Maeen Md. Khairul Akter
Managing Editor, Textile Focus
The job descriptions and the skill requirements in the textile and apparel industries has changed considerably in the recent times due to the changes in business dynamics and technological revolutions. Doing business has not been this expensive before; increasing wages, utility costs and stringent compliance regulations are continuously putting pressure on the accounts. As a result, the room for error has become very limited with the margin of returns. Industry owners are toiling hard to find the right balance and trade-offs between opportunities. Industries are involved in a mad race of producing the best quality products at the least possible cost. Hence, maintaining efficiency in all the business operation areas has become so very important that conventional ways of doing things are becoming less effective. This circumstance is pushing the textile and apparel professionals to develop new knowledge and skills that enables them to better utilize their organizational resources, technologies and processes. Engineering management (EM) and Industrial Engineering (IE) are such two subject matters that have the potential to find solutions of the concerns mentioned above. This article tries to put light on the application of these two subject matters in the textile and apparel industry and show how the EM and IE professionals can improve the business operations.
The interdisciplinary approach towards STEM studies (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) evolved during the nineteenth century when the academicians started to realize the importance of managerial and social knowledge along with the technical knowledge for engineers to be successful in large projects. With the rigorous industrialization all over the world competition among the companies intensified and today it has become so immense that only engineers and technologists are not anymore capable of creating solutions for sustainable business; rather organizations look for package incumbents who are not only competent technically but also competent in the efficient application of their technical capabilities. Adoption of management courses in different engineering fields is a common phenomenon now days as most of the industrial organizations are expecting engineers to be good managers as well. The textile and apparel industries are not any difference. Engineering Management and Industrial Engineering are two interdisciplinary areas that has become very important for industries operating in a volatile environment like the textile and apparel industries.
Engineering Management (EM) is the application of management principles in the engineering practices. It brings together the technological problem-solving ability of engineering and the planning, organizing and leading abilities of management in order to oversee the operational performance of complex engineering driven enterprises. EM works to improve the business with a better understanding of business and management functions, projects, marketing and accounting, cost and finance, communication and technology. EM focuses on the efficiency of the mid-level management and executive positions. With EM organizational problems become more visible and optimum solutions are more perceivable. So the aim of EM is the improvement, design and management of projects and programs within complex human/technological systems and explore the synergies between technology and business practices. The areas studied under EM are General Management, Business Planning and Development, Leadership, Marketing Management, Management Accounting and Cost Management, Project Management, Managerial Economics, Technology Management, Supply Chain Management, Data Science and Analysis for Decision Making, Product Development, Financial Engineering and Entrepreneurship Development.
Industrial engineering (IE) is an inter-disciplinary profession and subject matter that is concerned with the optimization of complex processes, systems, or organizations by developing, improving and implementing integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy and materials. While EM works for developing business, IE is concerned with the development of processes and systems primarily related to production. People with IE expertise are expected to create new systems, processes or situations for the useful coordination of man, materials and machines and improve the quality and productivity of systems and to reduce overburden of work load on employees physically and socially. So the areas covered by IE can be listed as Production Planning, Work Study, Scheduling, Ergonomics, Safety Engineering, Human Factor Engineering, Manufacturing & Automation, Inventory Control, Statistical Quality Control, Quality Management, Product Design, Simulations, Process Designs, Material Handling & Plant Lay-out.
Application of Engineering Management and Industrial Engineering
The application of EM and IE in different stages of business operations are multifaceted and undeniable in present business environment. Starting form idea generation to strategy development to organizational development to production and marketing, EM and IE have many areas to contribute.
From Table-1 it is seen that business starts from a n idea which is formed through exploration of subject knowledge, work experience and opportunity recognition in the business environment. EM helps in this stage with entrepreneurial knowledge on how to identify business opportunities and how to allocate resources and capabilities to start a business.
In the strategy development stage, it is essential to transform the idea in to a business and make strategy for operation, production and marketing. EM helps in this stage by identifying the money making logic of the business through managerial economics and financial engineering. Knowledge on technology management helps to assess the technologies, materials and equipment required. IE comes with product idea and design, plant lay-out and quality bench-marking. IE designs an optimum system where all the resources and capabilities of the business can be suitably utilized.
In the operation design stage a design of the whole project is done by IE and EM is responsible for the proper management of the project. Critical decisions on technology, products and operations are made by the EM professionals.
In the production stage a wide range of activities are supposed to be done by the IE to ensure an optimum production that produces the most at the least cost and not over-exploiting the workers and employees physically and socially. Particulars like production planning, process design, work study, material handling, ergonomics and human factors, maintenance etc. comes into play through the IE people.
In the marketing stage EM helps in marketing decision making with data analysis and supply chain information. IE is also responsible for directing supply chain management activities in the marketing stage.
The next stage is concerned with the decisions on what to do with the profit, how to manage the wealth and risk created in the process and how to re-invest. EM professionals are also supposed to contribute in decision making with their knowledge on risk management, investment decisions and business development. The Table-2 depicts a more detailed application.
Engineering Management and Industrial Engineering for Textile Professionals
Textile and apparel is an industry characterized by a complex and long supply chain, intensively labor oriented and a having a formidable impact on the environment. As a results the industry is always suffering with some sort of engineering and business related problems. Finding solutions to those problems become factors for competitive advantage for the competing industries in the market. The critical problems that the textile and apparel industries are toiling with and how Engineering Management and industrial engineering can be applied is depicted in the Table-3.Conclusion
It is evident from the industry practice that engineers after a couple of promotions, their job doesn’t require so much technical skill anymore, instead, they need new skills to help them successfully lead and manage technical teams. Especially in the textile and apparel industries where manufacturing, processing and assembling take place in different production stages, it becomes very difficult for typical engineers to maintain productivity and quality at minimum cost. Hence, management and business skills have become crucial for engineers. Industrial Engineering knowledge leads to the optimization of process and systems within the organization and Engineering Management knowledge helps in taking critical business decisions regarding products, marketing, technology and profitability of the organizations. So a final verdict can be drawn from the discussion above that textile engineers now days mandatory requires to get training in EM and IE subject matters to become more useful for the textile and apparel business organizations.