sealPurdue Business, Finance, Technology Briefs

November 2000

Advanced systems aim to keep new cars
running clean as they age

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University and Ford Motor Co. are teaming up to develop an advanced, onboard electronic system designed to monitor the health of aging engines and keep cars in compliance with stringent exhaust-emission standards.

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Research findings could ultimately make possible the creation of sophisticated diagnostic systems that not only warn the driver about impending engine failures but also identify the likely sources of the problems, says Matthew Franchek, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue.

The technology works by using newly developed computer models to better control how much fuel is delivered to the engine. It has the potential to eliminate certain expensive and time-consuming steps now needed to develop electronic-fueling controls for new engines.

When this "engine mapping" process is completed, the electronic-control system will determine how much gasoline the fuel injectors will deliver to the cylinders as the car travels down a highway, idles at a red light or labors up a steep incline. The ratio of air to fuel is tightly controlled to meet emission standards regardless of driving conditions.

"It takes a long time to map an engine," Franchek says. "There are thousands of parameters to calibrate in an engine-control system, including transmission, fueling, idle speed, diagnostics, everything that the engine does."

The control technology being developed at Purdue promises to eliminate the engine-mapping process altogether, saving time and money by using newly developed mathematical models.

The fueling control system is now being extended to enable car makers to more accurately assess the root causes behind changing engine performance. A more accurate assessment makes the system better able to adapt to changes in aging engines, while also reducing maintenance costs by automatically keeping the engine running smoothly, Franchek says.

"In the end, the fueling software will adapt itself to deliver fueling to the correct value," says Franchek, noting that the system is designed to last the life of the engine.

CONTACT: Franchek, (765) 494-5714,

Matthew Franchek, Purdue University associate professor of mechanical engineering, works on a Ford engine being used in Purdue's fueling-control research. The research aims to develop systems that monitor the health of aging engines and keep cars in compliance with emission standards. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Franchek.engines

Management students hop on fast-track e-train

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Trying to board the e-business train while it's moving at Internet speed is daunting, but professors at Purdue University's Krannert Graduate School of Management have jumped on board first class.

Starting this fall, Krannert School master's degree students are studying e-business in 13 classes across the whole traditional business curriculum: marketing, finance, operations, organizational behavior, accounting, economics, management strategy and information systems. In addition, there are three interdisciplinary classes offered in conjunction with Purdue's engineering schools.

"In just four years, the Internet has changed the world," says Patrick Duparcq, an assistant professor of management and e-business expert." There is now a significant enough body of research and e-business experience to address the essential strategic questions in a comprehensive fashion."

The new e-business "option," which is essentially an academic minor, is not the Krannert School's first foray into the burgeoning e-business arena. Last year, Alex Zelikovsky, former chief logistics officer for, team taught a class with a Krannert School professor.

Charles Johnson, director of Krannert's professional master's degree programs, says Krannert's e-business offerings "will mesh Krannert's traditional strengths with e-business applications." Those strengths, he says, have been recognized in Krannert's consistently high national rankings as a "techno-MBA" school, grounded in quantitative analysis and the application of information technology to management challenges.

Krannert's e-business option, according to Johnson, will concentrate on business-to-business rather than business-to-consumer e-business. This direction, he says, takes advantage of the strengths of Krannert master's degree students, 60 percent of whom have undergraduate science or engineering degrees, and experts' projections for B-to-B e-business to grow much faster than dot-com consumer companies in the next few years.

CONTACT: Duparcq, (765) 494-4461,; Johnson, (765) 494-4419,

Hospitality industry wants retirees.
Seniors aren't so sure

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When Congress repealed Social Security earnings limits this summer, it was good news for hotels and restaurants scrambling for employees as the American economy rolls along, bringing unemployment to new lows.

"The food and lodging industry is eager to bring seniors into the workplace," says Raphael R. Kavanaugh, professor and head of Purdue University's hospitality and tourism management department, who recently surveyed Indiana retirees. There is more than 200 percent annual turnover among hourly employees in the food-service business, creating a management nightmare, particularly in a customer-service industry.

"There is a perception problem among seniors about the industry," Kavanaugh says. "They don't believe the industry is willing to hire them."

Nor do the seniors have a positive view of hospitality, citing what they view as stressful, fast-paced working environments where regular, daytime schedules are hard to find. "They tend to view the work as all hard, physical labor," Kavanaugh says.

Kavanaugh says it is the hospitality industry's job to address misperceptions. His study suggests that in order to attract seniors, hospitality management should:

– Work through senior citizens' organizations and centers to make mature workers aware of job opportunities in food service and lodging.

– Increase seniors' awareness of the Social Security Earnings Test Elimination Act, which did away with the $1 tax Social Security recipients formerly paid on each $3 of earnings over $17,000.

– Offer senior citizens regular hours and part-time work, both of which seniors prefer. Consider providing transportation to and from work.

– Provide seniors with lower-stress jobs, such as hostesses in restaurants and telephone operators in hotels.

– Make workplace physical adjustments, such as better lighting and larger signage, to signal to seniors that management welcomes and values them.

Kavanaugh says that because of the small size of the sample and its being limited to Indiana, more research is needed for the mutual benefit of the hospitality industry and senior citizens.

"We also need to do research on employers' attitudes towards seniors as employees," he says.

CONTACT: Kavanaugh, (765) 494-4643,

Tiny polymer patterns might act as glue in 'biochips'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Engineers have developed a technique that might be used to glue cells or DNA to the surfaces of computer "biochips," a technology aimed at making diagnostic devices to be implanted in the body or used to quickly analyze food and laboratory samples.

The microfabrication technique, normally used for etching electronic circuits, is instead used to fashion "micropatterns" out of a material made primarily from a polymer, or plastic, called polyethylene glycol.

"The patterns' smallest features were 5 micrometers, or about one-twentieth as wide as a human hair, which makes them as small as some cells," says Rashid Bashir, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.

The polymer micropatterning development represents a possible means of gluing these proteins, cells or DNA to a computer chip. Unlike many synthetic materials, polyethylene glycol is not attacked by the body's immune system, making it suitable for implantation.

Such a technology might be used in the laboratory for speedy chemical and genetic screening of blood and other biological materials; to instantly analyze food products for contamination; and in future implantable medical devices that continuously monitor glucose in a diabetic person's blood and then automatically administer insulin.

"I think this is actually a first step," Bashir says. "We will be working on trying to make it smaller. But it's important to note that, for some biological applications, the 5-micron-size we have achieved is actually small enough" because cells range in size from 1 to 10 microns across.

CONTACT: Rashid Bashir, (765) 496-6229,

Dining Out? Good Service Or Low Prices - Choose One

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Surveys show that consumers overwhelmingly think food service – whether from chains or independent restaurants – has crept to an all-time low.

In an economy where jobs outnumber job seekers, it all comes down to manager turnover, says Richard F. Ghiselli, an assistant professor in Purdue's Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Ghiselli says that "the number of managers who are not very satisfied with their lives, of which a job is a major component, is 30 percent greater than it was two decades ago. Managers are not only being required to work more hours but also to spend more time in mundane tasks left begging by the 200 percent to 300 percent annual turnover of hourly employees. Manager turnover is 67 percent annually, according to the survey. Upscale establishments are the exception.

"The natural solution is to increase wages and to reduce managers' hours," Ghiselli concludes. "But to maintain current profit levels and quality, prices would have to increase." The question is how the customer would vote with his teeth on the increased cost of dining out.

The survey indicates that restaurant managers currently average a 55-hour work week, compared to the 43.3 hours a week the average full-time American employee clocks. The long hours, in turn, may be what are increasingly driving older managers (45 years and older) out of the industry completely, Ghiselli says.

"This is a loss because in an ideal world, older, experienced workers bring quality, consistency and even an association with the community that is good for business," Ghiselli says.

Established relationships between managers and consumers in the restaurant business are more concentrated in independent establishments than in chains, according to Ghiselli. Independents' market share is about level, even though total restaurant sales "are slowly shifting to the chains as the percentage of food eaten away from home goes up," he says.

As eating out increasingly becomes more in, the independents won't disappear from the culinary landscape. "Good independents are going to continue to do well," Ghiselli says.

On the chain-restaurant business side, "corporations have to make long-term, concerted efforts to come to terms with management turnover," Ghiselli says. What will that cost? Ghiselli intends to find out with new research.

For the study, Ghiselli and his colleagues sent a questionnaire to 1,209 unit-level managers of eight companies. They received 438 responses, a 36.2 percent return rate. Ghiselli will present the results of his and his colleagues' research at the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education Conference in New Orleans in July. Consolidated Products Inc., the restaurant holding company that runs Steak n Shake and Colorado Steakhouse restaurants, sponsored the research.

CONTACT: Ghiselli, (765) 494-4643,

Purdue grows its own computer techies;
lauded as national model

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University is solving its problem of filling the growing number of computer-related positions on campus by "developing its own" in an unusual program that has captured national attention.

"Three years ago we decided to attack our hiring problems by looking for people in other professions with the aptitude to do the job and an interest in changing careers, rather than constantly competing for the limited national pool of information technology professionals," said Laverne Knodle, executive director of Management Information. "We found many people from other backgrounds with the personal skills and aptitudes that would make them successful in our organization. All we had to do was provide a means for them to acquire the necessary technical skills."

The National Association of College and University Business Officers honored the Purdue program as a national model in its annual Higher Education Awards Program.

Purdue started its program as the university began hiring more computer staff. People selected for the Purdue program are either new applicants from outside the university, staff who leave their existing position or current staff sponsored by their university department.

About 150 people submit resumes for the program each January. Only a dozen or so are selected to participate, said Carole Kemmer, Human Resources Manager for Management Information.

Participants take six regular university courses over a three-month period taught by faculty from Purdue's Department of Computer Technology. The cost is funded by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer.

Trainees hired from outside the university work on computer projects under the supervision of full-time information technology professionals for six months after the classes end. Once these projects are successfully completed, the trainee is placed in a position. Any participant who leaves the university in less than two years is required to pay for the academic part of the program.

Purdue's Information Systems and Technology Training Program is a cooperative effort among Management Information, Personnel Services and the Department of Computer Technology. More information about the program can be found on the web.

CONTACT: Knodle, (765) 494-6116,

Supercomputer will give Purdue research,
teaching edge

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University has upgraded its research computing facilities with a $10 million IBM supercomputer that will be among the most powerful research tools in the nation.

The RS/6000 SP supercomputer is more than 15 times as powerful as the university's current system, says John Steele, director of Purdue's Computing Center.

"The system will be in the top 10 percent of the most powerful systems in North America, and certainly among the most powerful systems at any university in the Big Ten," Steele says.

The system contains 272 processors, working in parallel, with a total memory of 288 gigabytes, or roughly 4,000 times more memory than the typical personal computers now on the market.

Engineers and scientists will use the system for research that requires such high-performance applications as complex simulations and calculations for modeling the structures of molecules and viruses, studying the human genome, global climate change and the effects of turbulence on aircraft, designing more effective drugs and work involving complex graphics. The system also will be used for research and studies in "parallel computing," a method that enables the smooth operation of many computers linked together.

"IBM is committed to building the world's most powerful supercomputers to help researchers tackle incredibly complex scientific problems," says Mike Kerr, IBM vice president, RS/6000 servers.

The supercomputer is being paid for, in part, with funding from the Indiana General Assembly earmarked specifically for high-technology upgrades.

A Purdue committee of research faculty members recommended the computer-system upgrade. The university then received help in selecting the system from three IBM executives: Bruce Harreld, IBM senior vice president, strategy; Al Schleicher, a retired IBM finance executive who is now a consultant for the company, both whom are Purdue alumni; and Nick Donofrio, senior vice president and group executive, technology and manufacturing.

The computer has a peak computing capacity of 396 gigaflops, meaning it could perform 396,000 million arithmetic operations per second.

"It's huge," says Ross Aiken, an IBM engineer who designs and builds the systems, noting that the Purdue system probably will be among the top 50 supercomputers in the world.

The system also will be compatible with other, even more powerful supercomputers, which will enable researchers at Purdue to collaborate with scientists worldwide via high-speed Internet connections.

"We have a very good, long-standing relationship with IBM," Steele says. Purdue's first major computer system, installed in 1963, was an IBM. The new system is located in the Mathematical Sciences Building.

CONTACT: Steele, (765) 494-9646,

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