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Types of ISE projects

The seven main types of industry-focused, ISE projects:

  • Operations review
  • Root cause analysis 
  • Out-of-sequence work (travelers)
  • Material handling analysis
  • Production parts shortages
  • Facility layouts
  • Ergo/safety mitigations

Operations review

Definition: “An initial review or survey of the existing operations components or manufacturing activities of a product, department, plant, or division.”  

  • An operations review may be the first step in performing an overall operations improvement, or it can also be a stand-alone assessment.
  • A Lean Manufacturing Assessment (LMA) is a special type of operations review.
  • An operations review will usually start with some tours & direct observations (with some digital pictures), that may also include some time studies. It also will rely on several focused informational interviews. Some data analysis will be needed to document the current conditions that are measurable, and maybe a value stream map. 
  • Some benchmarking or at least similar operations comparison, may be required – as part of the operations review. 
  • If an LMA, it may include a 5S score chart, and spaghetti chart.
  • The report may include a comparison (of past performance vs. current performance), and maybe a gap-to-goal chart. If it identified several items to work on, a FMEA ranking of the choices may be helpful. Often a list of plus & minus items will be part of the assessment findings/conclusions.

Root cause analysis

Definition: “An analysis of the underlying reasons for a single re-occurring problem (or several problems), that will result in solutions that can be tested, prior to implementation.”

  • A defect reduction (or elimination) is a common root cause analysis problem. 
  • The initial activity will usually include some tours of the areas affected, including direct observations, and some digital pictures.
  • Then some informational interviews with the process owners, and several types of data analysis, that may include pareto charts, and a defect locator chart (if it’s a defect reduction problem).
  • This may result in the construction of a cause/effect diagram and the creation of a 5-whys analysis chart. Plus any test/trials run or any benchmarking (if done).
  • The report may include the findings & conclusions, any comparisons chart, and results from any tests/trials on the possible solutions, and any benchmarking (if done). Then the results implemented.
  • A full follow-up and additional implementation may occur later, if a more complex solution is involved.

Out of sequence work (travelers)

Definition: “An analysis of the reasons why some scheduled work is regularly being performed late (out-of-position). Once the underlying reasons have been identified, it will require solutions to be implemented, and monitored (to ensure the condition does not re-occur).” 

  • Out of sequence work is often referred to as “travelers.”
  • If the traveler condition cannot be eliminated, a work-around may be required, such as the implementation of a traveler cart for special parts staging & a traveler crew trained to work these jobs out-of-position.
  • The initial activity will usually include a tour of all the surrounding work, some direct observations of the out of sequence work, some informational interviews, and some data analysis.
  • Then the use of a precedence diagram and process flow chart, along with some time studies will help identify the actual sequence of all the jobs.
  • The use of a 5-whys diagram and a cause/effect diagram may help identify the underlying conditions, and some benchmarking may help identify solutions.
  • The report will include findings & recommendations, and if a work-around is needed.

Material handling analysis

Definition: “An analysis of various material handling activities performed within a facility (or between facilities), to look for process improvements and overall efficiencies.”

  • It may include a review of the type of material handling methods and any interim staging procedures, as well as point-of-use considerations. 
  • The initial activity will usually involve tours, some direct observations, and several detailed process & product flows which may be overlaid on facility layout drawings. It also will usually involve some informational interviews of the material handlers, and point-of-use groups, with a focus towards creating just-in-time deliveries.
  • Also some data analysis of the storage and staging, and any re-occurring delays, may be included in the analysis.
  • Some benchmarking of similar material handling activities may help generate solutions. 
  • If a complex material handling issue, it might be helpful to prepare a cause/effect diagram, or a 5-whys diagram.
  • The report may include the findings & conclusions, and a corrective action plan.

Production parts shortages

Definition: “An analysis of the underlying reasons for on-going parts shortages that are critical to production.”

  • A production parts shortage may involve a review of staging, storage & inventory procedures, and even supplier related issues. 
  • The initial activity will usually involve direct observations, and informational interviews with the process owners & parts support groups, and also some data analysis of the parts shortages, to see how often it is occurring. This might include analysis of staging, storage & inventory procedures, and use of a process flow chart.
  • If a complex issue, it might be helpful to prepare a cause/effect diagram, or a 5-whys diagram.
  • If the condition is outside the immediate operations, it may be due to a supplier condition. Meetings with groups working with suppliers may help resolve the problem, or some supplier visits may be necessary. 
  • The report may include the findings & conclusions, and a corrective action plan.

Facility layouts

Definition: “A layout of a new facility, or a revision to an existing facility, that utilizes an optimized flow for the product or activity involved.” 

  • The layouts will usually conform to the drawing system being utilized by the company. AutoCAD is the most common facility drawing system in use. 
  • The initial activity may be to first determine what is being added to or changed of an existing facility. This may involve some tours, direct observations, and informational interviews of the process owner.
  • Copies of existing layout drawings will be needed to review and verify the current layout.
  • New measurements will be taken of the existing area, to verify the layout condition and to note any stationary or fixed objects (which will not move). 
  • Then a variety of analysis tools & forms may be utilized to optimize the new layout: from/to chart, activity relationship chart, space utilization chart, and process flow chart.
  • If there are multiple working layout alternatives a comparison chart may be useful, or even a simulation performed, to determine the best layout (based on key factors such as cost, process time, staffing needs, etc.).
  • The report will include the findings & conclusions along with the new facility layout drawings.

Ergo/safety mitigations

Definition: “An analysis of specific ergonomic risks or safety conditions, and a plan to mitigate or eliminate the risk or condition.” 

  • Usually this will be done in conformance with an existing site-wide ergo or safety program being utilized by the company.
  • The initial activity will usually involve a tour, and direct observations of the job, task, or area. Also informational interviews of the process owner.
  • A risk assessment is usually performed, using published ergonomic data or safety criteria or the services of a trained ergonomist or safety consultant. This will usually include some measurements being taken.
  • Some benchmarking of similar conditions and research of useful mitigations will usually be helpful, along with some test trials.
  • The report may include the findings & conclusions, and any suggested mitigations to reduce or eliminate the ergo or safety conditions.
  • The implementation will put in place the mitigation and then monitor the results to see if the risk or condition has been eliminated or reduced.

In summary

  • Understand the different types of industrial engineering projects and the different methodologies used to conduct each type of project.
  • In order to have a successful project, spend time at the beginning of each new project to develop a good project plan, 
  • Review your objective & planned methodology with your internal customer before starting any detailed project activities.
  • Focus considerable effort on the outcomes & results for each type of project.

Forms & activities used on ​ISE projects​