Google page rank of 5

Actually 4 if you don’t count the nested link on Prof. Hitchins’ website

Actually 3 if you figure UPenn’s is number 1, and Prof. Hitchins’ book reference and website combine for number 2.

So how is market systems engineering a fast growing field? Perhaps UPenn is trying to make something happen with their job call!

Regardless, I do think we have something to offer to this field. To quote Hitchins.net:

We can also see Market Systems Engineering, making up the set. Part of Market Systems Engineering is heijunka, production smoothing. This operates in part by adjusting marketing and advertising. If demand is falling off, then advertising is increased to restore the steady flow of particular goods. (The whole system may be manufacturing and selling many different products/goods in parallel, of course.) Similarly, if demand is rising, advertising may be tailed off, again to maintain layer production rates. It can be shown that steady production rates for a product passing through the supply system result in minimal work-in-progress (WIP); both raising, and lowering, the production rate result in increased WIP, which contributes to raising UPC. Steady is best, hence heijunka. Part of the skill, of course, is to recognize when a product has run its course, and to neatly fit a new or modified product into the manufacturing stream without a hiccup.

(By the way, those links were added by me).  In that sense then, market systems engineering seems like common sense, quantified. If a product is doing well, reduce your advertising budget, and vice versa, but feel free to abandon products at the end of their lifecycle.

That seems rather limiting, and makes the transportation case all the more interesting when viewed in these terms. In the market for transportation, there are many levers that influence supply and demand; many costs borne in the realization of a trip; and no primary dimension upon which efficiency should be measured. There isn’t a supply chain or a manufacturing process that needs to be kept in control and optimized. There are notions of system efficiency (minimum total delay, for example) but does it make sense to compare, say, average system-wide rush hour delay in Irvine, California with the same delay in Amsterdam?

But there are some similar notions. The idea of a product, and producing that product efficiently, for example, begins to sound like Craig’s person-environment fit arguments. Transportation perhaps is a series of processes on the workroom floor, getting a product from raw material to finished good. The finished good is an activity at a time and a place. The difficulty is that we don’t get to dictate the final product (the activity patterns of people). We only get to influence how they get across the plant floor, and some of the parameters of their final activity. Advertising in this sense perhaps is trying to influence people to choose certain activity outcomes, or characteristics, and to choose certain “manufacturing paths” to get to those activity outcomes, such that the total provision of urban infrastructure is societally optimal.

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