Industrial Engineering - Overview


While the term originally applied to manufacturing, the use of "industrial" in "industrial engineering" can be somewhat misleading, since it has grown to encompass any methodical or quantitative approach to optimizing how a process, system, or organization operates. Some engineering universities and educational agencies around the world have changed the term "industrial" to broader terms such as "production" or "systems", leading to the typical extensions noted above. In fact, the primary U.S. professional organization for Industrial Engineers, the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) has been considering changing its name to something broader (such as the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers), although the latest vote among membership deemed this unnecessary for the time being.

The various topics concerning industrial engineers include management science, financial engineering, engineering management, supply chain management, process engineering, operations research, systems engineering, ergonomics / safety engineering, cost and value engineering, quality engineering, facilities planning, and the engineering design process. Traditionally, a major aspect of industrial engineering was planning the layouts of factories and designing assembly lines and other manufacturing paradigms. And now, in so-called lean manufacturing systems, industrial engineers work to eliminate wastes of time, money, materials, energy, and other resources.

Examples of where industrial engineering might be used include designing an assembly workstation, strategizing for various operational logistics, consulting as an efficiency expert, developing a new financial algorithm or loan system for a bank, streamlining operation and emergency room location or usage in a hospital, planning complex distribution schemes for materials 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 (especially discrete event simulation), along with extensive mathematical tools and modeling and computational methods for system analysis, evaluation, and optimization.

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