As described by the Instiute of
Industrial Engineers (IIE):
"Industrial engineering (IE) is about choices. Other engineering
disciplines apply skills to very specific areas. IE gives you the
opportunity to work in a variety of businesses. The most distinctive
aspect of industrial engineering is the flexibility that it offers.
Whether its shortening a rollercoaster line, streamlining
an operating room, distributing products worldwide, or manufacturing
superior automobiles, all share the common goal of saving companies
money and increasing efficiencies.
As companies adopt management philosophies of continuous productivity
and quality improvement to survive in the increasingly competitive
world market, the need for industrial engineers is growing. Why?
Industrial engineers are the only engineering professionals trained
as productivity and quality improvement specialists.
Industrial engineers figure out how to do things better. They engineer
processes and systems that improve quality and productivity. They
work to eliminate waste of time, money, materials, energy, and other
commodities. Most important of all, IEs save companies money. This
is why more and more companies are hiring industrial engineers and
then promoting them into management positions.
Industrial engineer is synonymous with systems
integrator - a big-picture thinker, in other words. It's an employee
who takes what exists today and conceptualizes what should exist
in the future. A lot of engineers become disillusioned with the
engineering profession because they get involved in minutiae or
they end up on a CAD machine all the time, and they never get out
in the factory environment or the operating environment. That's
not what happens to an industrial engineer. IEs spend most of their
time out in the real operating environment, coming up with scientific
approaches to problems rather than seat-of-the-pants, temporary
solutions, says John Samuels, vice president of Norfolk Southern.
Many people are misled by the term industrial engineer.
The 'industrial does not mean just manufacturing. It encompasses
service industries as well. It has long been known that industrial
engineers have the technical training to make improvements in a
manufacturing setting. Now it is becoming increasingly recognized
that these same techniques can be used to evaluate and improve productivity
and quality in service industries.
Anybody who needs surgery studies, assessments, redesign
in the surgery department
we do it, explains Tryna
Knox, director of surgery performance for VHA. 'Onsite hospital
visits, which include observations and interviews to understand
the flow of patients through operating rooms are conducted to help
surgeons and anesthetists understand their own efficiency levels.
Knox credits her industrial engineering education for much of her
current success. 'I think the whole systems focus in IE is very
important,' she says."
To learn more about the skills required to be an industrial engineer;
what IEs do and where they work; how IEs benefit society and business;
and more, visit the About
Industrial Engineering from the IIE website.