Industrial engineers use basic math, science, and engineering principles. They study the most efficient ways of using basic means of production to make products, provide services, and increase workplace productivity. The majority of industrial engineers are hired as consultants by manufacturing companies in order to streamline operations. Opportunities for advancement within the field are endless, as job growth is expected to increase by 20 percent over the next decade, while firms look for new ways to reduce costs and increase worker productivity.
Industrial engineers are concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, and energy in production of either goods or services. They engineer processes and systems that improve quality and productivity. They are primarily interested in problems that involve economizing the use of money, materials, time, human effort, and energy. They are more concerned with the big picture of industrial management and production – rather than with detailed development of processes.
Plant layout involves determining the floor space needed for each production component – workers, equipment, and material handling and storage – and arranging and sequencing the various operations to insure a safe, smooth and efficient operation.
Industrial engineers perform time and motion studies of workers, set standards of work performance, and propose new and improved work methods to increase productivity. They employ quality control techniques to reduce waste and customer complaints. They use statistical procedures to establish reasonable tolerances in quality, and develop procedures for making routine checks of product quality.
In all of their work, industrial engineers must carefully monitor costs of production and seek ways to reduce costs without compromising product quality.
Although most industrial engineers are employed by manufacturing industries, they may also be found working in other settings such as in hospitals; airlines; railroads; ports; retail businesses; and municipal, state, and federal government agencies.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 1,500,000 engineers from different fields of specialization. The number of industrial engineers is about 201,000 representing about 14 percent of all engineers in the U.S. The average starting annual salaries are $55,067 for an engineer with a bachelor’s degree, $64,759 with a master degree, and $77,364 with a doctorate degree. This places industrial engineering at 7th of 15 among engineering bachelor degrees, 3rd of 10 among master degrees, and 2nd of 7 among doctorate degrees in average annual salary. The median annual income of industrial engineers in the U.S. workforce is $68,620.
Within a few years at a company, industrial engineers will become strong candidates for technical supervisory or engineering management positions because their work is more related to management than most other engineering disciplines.
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the design, development, and implementation of integrated systems of humans, machines, and information resources to provide products and services. Industrial engineering encompasses specialized knowledge and skills in the physical, social, engineering, and management sciences, such as human and cognitive sciences, computer systems and information technologies, manufacturing processes, operations research, production, and automation.
Industrial engineers integrate people into the design and development of systems – thus requiring an understanding of the physical, physiological, psychological, and other characteristics that govern and affect the performance of individuals and groups in working environments.
The philosophy and motivation of the industrial engineering profession is to find the most efficient and effective methods, procedures, and processes for an operating system, and to seek continuous improvement.
Thus, industrial engineering helps organizations grow and expand efficiently during periods of prosperity; and streamline costs and consolidate and reallocate resources during austere times. Industrial engineers, particularly those involved in manufacturing and related industries, work closely with management. Therefore, some understanding of organizational behavior, finance, management, and related business principles and practices is required.
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with optimizing complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials and/or processes. It also deals with designing new product prototypes more efficiently and more effectively.
Industrial engineering draws upon the principles and methods of engineering design to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems or processes. Its underlying concepts overlap considerably with certain business-oriented disciplines such as operations management and engineering economy, but the engineering side tends to lay more emphasis on extensive mathematical proficiency and utilization of quantitative methods.
Depending on the subspecialties involved, industrial engineering may also be known as operations management, management science, systems engineering, or manufacturing engineering, usually depending on the users’ viewpoint or motives. Recruiters or educational establishments use the job titles to differentiate themselves from others. In health care, industrial engineers are more commonly known as health management engineers or health systems engineers.
Various topics of concern to industrial engineers include:
- Management science.
- Financial engineering.
- Engineering management.
- Supply chain management.
- Process engineering.
- Operations research.
- System engineering.
- Quality engineering.
- Ergonomics cost and value engineering.
- Facilities planning, and the engineering design process.
Traditionally, a major aspect of industrial engineering was planning the layouts of factories, designing assembly lines, and other manufacturing paradigms. Now in so-called lean manufacturing systems, industrial engineers work to eliminate wastage of time, money, materials, energy, and other resources.
Examples of where industrial engineering might be used include designing an assembly work station; strategizing for various operational logistics; consulting as an efficiency expert; developing new financial algorithms or a loan system for a bank; streamlining operation and emergency room location or usage in a hospital; planning complex distribution schemes for material or products (referred to as Supply Chain Management); and shortening lines (or queues) at a bank, hospital, or a theme park.
Industrial engineers typically use computer simulation, along with extensive mathematical tools, modeling, and computational methods for system analysis, evaluation, and optimization.