60 Seconds With Jeff Smith, Auburn University Prof. of Industrial Engineering
Jeff Smith, Professor of industrial and systems engineering, Auburn University; president, College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education
Title: Professor of industrial and systems engineering, Auburn University; president, College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE)
Location: Auburn, Ala.
Experience: 18 years as a faculty member
Primary Focus: Discrete event simulation and computer modeling
Modern: Congratulations on the presidency of CICMHE. But, first, we have to ask: What does discrete event simulation and computer modeling entail?
Smith: We do the analysis that justifies the benefit of automated materials handling systems.
Modern: You’ve been involved with CICMHE for a number of years. What is the council working on right now?
Smith: One priority has been to further develop our community of academics. One project is a Web portal that will connect researchers and students who are interested in materials handling research and education with others in the field around the world. We want to provide a forum that encourages free and open communication among researchers and students. That will expand the body of people doing research in the area.
Modern: What is the state of materials handling education today?
Smith: We’re at a crossroads in terms of materials handling education. You have to have research money to have research projects, and materials handling suffered from a lack of funding in the 1990s. That led to a drop in the number of faculty members with research projects. MHIA recognizes the problem, and has sponsored several competitions for research projects. They’re relatively small, but they’re important because they’ll have visibility in the research world. We hope that will attract more funding and graduate students.
Modern: What can the industry do to promote education?
Smith: If you want materials handling research at the university level, you need funding. One of the things we’re interested in at CICMHE is to identify and do a case study on a company where materials handling has made a difference at the executive level. We think that would have a high profile.