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Course Strategy: Coupling Industry-centered Analyses and Engineering Design Principles to Develop Skills Relevant to Students’ Careers

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Economy Course Strategy Panel Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

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Paper Authors


James Burns Western Michigan University Orcid 16x16

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Jim Burns, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management Department
Bio: Jim Burns holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Western Michigan University, and has more than 10 years industry experience in the manufacturing sector in a variety of roles including process engineering, operations management, and technical sales. His area of expertise centers on applying OR/MS and Simulation techniques to Supply Chain & Operations Management problems, and has also conducted research in the areas of Human Factors and Work Design for evaluating time and motion efficiencies of operations. Jim also holds an undergraduate IE degree and a Six Sigma Greenbelt. Prior to joining the faculty at Western Michigan, Jim was an Assistant Professor for the Industrial Engineering Technology program at Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

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Bob White P.E. Western Michigan University

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Bob White has a Ph.D. in Engineering Valuation from Iowa State University (1980). He is currently a professor of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering & Engineering Management at Western Michigan University. His interests include entrepreneurial engineering, engineering economy, capital budgeting, and operations control. Dr. White is actively involved as a consultant to industry having been involved with numerous companies. Dr. White has over 20 journal publications and more than 50 articles in conference proceedings. Some of Dr. White’s journal publications include The Engineering Economist, Computers and Industrial Engineering, The International Journal of Modeling and Simulation, and The International Journal of Production Research. His professional affiliations include or have included IIE, ASEE, and SME.

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Instructional Environment: The 300-level Engineering Economy course is offered by an Industrial Engineering department at a large, regional university. The course is a requirement for the Industrial, Electrical, Chemical, and Paper Engineering programs.

Delivery Method: The three credit-hour course is delivered in a traditional classroom format. Multiple sections are offered during the fall and spring semesters, with approximately 30 students per section. Instruction takes place during three one-hour sessions per week.

Approach to Instruction and Technology: The instruction underscores the role of financial analysis in industry. Traditional Engineering Economy topics are covered briefly during class, but the emphasis is on analysis and engineering design by way of using case studies and financial models constructed in Microsoft Excel and enhanced with a simulation software. TVM Skills are primarily developed through independent problem solving using a TVM calculator.

Topics Covered: Economic decision-making, accounting, cost estimation, interest and equivalence, PW/AW/ROR analysis, uncertainty, depreciation, taxes, replacement analysis, inflation.

Assessment: Exams and case studies comprise the major assessment elements. Rigorous, paper-based exams are used to assess a student’s understanding of fundamental Engineering Economy skills. Case studies are assessed on the thoroughness of the analysis and on how well the methods and findings are communicated in a written report.

Rationale: The ultimate goal of this approach is to build skills that will be most useful to students in their careers. In practice, engineers need to perform analyses that combine many factors at both the strategic and operational levels of organizations, that incorporate elements of product and/or process design, and that consider various forms of risk and uncertainty. Analyses in industry will also likely involve after-tax cash-flows and debt capital more often than they will involve basic techniques such as simple payback or comparisons of equal cash flows. Therefore, it seems appropriate that the emphasis from the first day of class should be on performing analyses that are as sophisticated and complete as possible.

Lessons Learned: This approach demands that some traditional instruction practices such as the use of factor tables and formulas be abandoned so that class time can be spent discussing the case studies, which may require a leap outside of the instructor’s comfort zone. This approach can also be challenging for students during the first few weeks of a course because they must absorb new concepts in addition to learning to use Excel in new ways and also learning to use a new type of calculator (the TVM calculator). However, it is our experience that this approach develops a high-level of competence and confidence in students, especially in the more fundamental aspects of Engineering Economy.

Burns, J., & White, B. (2021, July), Course Strategy: Coupling Industry-centered Analyses and Engineering Design Principles to Develop Skills Relevant to Students’ Careers Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36851

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