About the Field
Industrial & Operations Engineering (IOE) is a powerhouse when it comes impact on the real world. Our professors and students work to solve problems in an incredible variety of industries, from healthcare to manufacturing, finance and urban planning.
How exactly does IOE help the world? We asked the pursuers of this cutting-edge research: our faculty.
Ergonomics, human performance and occupational safety
Building a more accessible world
Clive D’Sousa, Assistant Professor, Industrial Operations & Engineering
In ergonomics, we believe the world should work for everyone--including those with physical, sensory or other disabilities. And at the U-M Center for Ergonomics, we’re helping to make buildings, products, work environments and transportation systems more accessible to more people.
For example, we recently worked with the medical profession to help design mammography machines that can accommodate wheelchair users. And we’re developing a web-based software tool that will help architects design more accessible buildings. Our work is in high demand as the population ages, and it’s a field that makes a difference in a wide variety of different areas.
Applying aviation principles to make hospitals safer
James Bagian, MD, PE, Director, Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety
Commercial aviation and nuclear power have some of the best safety records in the industrial world. So we’re working to help hospitals achieve similar successes in patient care. For example, we’ve developed risk-based approaches that place special priority on the most risky situations, much like aviation and nuclear power do.
We’re also helping hospitals do a better job of analyzing “close calls,” or incidents where no harm occurs, and then taking action to prevent harm in the future. Our techniques are helping healthcare become more proactive when it comes to safety and making hospitals safer for patients.
Using Big Data to prevent weather-related flight delays
Amy Cohn, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor, Industrial & Operations Engineering
We’re using advanced data analytics to spot patterns, prevent flight delays and help airlines manage more efficiently. We can see how the weather in Atlanta may affect flight operations in Detroit later in the day, or exactly how a delayed plane on the East Coast ripples through the system to California.
We’re working toward building computer modeling software that could predict the outcomes of an infinite number of hypothetical flight and weather scenarios, helping airlines prevent weather delays before they happen and introducing some exciting new options for passengers.
Production, manufacturing and distribution
Engineering safer cities: Computer-optimized evacuation planning
Pascal Van Hentenryck, Professor, Industrial & Operations Engineering
As global urbanization crowds more people into less space, effective evacuation planning is more important than ever before. And we’re using advanced data analysis and optimization techniques to find better ways to evacuate people before disaster strikes. Our new technique crunches a staggering number of variables from population density to infrastructure and even the projected behavior of evacuees. Then, we generate optimized evacuation plans that do a better job of keeping people safe.
We recently applied the technique to a hypothetical repeat of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in 2005, and found that our method could have evacuated the city 37 percent faster. Now we’re working to develop a software tool that cities all over the world could use to optimize evacuation plans and make more informed decisions about disaster planning.
Building a more just, more resilient economy
Romesh Saigal, Professor, Industrial & Operations Engineering
The level of technology in the financial markets has exploded in recent years, bringing unprecedented power to stock traders and securities companies. But regulators and policymakers have largely been left behind. So we’re applying engineering methods to provide them with the tools and information they need to manage 21st century securities trading. We’re finding new ways to manage risk and prevent another financial crisis. We also want to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy extend to as many people as possible.