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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Challenges for Industrial Engineering in South East Asia

Saturday, January 12, 2008 Posted by Vernon Go No comments

“Industrial engineer” is synonymous with systems integrator - a big-picture thinker, in other words. It's an employee who takes what exists today and conceptualizes what should exist in the future.


We all know that Industrial Engineering started in the U.S. and I guess there’s no need to dwell on its history or maybe perhaps I’ll talk about it later. The thing is, all “Major” Developments are also found in the U.S. and/or Japan. I have had researched on this and have come up with the following Challenges:


Economic Structure – Different countries here in SEA have different economic structures meaning, we simply cannot compare ourselves with the industrial giants since some of us here in SEA are agricultural based economies, export-based and most recently in the Philippines an export of Manpower. U.S. is a “BIG” mass-producer, It produces BIG cars in large amounts (Ex. Ford), and Large amounts food (From their Huge Farming). Japan on the other hand, prides itself with there High Technology which we some SEA nations cannot compete with directly.


Software Availability – Well there are lots of these available in the United States that is. Simulation Software, Time Study Software, Decision Support Systems Software and the like, just to name a few. The problem here is price, its in US Dollars and converting that into one’s local currency would most definitely multiply a considerably “cheap” software priced at $4000 would be around at least 100k in any of the SEA currency. Not only are these not available in schools but also small-medium businesses would hesitate to spend such a large amount.


Technology Turn-over – We already know Japan is bad at this and the US is also some what the same. Basically its just the same as above, the focus of there developments, there economic structure, ranges in application are some what conspiring against us. Although we can argue that some of the Major or Big Companies in each SEA nation are adapting such technologies, the gap is still quite far.


“When Outnumbering the Enemy ten to One, Surround him; When Five to One, Attack Him; When Double his Strength, Divide him; When Evenly matched, you may choose to fight; When slightly weaker than the enemy, be capable of withdrawing; When greatly inferior to the enemy, avoid engaging him; For no matter how obstinate a small force is, it will succumb to a larger and superior force.”


“Therefore, an army that lacks heavy equipment will lose the battle; an army that does not have food will not survive; an army that does not have supplies cannot continue fighting.”


Sun Tzu, Art of War


Knowledge Turn-over – In terms of current trends and practices like Six Sigma, Kaizen, 5S, Lean Systems and the like, they are known and are being adopted by companies but the Professional Training charges are quite insanely high. My guess would be the law of supply and demand, demand for training is high but the supply of qualified, knowledgeable individuals are low. As to the range of applications, the US most definitely has lots of it from the military, hospitals / health care to manufacturing and IT.


“The Strength of an army does not depend on large forces. Do not advance relying on sheer numbers.”


“What is more important is the training of the men and officers.”


Sun Tzu, Art of War


Innovation – The Challenge here is to develop / enhance a particular range of applications that the US or Japan doesn’t have.


“The best way, to master the challenges of the future, is to actively create them today.”


Private Sector Involvement – The private sectors of our countries need to know and understand the potentials of applications of Industrial Engineering to there economies and business in order to further its development here in South East Asia for they to would benefit from it.


ASEAN / Governments – The future of IE in SEA are in the hands of our leaders, hopefully they also minimize there “political dramas” and start to focus there attentions to the developments of not only there respective countries but also there neighbors as well. ASEAN countries must work more or as a team in order to fight Giants such as the US, Japan, The EU and most especially the growing India and China.


Environmental Awareness and Energy Efficiency – Although such topics were already discussed in the 25th Conference of ASEAN Federation of Engineering Organizations (CAFEO 25), I myself am not impressed. Although the effort to tackle such an issue was there, but the follow through is not the same. The speakers were simply reporting on there current environmental issues and the measures they have under taken (It was like a boasting contest in my opinion), there was no plan of a “joint” undertaking of some sort to develop or to research alternative sources of energy and some what an environmental campaign to give awareness to the youth.


“Doing already today, what others think of tomorrow, because nothing is as steady as change”

Heraklit, 480 v. Chr.

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