Engineering processes in the wake of a catastrophe.

Essay by GRabneyCollege, Undergraduate October 2003

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While the events of September 11 are causing all Americans, and most of the western world, to rethink their lives and actions as they strive to return to a life with some semblance of normalcy, we must realize that any attempt to regain that normalcy cannot just take place on a superficial level, but must go to the core of how business is conducted. For the Industrial Engineer, the problems faced are deep and profound, as businesses are forced to change at their core in order to survive in this new environment.

By any measure, the scope of the attacks was massive: thousands dead; thousands injured; the cost of destruction in the tens of billions of dollars; millions of square feet of office space destroyed; air travel disrupted around the world; an undetermined impact on the international economy; global political turmoil. Though the immediate effect was upon those in New York and Washington, it soon became apparent how the effect has rippled thought the country, the world and the economy.

Businesses that were strong are now faced with an anxious future, while those that were shaky to begin with are struggling in order to have any future at all. Some business that were considered inconsequential before September 11, now find themselves at important suppliers. For the industrial engineer, the problem is how find the correct path that answers as many needs as possible, both ethically and professionally. How do we make the drastic cuts in a business that will put hundreds if not more out of work in order to save that business? How do we retool business for the needs of the new environment without appearing to be taking advantage of or profiteering from the acts of terrorism? And finally, how do we balance the needs of the...