Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

I, not robot

There’s one good thing about working with words. It is difficult – if not impossible – to find a mechanical replacement.

Even the best grammar-fixing and spellchecking programs have major flaws. So I’m fairly confident of continuing a career of putting nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like in place. I don’t expect to walk into IIE one morning and see C-3PO from Star Wars sitting at my desk.

As industrial engineers know, the same can’t be said for other professions. IEs often have been at the forefront of automating systems. But they also have been called "human engineers" because of the attention paid to worker interfaces. So when a worker says "I feel like a robot," the good IEs work not only to optimize the system, but to make sure that the staff members involved feel, well, human.

Mark Graban tackles that in the cover story "Good Change," which starts on Page 30. The industrial engineer was surprised to hear the "I feel like a robot" claim when he moved from manufacturing to healthcare. Just like in the automotive industry, Graban writes, kaizen and other lean principles were the keys to improved efficiency and better results for the workers and their customers. Graban details the introduction of kaizen into the medical field, its growth, best practices and hospitals that have undergone remarkable lean transformations.

In fact, this issue of Industrial Engineer has several healthcare options to examine. On Page 14, there is a news article about how a Boston hospital revolutionized its emergency department to the joy of its patients. And Health Systems columnist William "Ike" Eisenhauer tackles overcomplicated modeling on Page 24.

And, as always, February brings the opportunity to learn with a visit to the Society for Health Systems’ Health Systems Process Improvement Conference. Visit www.shsconference.org to register.

Learn how to make sure your healthcare workers are efficient, effective and feel like people. Humanity will thank you.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at mhughes@iienet.org or (770) 349-1110. 

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