started. It wasn’t long before I had my first client. This client knew other people and I was on my way. This was my first experience with networking, although I didn’t give it that name. I was doing a lot of the things that with which I grew bored, but somehow this was different and fun. As time went by I learned different things (I learned NEVER to say “No, I don’t know how to do that”). I worked longer hours, traveled a lot and started my day earlier than ever. I Love It! MBR Consulting was born.
I stayed with this for a while but soon grew restless. It was apparent that I had to find another clearing in the woods. A number of job interviews followed. It’s amazing to me that most interviewers don’t know what to ask. They will read and re-read the resume (maybe it changes). One asked me where I expected to be in 5 years (another usual question, with usually predictable responses). I replied that I would have his boss’ job. He stammered out “wha’ – what about my job?” I told him that I had it two years prior. I got that job! This job entailed a lot more travel than previous. This company had plants around the country. I only had to go to about 10 of them. The operations at those plants were light assembly and some machining. Most of the work was time study and plant layout. Boring, yes; but because it was out of town, it was palatable. Also, back in the home office, there were two other engineers. Not ideal for me, but it would do, for now.