What’s the Connection Between Digital Transformations and Industrial Engineers?
I don’t know of an asset-intensive industry today that is not considering, embarking on, or moving forward with a digital transformation journey to resolve key challenges and increase efficiency. But this process of maturity in development requires not only the selection of the appropriate digital technologies. It also requires the selection of people with the appropriate expertise to execute the actual digital transformation in the organization.
In particular, they need industrial engineers. But do organizations know how to recruit the right industrial engineers? Do they have the knowhow and skills to define the correct job description? From my experience, they are often misled by incorrect concepts and understanding of what is at stake.
What Do Industrial Engineers Do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Industrial engineers create systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.” From this definition, it’s possible to understand why industrial engineers play such a central role in any digital transformation program. The same source also notes that as companies in a variety of industries continue to seek new ways to contain costs and improve efficiency, “Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
What Are the Key Industrial Engineer Skills Required for Digital Transformations?
From my experience accompanying digital transformation programs in asset-intensive industries, industrial engineers need a series of very specific capabilities to ensure success. Required to understand innovative technologies and their value and significance for all stakeholders – from fieldworkers, contractors and team leads to functional managers and executives – this is a position that requires a very energetic person able to work independently.
Here’s an initial list of key skills and qualities that I believe are essential when selecting an industrial engineer to implement digital transformation:
Understand the Industry: Ability to get to know the specific industry – particularly understanding the human factor challenges, learning how operations are currently performed, and what will make them easier and more productive - by talking to all the stakeholders and getting into their mindsets.
Knowledgeable in Change Management Processes: Ability to understand the opportunities for improvement; determine and propose alternatives that add real value; and implement the necessary changes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
Excellent and Confident Communicator: Ability to change the status quo by creating communication programs; documenting work processes and/or technological changes; walking customers through the solution; and convincing all stakeholders of the advantages of the proposed changes, specifically to them.
Fast Learner and Adopter: Ability to learn and understand how to adapt dynamically-changing technologies, and combine human engineering with UI/UX, process optimization and real value.
Awareness of the Factors that Determine Success: Ability to make a direct connection between industrial engineering and customer success; apply Six Sigma and other methodologies to eliminate waste in technology-driven processes; and implement change at an acceptable rate by working in short, agile cycles from design and development to review and modification.
“Successful industrial engineers must possess the ability to communicate effectively, for without it you cannot sell your ideas. You must be able to manage projects and multiple tasks, for without those skills you will be less efficient and of less use to your employer. You must be able to observe others and understand why they are doing what they do, for without that change is an uphill battle.”
Advice from an IIE Member
When Should an in-House Industrial Engineer Be Added to Your Team?
Supporting digital transformation methodology – from design, value chain and full deployment of digital technologies all the way to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - is typically an extended journey. The decision on when to recruit an industrial engineer depends on a range of factors. These range from the scope of your digital transformation program and where you are in your journey, to the type of organization and the amount of standardization required. For example, while initial trials can be performed using external industrial engineers as consultants, cross-organization standardization programs and utilization of digital transformation for multiple use cases – such as for both turnarounds and daily maintenance – typically require an in-house industrial engineer to lead the process and focus on continuous improvements as the organization evolves.
When Does Digital Transformation End?
Never. It’s a continuous process. At Mobideo, we accompany our customers on their digital transformation journeys with a range of consultant services from planning and recruiting appropriate personnel to advising, training, and guiding in-house personnel. Contact us now for more information.