IE and BI – the Intersection of Industrial Engineering and Business Intelligence

A classic Peter Drucker quote is “What gets measured, get managed.” A quote attributed to W. Edwards Deming is “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Big Data attempts to collect as much information as possible in the hope that the data can be used to make better decision. However, you will still fail if you don’t ask the right questions, give information to the wrong people, fail to give it to the right people at the right time or waste time trying to make sense of it all.

Many enterprises are struggling to manage the firehose of data they’re funneling in, much less mining it for useful information that might be turned into insight (wisdom). We’ve seen a rise in Business Intelligence tools to try to literally make sense of it all. This is leading to a number of changes in industrial engineering and business in general.

Business intelligence expertise is increasingly seen as essential to work in data analysis for manufacturing planning, demand planning and operational decision making.

If you’re going to work in consulting or analytics, job descriptions often ask the candidate to have experience with business intelligence or operation research tools if not both.

Engineers who work in sales or support regularly work with business intelligence experts, if they are not one themselves.

If you’re working as an analyst to improve business operations, you’re likely going to be expected to know how to design, write and publish reports through commonly used business intelligence tools like Cognos.

IT hasn’t entirely replaced time studies.  However, productivity experts regularly use business intelligence tools to study the productivity of different groups and review business operations.

Quality engineers are starting to be expected to know how to write queries of databases and business intelligence systems.

Business intelligence reports may provide leads on aspects to improve or document the changes that have taken place after process improvement projects.

In the case of CMMS and manufacturing systems where nearly everything is tracked by the Internet of Things, business intelligence tools may be how you get the information you need to do your job.

In summary, business analytics is focused on analysis while industrial engineering tends to be focused on improvements, but the distinction is starting to blur.

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