Penn State partners to recognize innovation in service systems engineering

May 28, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At its May 18-21 conference and expo in Orlando, Florida, the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) partnered with Penn State to recognize the innovative techniques organizations are using to improve the performance of service industries. 

The inaugural Outstanding Innovation in Service Systems Engineering Award, co-sponsored by IISE and the Service Enterprise Engineering Advisory Board in Penn State’s Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME), attracted nominations from academia and industry.

Along with four other finalists, two teams from Penn State — one from IME and another from Penn State Health — delivered final-round presentations at the conference on May 19. The IME team, which presented its model for improved snow removal on the Penn State University Park campus, finished third. The Penn State Health team, which addressed improvements in hip and knee arthroplasty to enhance patient recovery, finished second. The winning presentation, delivered by Optamo LLC, was on the novel, web-based Inmate Assignment Decision Support System that enables a correctional system to simultaneously assign inmates to correctional institutions and schedule their treatment programs while considering all business rules and policy regulations. The system was piloted in Pennsylvania for a year and saved the state $3 million.

An award to create awareness 

“Our mission with the award was to create awareness of opportunities in service industries,” said Vittal Prabhu, director of SEE 360 and professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Penn State. “Since the service industries employ 80 percent of the economy, there are tons and tons of opportunities. We want to make sure people are aware of it.”

SEE 360 is an initiative within IME with the aim of motivating students to optimize the service industries through engineering. Two goals of SEE 360 are to educate students on the need for engineers within the service industries and to teach students about opportunities within these industries where they can make a difference. 

Closely tied to the goals of SEE 360, according to Prabhu, are the industry-wide benefits of developing such an award. By rewarding outstanding innovation in service-systems engineering, SEE 360 is giving a platform to industry innovators and featuring new best practices. 

“What we wanted to do was highlight successes and disseminate them through IISE,” Prabhu said. “We want to give the contributors recognition and at the same time disseminate the best practices in service-systems engineering. That’s really our motivation.”

SEE 360 reached out to IISE in May 2018 with the hopes of developing and sponsoring an award specifically for service-systems engineering. The initiative worked closely with Scott Sink, director of the honors and awards program for IISE, to create the award. Sink was immediately receptive to the idea because of its unique position in the industry. 

“I think that there’s a growing number of industrial engineers that end up working in the service sector,” Sink said. “I think that the department has a critical mass of alumni that are passionate about industrial engineering being applied in the service sector and want to promote and encourage young industrial engineers studying in that area and considering that area for a career path.”

Sink selected a committee of six industry practitioners to review the award applications against a rubric developed by Sink and the IISE. 

Though this is just the first year the award is being presented, Sink and Prabhu are eager about what the award could mean to the service-systems engineering industry. 

“There have been a number of institutions and professional societies that have been able to create awards, brand them and make them globally visible and popular,” Sink said. “I think, potentially, this award could be something that’s globally recognized; something that is North American recognized and could differentiate our professional society.” 

Penn State’s award finalists are:

SEE 360: Bárbara Venegas, researcher and associate director of IME’s SEE 360 initiative; Vittal Prabhu, professor and director of SEE 360; and 2018 IME graduates Achal Goel and Vignexh presented their model for Real-time Optimization for Adaptive Removal of Snow (ROARS). ROARS vastly improved the snow removal operations that take place on the Penn State University Park campus by utilizing and responding to real-time data and weather forecasts. 

Penn State Health: Charles Davis, chief orthopaedic joint surgeon; Kevin Black, orthopaedics chair; Tiffany Gibbons, director of orthopaedics operations; Travis Lehman, integration project manager; Andrea Stonebraker, data analyst; Karyn Miller, manager of advanced practice professional clinicians; Betsy Thomas, manager of Periop business services; and Eric Swenson, battalion commander at the 1-345 Brigade Engineer Battalion, presented their research on improvements in hip and knee arthroplasty that significantly enhance patient recovery. They also performed a time-driven, activity-based costing (TDABC) analysis on in-patient stays to identify opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs.


  • Chuck, Chip, Eric

    Left to right: Charles Schneider, chair of the Service Enterprise Engineering Advisory Board and founder and chairman of U.S. Security Associates, Inc.; Charles Davis, chief orthopaedic joint surgeon, Penn State Health; Eric Swenson, battalion commander at the 1-345 Brigade Engineer Battalion. The Penn State Health team, which addressed improvements in hip and knee arthroplasty to enhance patient recovery, received second place in the inaugural Outstanding Innovation in Service Systems Engineering Award.

    IMAGE: Bárbara Venegas
Last Updated September 19, 2019