IECON 2024 sheds light on resilience engineering, crisis management

IECON 2024 challenged participants to harness new technologies and rethink current business models in pursuit of a more resilient world.

To highlight the role of engineering during a crisis, the Industrial Management Engineering Society (IMES) hosted its flagship event IECON 2024: Innovation Anchored in Resilience at the Verdure in Henry Sy Sr. Hall last March 16. Drawing several participants nationwide, the event also provided an opportunity for them to network and build connections with industry leaders. 

From obsolete to contemporary 

Don Timothy Buhain, chief executive officer of Rex Group of Companies, delivered the first talk of the event. He shared his insights as a former employee at Security Bank and discussed Rex Education’s evolution from a mere bookselling business to a prime mover in learning. In both cases, he stressed the importance of embracing change and adopting a mindset of continuous learning, unlearning, and relearning to strengthen an organization and avoid becoming obsolete. “Are we just gonna sell [and] teach through books? Why can’t we be teaching children before school?” Buhain said. 

Following his talk was a presentation on digital transformation (DX)—the process of integrating digital technologies into all aspects of business. Spearheaded by Dr. Felix Veroya, an industrial engineer and founder of Ask Lex PH Academy, the talk explored the Internet of Things, machine learning, and cloud computing, which could improve productivity, decision-making, and customer management. 

Despite its benefits, Veroya explained that DX is hindered by technological barriers such as underutilized information, data security concerns, and inadequate resource allocation. He believed that these issues could be addressed through clear objectives, good leadership, and proper training and collaboration—all of which are qualities that industrial engineers must possess to drive this change.

The path towards resilience

“For every crisis, there is opportunity and danger,” conveyed Jay Bernardo III, a guest speaker and the chairman of Bayan Family of Foundations Inc. Throughout his career, he founded startups across a diverse set of fields, including a plastic bud manufacturing service, a toilet cleaning service, and a startup incubator. 

Bernardo’s background as an industrial engineer was instrumental to his success because it allowed him to cultivate an engineering mentality and gain experience in improving various systems and operations, which he could apply to every business he joined. His success also stemmed from his ability to see opportunities even during troubled times. “Ang mga nakakakita ng hindi nakikita ng iba ang siyang kikita,” he advised the audience.

(Those who can see what others cannot see are the ones who will make money.)

As the world becomes more volatile, crises are more commonplace, ranging from cyberattacks and global warming to widespread misinformation and soaring costs of living. Learning how to navigate such uncertainties was the focus of four breakout sessions, where the participants were split into four groups with different speakers. In one group, Julius Lim shared his experiences in handling unpredictable environments as an operations excellence manager. He also urged the participants to be adaptable and “plan for the worst” to make the most of any adverse situation. 

The digitalization of industries has also created new vulnerabilities, particularly cyberattacks, which were issues tackled by Jaaziel Sam Carlos. Drawing from his experience as a primary investigator for Accenture’s incident response team, he showcased examples of prominent cyberattacks, how they happened, and strategies to build an organization’s resilience to digital threats. 

The last two sessions were centered on fostering resilience within an organization. Bernadette Francisco, the vice president of operations control management at JPMorgan Chase & Co., discussed how dismantling barriers and harnessing new technologies like artificial intelligence can fortify an organization. Meanwhile, Katrina Chinjen, the supply excellence lead for Unilever Philippines, cited psychological safety as the core of resilience. If people could express their concerns and opinions, admit mistakes, and take risks without fear of negative consequences, then she believed that they could build a culture that strengthens the entire organization. 

Keeping up with the times

In an interview with The LaSallian, Project Head Nicole Lopez shared that this is one of the largest student-led events for industrial engineers. To ensure that the event would run smoothly, she and her team from IMES planned early, prepared activities to increase audience participation, and optimized the resources of their organization.

Lopez hoped that IECON managed to instill in the participants the importance of flexibility in an ever-changing world. “We need to be flexible. We need to innovate flexible systems so that whenever there are a lot of unforeseen circumstances that happen in our world, we are ready and equipped with all the tools that we need to adjust it,” she imparted.

Aaron Perez

By Aaron Perez

Ivan Gabriel Pilien

By Ivan Gabriel Pilien

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