Category Archives: Teaching

Guest Blogger – Jessica Cleveland’s Personal Perspective of IE’s in Hospitals

I had the opportunity to mentor a talented undergraduate industrial engineering student in independent research this semester.  Jessica Cleveland is a Senior in UCF’s Industrial Engineering program who is interested in applying operations research to healthcare challenges.  Below is her personal perspective of IE’s in Hospitals.


IE’s in Hospitals – A Personal Perspective

by Jessica Cleveland

In the fall of my sophomore year I worked on a group project that made me realize Industrial Engineering skills could be applied to hospitals. The project involved analyzing the process of delivering food trays to patients during meal times at a local hospital. We found that the trays were being inspected for errors after they were already loaded. Because trays were loaded one in front of another, the inspection process required taking out the front tray in order to inspect the back tray, and then placing it back in its spot. The As-Is inspection process took approximately 2 minutes per cart. With an average of 45 carts being delivered per day, a total of 2 and a half hours were spent inspecting the carts and correcting errors. Suggesting that the nutritional services personnel conduct the inspection BEFORE loading trays into the cart reduced the daily process by 2 hours. So what value does that bring to the patient? This means that their food will not arrive cold or too early. By delivering edible food, fewer trays will be refused and patients will get the nutrients they need for a quicker recovery. Seeing first hand that even a simple improvement like this makes such a positive impact on someone’s mother, father, brother, or sister, is what made me passionate about pursuing a career, as an IE, in healthcare.

A little over 2 months ago I began an internship with another local hospital that sees 200-300 patients in the emergency department (ED) every day. With such high demand for our emergency department, there is campus-wide focus on ED Throughput, or how quickly we can get patients waiting in the emergency department seen by a doctor and admitted if need be. ED Throughput relies heavily on inpatient discharges and this is where my projects have been focused.

To some people I joke that my job is to look at numbers, but from those numbers I derive information, knowledge, and eventually wisdom. An example of information is the average turn-around times for the housekeeping staff to clean a dirty bed, or discharge cleans. This information I then turn into knowledge by analyzing the turn-around times and the number of discharge clean tasks by hour of day and day of week in comparison to the current staffing levels. By examining the staffing levels, turn-around times, and number of tasks I provide wisdom by determining the number of housekeepers needed per hour to accommodate discharge clean task demand.

As part of my job I am also responsible for populating and distributing various scorecards.  These scorecards display measures of performance for various entities in the hospital, for example, the turn-around times for the housekeepers to clean dirty beds. Other scorecards include performance metrics for: nurses complying with hourly rounding initiatives, doctor communication with patients, lab turn-around-times; the list truly goes on. It is this kind of transparency that is needed in hospitals and IEs are the experts at producing it.

What I’ve learned is that ideas for change can come from anyone in the hospital, but finding the value in a change that verifies it as an improvement is what Industrial Engineers provide. By analyzing data, Industrial Engineers implement ideas in the most effective and efficient way.

Explain Industrial Engineering Using Only the Ten Hundred Most Used Words

IE (1)

I am teaching a senior elective course in our department called Industrial Engineering Applications in the Service Industry.  It is a fun course that applies many IE tools to the likes of amusement parks, restaurants, hospitals, and hotels.  A goal is for the students in the class to enhance their technical skills in topics like mathematical modeling, queuing theory, and revenue management.  In addition, a secondary objective is for students to be effective communicators and to get their message across to a diverse audience.  Communication is important in all fields of study, but especially important in the service sector, where industrial engineers are often working along side non engineering professionals like medical doctors and wait staff.

This summer I ran across this cool text editor that only allows you to use the ten hundred most used words to try and explain an idea.  To give you an idea of the difficulty, “thousand” is not one of the ten hundred most common words.  After we had a class discussion about the characteristics of a service that are different from manufacturing, the following assignment was given to the students to test their ability to communicate, without using technical jargon, about their future profession and the service industry.

  1. Describe what an industrial engineer does using only the 1000 most frequent words in English.
  2. Describe what a service industry is using only the 1000 most frequent words in English.

I was impressed with the variability and creativity of the students’ responses.  As someone who has often struggled to explain Industrial Engineering to my friends and family, I especially appreciated the following responses about what an industrial engineer does.

•We make better the world. Everything can be made better and we actually do it.
•A person who comes up with the best answer to a problem, using as little money, people, and stuff as possible.
•Takes something and makes it better using new and old ideas, with numbers and facts to back it up.
•They make jobs for people easier and safer. They make sure that things that people buy are good. When businesses make things, they make the businesses able to make more things for less money. When goods are sent from one place to another, they make sure that the goods get to that place on time. They can figure out the quickest way to get from one place to another. This saves time and money. They can also make building plans for places where businesses make things. They can work with lots of different types of businesses to make them better.
•We do many things and can work in almost any place. We can make things better and easier to use. We focus on how to use people, money, and time. We can help you get letters faster and wait less time for your favorite rides. We think about the safest way to make something. We think of the best way to use doctors and beds at the hospital so no one has to wait too long. We try to think about things in a new way.
Some of my favorite descriptions for explaining the service industry includes the following:
•A field of work where businesses give things that can’t be stored and people must be present in order to get it.
•This part of the business world is a group of businesses that help a person or business but do not make a good. What these businesses do is fix people’s needs by doing something the person can not do for himself. The businesses can not store the things that they do for later and must be used right in the moment with the person. There is a human side to this relationship that makes it so that no two times will be exactly the same. This also means no two people will feel exactly the same way about their time with that business. The people’s idea of how their time went with the business is a huge part of this business group’s well being.
•Business that does not make an actual thing but does stuff for people that they do not want to or can not do themselves.
There is a national push for researchers to be able to share their knowledge and findings across an increasingly diverse environment.  Because we as researchers think what we do is interesting and worth sharing, I encourage all researchers to try and explain your research using only the ten hundred common words.  It is not easy, but it might enable us to share our passion for our research to a broader audience.

Why UCF?


Check out this video created by a talented group of students in our Project Engineering Course explaining why selecting UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is a great choice.

I got promoted in the video, but in real life I am still an Assistant Professor :-).  Also, I am featured around the 1 minute and 6 minute mark.  Benjamin Schepler, a recent UCF graduate, was the cinematographer and editor and did a great job with the video production.  His contact information is bschepler (at) gmail (dot) com.

Topics Covered in my Class Via Memes

The Fall 2012 semester is in the grade books.  I truly enjoyed both of the courses I taught this fall.  I taught a graduate-level Operations Research course and an undergraduate elective course called Industrial Engineering Applications in the Service Sector.  I had a great group of students in both of my classes and I learned a lot teaching them this semester.

As a fun way to review for the final exam, I had students in my Service Sector course develop a Meme and then come to class and discuss the conceptual point that the Meme portrayed.  The assignment was as follows:

A meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” If you are on social media, memes seem to be everywhere. To help review for the final exam, provide an “IE Applications in the Service Sector” meme to help your fellow students remember a main topic in the course.  To receive full points, the meme needs to convey an important concept from class and be a creative, understandable, and appropriate meme.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. CRAFT Algorithm for the Facility Layout Problem


2. Optimization Modeling in the Service Sector

Nemo - Binary Reminder

3. Service Quality Design

ServiceQuality4. Queuing Models