By Gene Wright, MSOE graduate program director

At MSOE (Milwaukee School of Engineering) we believe Manufacturing Matters! We embrace our Midwest industrial roots. I, like many other MSOE graduates, spent much of our careers in the manufacturing world. As an engineering and business graduate of MSOE, I am excited about some of the newest “technologies” on campus that are helping manufacturing firms make better, data-driven decisions. The technology area I am referring to is Business Analytics. As has been well reported, MSOE will open its doors to the new Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall this fall. However, business analytics has been thriving within MSOE’s Rader School of Business for several years in both undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as in executive education courses.

Much has been written about big data, manufacturing automation, IoT (Internet of Things), sensors and digitization, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and my favorite: augmented intelligence in real-time—all of which produces and provides data. Lots and lots of data. We have “blue hose” inside of our manufacturing automation systems, data collection systems, feedback and control systems for the purpose of industrial automation. However, much of our manufacturing and industrial data is stored in data warehouses with very little usage beyond inspection and control. Manufacturers need to use that data to create value for our firms and develop a competitive advantage. This will require next-generation business intelligence and business analytics.

There is no question that MSOE’s new computer science degree powered by AI, and our new NVIDIA GPU-powered supercomputer on campus will be awesome. For me, however, the real excitement comes from the learning we will apply to real-world problems in our courses and workshops. Our undergraduate, graduate and professional education students will be able to utilize our “deep learning” software and NVIDIA hardware for their education and to the benefit of their current and future employers.

For example, the Rader School of Business offers a master’s certificate in business analytics. Students may also take the courses as part of an MBA specialization in business analytics or as elective courses in the Master of Science in Engineering Management. The certificate requires courses in “Data Wrangling and Exploration,” “Predictive Analytics” and “Analytics and Strategy.” The MBA degree requires an additional course in “Data Visualization.” And all of these courses require “Fundamental Statistics and Analytics” as a pre-requisite, since much of the content will be found in workshops, courses, classrooms and projects.

As I stated, I am excited about the opportunities to learn and apply these tools, to practice these techniques applied to data-driven decision making for the purpose of manufacturing and operational performance improvement. Our students will not only learn about the “data technology” but also how to interpret and communicate the insights the data provides. MSOE students and alumni using data visualization to “tell the story” of performance and improvement will empower and engage others in actionable manufacturing improvement and change. By selecting appropriate analytics techniques given a decision-making scenario, students will be able to demonstrate the use of predictive analytics for better decision making.

When these tools are used for data-driven decisions and scenario development and they are combined with a strategic framework and strategic intent, I expect we will see insightful, driven, plausible business strategy and planning as a result. Business and technology – powered by knowledge, fueled by data and analytics become a powerful engine for value creation. This I believe is the #MSOEMindset at work in our industrial world. I am jazzed about the future of MSOE and our role in the world of business analytics at work in manufacturing.

Gene Wright, MSOE graduate program director