Jeffrey Zane Anderson
Although I had an aptitude for mathematics during my elementary and secondary education, my interest in mathematics did not begin until I was a student at Wabash College. As a college student, I was attracted to mathematics by the logic and discipline required to successfully complete complex mathematics problems. During a study abroad program in Aberdeen, Scotland, my interest in mathematics was enhanced by an introduction to the applications of linear algebra and optimization. This interest, after graduation from Wabash, led me to Purdue University, where I completed an M.S. degree from the School of Industrial Engineering. At Purdue, I specialized in operations research, which is broadly defined as the application of mathematical models to business and engineering problems. My study of mathematics and related subjects has uniquely qualified me for my industrial engineering career.
As an industrial engineer for Commonwealth Aluminum Corporation, a rolled aluminum sheet manufacturer, I draw daily upon the skills acquired from my mathematics education. At Commonwealth, my duties require that I unite the concepts of mathematics, operations research, and industrial engineering to conduct computer simulation and data analysis projects.
Capacity determination is one application of computer simulation that Commonwealth utilizes. For example, working with other industrial engineers, we developed a comprehensive simulation model of our casting facilities. This model enables us to test the effects of process improvements and facility modifications before any capital expenditure is made. Construction of such a model requires the ability to translate 'real world' processes into a simulation program. Then the appropriate selection of the statistical distributions to apply in this program must be made. By studying mathematics, I have been provided with the necessary logic and analytical skills to complete these tasks.
Yet another way that I apply mathematics in my industrial engineering career is through data analysis. Effective data analysis requires competency in choosing correct analysis variables and presentation of the results in a manner which non-technical management can readily understand. I regularly use commercially produced statistical analysis software packages and spreadsheets to complete the required analysis. By understanding the rationale behind the algorithms that these software packages apply, I am able to more effectively complete the analysis and clearly communicate the results.
Being adaptive and well versed in computer applications, of which mathematics is an integral component, is instrumental in the field of industrial engineering. Without a firm understanding of mathematics, meeting this criteria would be unattainable. By studying mathematics, I have gained the confidence in my quantitative and analytical abilities to be an effective industrial engineer.