A Strategic Engineering Management Approach to Innovation and Organizational Sustainability: An Addition to the Engineering Management Curriculum?

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Conference Proceeding

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The Baldrige National Performance Excellence Criteria (2013 -2014)1 places increased emphasis on organizational sustainability in terms of societal, environmental, and financial impacts; and innovation as a discontinuous change in engineering designs and/or business models. Such concepts may become important considerations for engineering managers in today's global marketplace. Engineering management educators may become a major player in transforming compliance with performance specifications into an enhanced competitive business advantage by offering a total systems approach to managing innovation while ensuring the long term viability of the business itself. Throughout this article the authors use the Baldrige definition of sustainability/ organizational sustainability as cited above. However, from the Engineering Management perspective care must be taken to acknowledge that sustainability in the engineering profession often focuses on the environmental component of the triple bottom line as is true for "leadership in energy and environmental design". The business literature often speaks of "a sustainable competitive advantage" underscoring the marketing and financial aspects. The total systems approach suggested in this article takes a strategic engineering approach to conducting trade-offs to determine impacts of alternative strategies that might place different levels of importance on the components of sustainability given in the Baldridge definition. The applied research presented in this paper provides a conceptual framework for translating strategy into implementation results via a modified Plan - Do - Check - Act Shewhart / Deming improvement opportunity identification and corrective action closed loop management cycle. The framework given in Figure 1 has proven effective in introducing discontinuous innovations in an engineering technology business and has three best practices embedded that have enhanced internal efficiencies as well. This framework may also make a contribution to those in higher education faced with the challenge of reforming engineering education in the Engineering Management curriculum. Engineering design has always involved innovation. However, from a management perspective, the creative step in the process requires a combination of business and engineering skills in order to create value that a customer is willing to pay a premium to receive. With today's demands placed upon the engineering curriculum, little room is available for additional courses. Therefore, ways to embed these business and technology issues into our current engineering management courses could result in significant benefits. This paper also provides a practical example of one organization's transformation from an electrical power distribution organization that expanded their customer provided services to include Internet, telephone and cable services over a fiber optic network through the systematic and simultaneous implementation of innovation and organizational sustainability principles. Of their almost 33,000 electric customers, over 14,000 also purchase one or more of the fiber optic offerings and the company is operating this business segment in the black. Now the organization continues to explore smart grid approaches to improve reliability and level electrical power system load demands.