Where Are The Business Engineers?

There was a brief period of time where I was a Team Member at Target. They’re a $75 Billion dollar company. They have, for all intents and purposes, all the resources they could ever need at their disposal. They employ more than 300,000 people, operate nearly 2,000 stores, and added about $5 Billion dollars of market share in the first half of 2020 thanks to booming online orders. Despite their immense resources, I noticed they certain things poorly. I made a few suggestions for them, which can be seen here.

At other points in my life, I have been an early employee in small companies (< 50 people), I have started three separate ventures with very little money, and I’ve worked at a semi influential recruiting firm with about 100 employees. All that to say, having been in businesses from small to large, I’ve noticed that all have operational issues that need solving. There is no size where issues magically go away. CEOs, founders, board members, and other executives are often blind to certain issues because they have to keep their focus on big picture, higher level issues. It’s tough to care about bad customer service {insert any issue here} at one Target location when another one is burning down, there is pandemic going on and there are thousands of other stores to think about. Lower level managers either lack proper training or lack the freedom to implement changes. Consultants can be a great resource here, but they often have little ownership in the outcomes, have no skin in the game, and aren’t going to be around if their suggestions flop. Something has got to give, though, if businesses are going to get better. (I’m assuming an inherent drive to want to get better).

If we start with the idea that engineers are problem solvers, and business is a never ending journey of solving problems, one would think there should be more business engineers. No, not consultants. No, not MBAs. What businesses need is the analytic problem solving ability of an engineer, the acumen of an MBA and the empathy of a social worker. Someone who can view the data as it is (not what someone wants it to be), someone who has the blessing of the executives to drive changes, someone who has the tool kit for making improvements in all departments and keeps people at the forefront of their decision making.

Enter Industrial Engineering. Turns out business engineers exist, just hiding behind an obscure title. Industrial Engineers are the folks who combine the technical problem solving ability of an engineer, the people focus of a social worker, and the business savvy of an MBA.

The triple threat of Industrial Engineering

As an example, look at Toyota and Apple. Both have hired and relied heavily on Industrial Engineers to get them to their dominant market shares today. Toyota produces over 10% of all vehicles made annually. Apple was the first $2 Trillion dollar company, and has manufactured more than 2 billion iPhones.

Some key tools from Industrial Engineering that have propelled companies to greatness are;

  • The art and science of Continuous Improvement

If you have a job, a business, or are otherwise involved in an organization that could be doing something better, chances are high that Industrial Engineering has something to offer. There are dozens of non-technical tools that can be read about online. The technical side of things might require more digging or hiring an Industrial Engineer. The point being, if you have ever thought to yourself, “Seems like there is a better way to do this,” you’re right. Getting from the current state of how things are done to a new way of doing them takes some thoughtful planning, but the tools of IE are how you make stuff better.

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Author of “The Pocket Guide To Making Stuff Better.” Business Engineer. More on Twitter @Quinn_Hanson22

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Quinn Hanson

Author of “The Pocket Guide To Making Stuff Better.” Business Engineer. More on Twitter @Quinn_Hanson22