Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of 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, analysis and synthesis, as well as the mathematical, physical and social sciences together with 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, but the engineering side tends to emphasize extensive mathematical proficiency and usage of quantitative methods.
Depending on the sub-speciality(ies) involved, industrial engineering may also be known as operations management, management science, operations research, systems engineering, or manufacturing engineering, usually depending on the viewpoint or motives of the user. Recruiters or educational establishments use the names to differentiate themselves from others. In health care, industrial engineers are more commonly known as health management engineers or health systems engineers.
While the term originally applied to manufacturing, nowadays the term “industrial” in industrial engineering can be somewhat misleading (some engineering universities and educational agencies around the world have changed the term “industrial” to the broader term “production”, leading to the typical extensions noted above). It has grown to encompass any methodical or quantitative approach to optimizing how a process, system, or organization operates. 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 of concern to industrial engineers include management science, financial engineering, engineering management, supply chain management, process engineering, operations research, systems engineering, ergonomics, 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.
Many universities have BS, MS, M.Tech and PhD programs available. US News and World Report’s article on “America’s Best Colleges 2010” lists schools offering Undergraduate engineering specialities in Industrial or Manufacturing. The Georgia Institute of Technology has been ranked as having the best Industrial Engineering program in the United States according to this survey.
Industrial engineering courses had been taught by multiple universities in the late 19th century along Europe, especially in developed countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain. In the United States, the first department of industrial and manufacturing engineering was established in 1909 at Penn State.
The first doctoral degree in industrial engineering was awarded in the 1930s by Cornell University.
The usual postgraduate degree earned is the Master of Science in Industrial Engineering/Production Engineering/Industrial Engineering & Management/Industrial Engineering & Operations Research. The typical MS in IE/PE/IE&M/IE & OR/Management Sciences curriculum includes:
* Operations research & Optimization techniques
* Engineering economics
* Supply chain management & Logistics
* Systems Simulation & Stochastic Processes
* System Dynamics & Policy Planning
* System Analysis & Techniques
* Manufacturing systems/Manufacturing engineering
* Human factors engineering & Ergonomics
* Production planning and control
* Management Sciences
* Computer aided manufacturing
* Facilities design & Work space design
* Quality Engineering
* Reliability Engineering & Life Testing
* Statistical process control or Quality control
* Time and motion study
* Operations management
* Corporate planning
* Productivity improvement
* Materials management
In the United States, the usual undergraduate degree earned is the Bachelor of Science or B.S. in Industrial Engineering (BSIE). Like most undergraduate engineering programs, the typical curriculum includes a broad math and science foundation spanning chemistry, physics, engineering design, calculus, differential equations, statistics, materials science, engineering mechanics, computer science, circuits and electronics, and often additional specialized courses in areas such as management, systems theory, ergonomics/safety, stochastics, advanced mathematics and computation, and economics. Some Universities require International credits to complete the BS degree.
Salaries and workforce statistics
The total number of engineers employed in the U.S. in 2006 was roughly 1.5 million. Of these, 201,000 were industrial engineers (13.3%), the third most popular engineering specialty. The average starting salaries being $55,067 with a bachelor’s degree, $64,759 with a master’s degree, and $77,364 with a doctorate degree. This places industrial engineering at 7th of 15 among engineering bachelors degrees, 3rd of 10 among masters 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.
Often, 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.