William D. Hammers
Emporia State University
University of Arkansas
University of Arkansas
I am the President of Optimal Solutions, a company I formed in 1995 to provide consulting services for business and education. Located in Clearwater, Kansas, the company helps "organizations make informed strategic decisions and develops software products applying analysis techniques to business problems. The tools of decision support include computers, mathematical modeling and artificial intelligence."
Prior to going with Optimal Solutions full time in the Spring of 1997, I was a senior program manager in Operations with Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, working with a team to solve problems associated with the manufacture of aircraft. My role within that organization was to gather data and extract information from the data for use in making informed decisions. The data mining (for information) tools I used included statistical analysis, mathematical modeling, multi-criteria decision support, neural networks, generic algorithms, and fuzzy logic along with the information presentation tools of simulation, risk analysis, and expert systems.
My work at Cessna led me to start my own company to provide decision support consulting services and my mathematics training provided the background I needed. Mathematics plays an important role in the business of manufacturing. Multiple mathematical tools are used daily to model critical business functions which support the manufacturing environment.
Two areas of artificial intelligence, expert systems and neural networks, are particularly important to my work with industry. Expert Systems provide the analyst with a new class of tools to attack problems whose solution requires intuition, judgment, and logical inferences, as well as facts. Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) also add a different dimension to the analyst's toolbox. Unlike expert systems where knowledge is explicit in the form of rules, ANN generate their own rules by learning from examples. ANN are a multifaceted tool used for speech synthesis, controlling robots, pattern recognition, process control, forecasting and estimating, and many other applications.
I taught high school mathematics for three years and university mathematics for sixteen years. I left teaching to work in operations analysis for Boeing Military Airplanes and then moved to senior engineering at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. I left Boeing after five years to work for Cessna Aircraft Company. and was there for six years specializing in decision support activities.
Working in industry provides the opportunity to apply mathematics to real world problems and to actually use the results of analysis to resolve difficulties in building a product or delivering a service. I enjoy the challenge of facing problems that are not found in a text book.
Anyone interested in industry should take courses to improve communication skills, both oral and written. Also take courses that expose you to the current hardware and software tools of analysis. These courses are usually found in the computer science, statistics, business, industrial engineering, or electrical engineering departments.
To gain entrance to a career in industry you must be able to explain to business managers how the mathematical tools you have gathered through college courses can be used to solve current problems in the manager's department in real time. And you must also be able to make the correlation in terms that the manager can understand. This requires a familiarity with the current business environment and the tools which are used in it to solve problems.