The chief motivation of a scientist is to understand the world around him and to define the laws of nature. An engineer, on the other hand, takes these laws and principles and reduces them to applications useful to mankind. Engineers are applied scientists in that they put the scientist’s knowledge to work by creating things that people need and want.
In brief, engineering is the art of applying all available scientific and practical knowledge to satisfy needs. For each specific engineering need, there are, usually, several professional and technical groups working together in certain areas of technology and employing the major disciplines of Civil, Chemical, Nuclear, Electrical, Mechanical, Metallurgical, Agricultural and Industrial Engineering.
What Industrial Engineering is
The Institute of Industrial Engineers Inc., an international professional society of Industrial Engineers, defines the profession as follows:-
“Industrial Engineering is concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of people, equipment, materials, information and energy. It draws upon specialized knowledge and skills in the mathematical, physical and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems”.
The Industrial Engineer uses physical laws and the principles of science in developing or designing systems which produce products or provide services useful to mankind.
Although the name “Industrial Engineering” suggests that this engineer works in manufacturing industries, the practice of industrial engineering is equally valuable in hospitals, post office, government agencies, commercial and financial institutions, and any other organization that produces a product or performs a service.
In a manufacturing organization, industrial engineers are concerned with the design of work places involving one or more persons and one or more machines. In designing such work places, the industrial engineer must not only consider the capabilities of machines but also the physiological and psychological capabilities and limitations of man. Industrial engineers are also involved in the design of entire plants and in the design of systems to control production, inventory and quality of a large number of diverse products. At even higher corporate levels, the industrial engineer is concerned with plant and warehouse locations, the development of sales forecasts and the evaluation of proposals to produce new products, make large capital expenditures or build new and improved production facilities.
The same skills the industrial engineer uses to design manufacturing systems are also equally useful in the design of better government agency system, to care for hospital patients, facilitate the judicial process, provide fast and accurate mail distribution, improve airline reservation methods and office procedures. In effect the industrial engineer is involved in the design of many systems which provide beneficial services at a cost that society can afford.
In addition to basic science, mathematics, statistics and communication skills, the Industrial Engineer possesses the tools of operations research and computer applications, the knowledge of physiology, psychology and sociology. The additional background in the behavioral sciences is necessary if the industrial engineer is to design complex systems in which people can operate effectively.
How Industrial Engineering Differs From Other Engineering Disciplines
Industrial Engineering differs from other branches of engineering in two ways. First it applies to all types of industry, may it be commercial or governmental activity. Second, it is the only major branch of engineering concerned not only with things but with people. This is manifested by the fact that in most systems design or development, the capability of people has to be measured and put into account as well.
The Role of Industrial Engineering To An Organization
To an organization, industrial engineering offers management consultancy and technical services the primary role being to advise and assist in the organization’s productivity improvement. These services may be in-house or externally sourced. The advice is usually in the form of developing and suggesting better methods, systems or procedures to improve productivity. Industrial engineering usually also helps in the implementation of new projects and in modifications for improvement as required.
Reasons why Industrial Engineering is able to advise and assist in the organization’s productivity improvement are as follows:-
i. Industrial Engineering consultants have the necessary techniques and skills such as Work Study, Facilities Design, Operations Research, Statistics and Computer applications for use.
ii. Industrial Engineering consultants are absolved from the line management duties and responsibilities and so can concentrate to study situations and formulate solutions.
iii. Line managers and workers may be too close to the problems (or part of the problems) to appreciate them and their solutions.
iv. Some problems may cross departments and therefore call for a total logistical approach.
List of the Major Industrial Engineering Jobs
– Selection of operating processes and methods to accomplish a given task
– Selection of proper tools and equipment
– Work Study (Methods Study and Time Study)
– Determination of optimal staffing
– Setting of work time standards
– Lean Manufacturing: Reduction of costs and waste in the manufacturing process.
– Design or improvement of facilities including layout of factories, production lines, plant and materials handling
– General work place ergonomics including seating and work station design.
– Design or improvement of planning and control systems for production, distribution of goods and services, inventory, quality, plant maintenance and engineering.
– Set up systems to measure and evaluate efficiency or performance of production lines (machines and labor) and report on regular basis
– Set up energy conservation program
– Project planning
– Queuing studies
– Development or improvement of office layout, procedures and systems including filing and clerical / secretarial activities.
– Devising ways of improving productivity, effectiveness, efficiency, quality, innovation and profitability
– Training on Methods Study, Time Study (Direct time study, MTM, MSD, Work Sampling or Ratio Delay) and Work measurement.