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What is Industrial Engineering?

Systems design

Industrial Engineers design systems to enable people and society to improve productivity, efficiency and effectiveness and the quality of the work environment.

All engineers work at planning, designing, implementing and controlling the systems that represent the way people use technology. The systems that are the subject of Industrial Engineering design are broad and are characterized by a need to integrate both the physical and decision making capabilities of humans together with all other aspects of the system design. Problems range from the design of a work method and work station, to the design of a factory layout and methods of controlling the flow of materials on the factory floor, to the design of an overall corporate plan involving materials procurement, production, inventory and distribution. The idea of a factory is also extended to include health care systems, municipal systems, transportation systems; in fact all the systems that are essential to the functioning of modern society. Systems that facilitate effective decision making and implementation in areas such as scheduling, inventory, and quality control are typical of industrial engineering.

An integral part of IE:  Designing for People

Human behaviour and capabilities are key element in the systems Industrial Engineers work with. In designing the layout of a production line for an automobile manufacturer, the checkout counter for a supermarket, the organization of office work flow for a bank or the materials handling system for a steel plant, the engineer must consider both physical requirements and cost parameters and the physiological and behavioral performance of the human operators. The Industrial Engineer has a dual role, both to extend human capability to operate, manage and control the overall production system and to ensure the safety and well being of those working in the system.

Design and development of these systems requires the unique background of the Industrial Engineer. The process of engineering always starts with measurement. Where other engineers might measure temperatures, pressures or wind loads, the Industrial Engineer measures the time of a work cycle, dollar values of expenditures, rates of machine failures, and demand processes for finished goods. Usually the mathematical analysis must take into account risk and uncertainty to a larger extent than in other engineering fields. Computer simulation and optimization are often required. The concepts and techniques found in the Industrial Engineering curriculum have been selected to assist the student to develop the skills that meet the specific challenges of systems which involve managerial activities.