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50th Anniversary

IIE National Capital Chapter celebrates 50 years of service to IEs in the metro Washington, D.C. area.

IIE National Capital Chapter 50 Year Anniversary

Fifty years ago a group of energetic idealist industrial engineers came together to form the National Capital Professional Chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. They had a need to share new ideas and to help one another grow. The shared thoughts and concerns at professional meetings and they came together socially to network and mix with people who had similar interests.

Times have changed, but in many ways the function of the chapter remains the same. Current chapter president Russell Wooten (RW), treasurer Neal Schmeidler (NS), and senior member and chapter director Robert Charlton (RC) share their thoughts on what the IIE was like when they joined and what they think IIE will be like in the year 2020.

What IIE was like when they joined?

(RC) – In the 1970’s we met at Bolling Air Force Base. The meetings were lively with lots of camaraderie. There were usually 35-40 people at each meeting. The chapter photographer would always be there to take pictures. Right before summer we would have a formal dinner as the last chapter event.

(RW) – When I started as an industrial engineer, I did time studies with a sweeping hand stopwatch. The analysis was completed on paper using a hand calculator. Sampling was completed by plotting out data points on graph paper. Technology and computers have advanced our field tremendously over the years. Optimization, knowledge-based analysis and artificial intelligence have enhanced the industrial engineers’ work tools. Factories are automated with conveyors and robotics. Scheduling is real time and new theories in management, control, cost reduction and performance guide our work. In the 70’s and 80’s my work focused on individual processes and my sight was very narrow. In the 90’s and continuing my focus became more system-wide. Factories, offices and organizations were networked, communication, information and data flow became critical.

(NS) – When I joined IIE it was called the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (AIIE) and at some point the organization reached a membership as high as 45,000+. During my 25+ years as a member, we have from time to time struggled with what to call ourselves, but in the end “industrial engineering” has always survived. Over the years I have enjoyed the benefits of knowing other IIE members, participated in conferences, helped chapters and the IIE when possible, and secured at least two jobs through networking with IIE members, and have worked with several of the greatest IEs in the world.

What will industrial engineering be like in the year 2020?

(RW) – By 2020 the Industrial Engineer will have emerged as the single resource capable of managing stability, analyzing alternatives, providing for transformations and adding value to the entire system. We know we can do this today, but maybe by 2020 everyone else will know it also.

(NS) – By the year 2020, I see three possible outcomes. (1) industrial engineering will disappear, be absorbed into some other profession, or (2) industrial engineering will be struggling to survive just as today, or (3) industrial engineers will be an elite group of very qualified, capable, and sought after individuals able to help industry and governments solve business performance problems through the application of engineering principles and methodologies.

For industrial engineers to emerge as leaders in shaping the world of the future, the industrial engineering discipline, through the IIE, will need to proactively chart its course for the future and put in place dynamic leaders able to guide the discipline forward in spite of the nay Sayers and those who wait idly by for someone else to do it.

You can help shape the future of the industrial engineering discipline and the IIE by becoming active in a local chapter. For more information contact the chapter president Russell Wooten, russell.wooten@iienationalcapital.com, or 571-227-2040.

This text appeared in the February issue of IE magazine