By Michael Hughes
The inner IE Shakespeare
So, remember back when you were a freshman engineering major and the introductory courses were conducted in those huge, dreadful lecture halls?
It might have been your first experience in responsibility. The teacher didn’t take attendance or know anybody’s name, and it was up to you to make sure you were there, awake and paying rapt attention. Those that made it through the “weed-out” courses found friendlier confines through smaller classrooms and labs.
Still, engineers and the like had a bad rap among liberal arts majors. Just lock them in a room with their machines, tools and computers, throw them some colas and pizzas on occasion, and they’ll get the work done. Just don’t let them work with “real” people.
In the real world, we all know that engineers are real people. But they often have to deal with folks who have unreal expectations, who don’t like or understand the numbers, or who get offended when you model improvements from “their” way.
This month’s cover story on Page 28, “Setting the Scene for Ergonomics” by W.P. Neumann, Rheta Rosen and Katherine Turner, ameliorates that clash of culture with a theatrical representation of life. Ryerson University’s Interpersonal Skills Teaching Centre uses actors in a simulation scenario that teaches industrial engineering students how to convince others to take human factors seriously.
As the authors note, IEs must convince their bosses that change really will improve efficiency and limit injuries. In these miniature, unscripted plays, students portray IEs who must gain buy-in for human factors from a host of stakeholders. The professional actors who portray plant managers, union representatives and others can throw up all sorts of obstacles.
Graduates have commended the module for giving them the tools they need to implement ergonomic solutions at their workplaces. Perhaps it’s not quite Shakespearean, but the acting process effectively transmits knowledge into the real world.
For more ideas on real-world ergonomics, GOErgo offers the Applied Ergonomics Conference from March 26-29 in Nashville, Tenn. More information is at www.appliedergoconference.org.
Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 349-1110.