SUNConferences, Computers and Industrial Engineering 42

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Restocking the Industrial Engineering toolkit: combining process mapping, business analytics and operations research for effective problem solving
Elias Jakobus Willemse

Last modified: 2012-06-14


Industrial engineers are equipped with a wide range of problem solving tools, ranging from analytical Operations Research (OR) tools that can be applied to specific well defined problems, to more general high level tools, such as business process mapping that can be applied across a whole organisation. The advantages and shortcomings of both extremities have been well documented. OR is cited for being too technical and narrow-minded, while business process mapping is criticised for yielding only marginal improvements. Recently business analytics has emerged as a complementary approach to traditional OR methods. The approach aims to better understand business performance by using data mining in combination with quantitative analysis and is regarded more robust than OR methods. Nonetheless it too is criticised as transactional data alone cannot fully address business performance. 

This presentation demonstrates, through a case study, how the strengths of the different approaches can be leveraged for effective problem solving. The case study focuses on improving operations at a wholesale plant nursery in the Western Cape, South Africa. It illustrates how the three approaches were integrated, and discusses the benefits of combining the approaches.