What is Industrial Engineering?
Deciding what course to major in can be a tough process. You would need to consider your interests, the requirements needed to become a professional, and the career prospects of that field.
In this article, we would be discussing Industrial Engineering as a career, and what to expect while pursuing a degree in this field.
Industrial Engineering is the branch of engineering that focuses on improving products and the production process. It involves designing processes that improve the quality of products while increasing efficiency and reducing the wastage of resources.
A good example to explain what Industrial Engineers do are the processes involved in manufacturing new models of cars, with improved functions, to make them eco-friendly and sustainable. Industrial Engineers also develop systems for transporting heavy parts within manufacturing plants, cost-effective systems for distributing products to customers, as well as systems that help evaluate job performance.
Industrial Engineering programmes merge knowledge from Engineering and Business. The syllabus adopted in colleges covers topics from Math, Physics, and Business to give students an in-depth understanding of the processes involved in the design, planning and manufacturing of products.
Industrial Engineers use the knowledge gained from pure sciences, business and social sciences to predict and analyze the possible results and challenges they are likely to face in the production process. They also need to work in the environment they intend to improve, whether in an office or a factory, to have knowledge of the work process and equipment involved in manufacturing products that meet quality and safety standards.
Duties of Industrial Engineers
Industrial Engineers are primarily responsible for optimizing the production and manufacturing process to increase productivity and reduce waste. Their duties may include any of the following:
• Assess design, tools and materials involved in the production process.
• Provide new ideas for manufacturing and distribution of products that will increase efficiency.
• Develop production schedules that work in favour of existing financial plans and cost analysis measures.
• Ensure proper quality control measures are adopted to fix any problems in the production process while minimizing costs.
• Design new tools, equipment or processes to upgrade existing facilities.
Skills Required to Become a Professional in Industrial Engineering
Industrial Engineers are predicted to be in higher demand as technology advances. This is because professionals in this field are equipped with a wide range of skills that would meet the needs of both technical and managerial positions in various industries.
Some of the skills needed to be a professional in industrial engineering include:
Critical thinking: Industrial Engineering involves the development of new systems to help manage production and distribution processes. This process requires the use of logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Creativity and problem-solving skills: In developing new systems to manage production process, industrial engineers use creativity and ingenuity to design processes that improve efficiency. A professional in Industrial Engineering should be able to identify complex problems, review relevant information and design processes that provide solutions to these problems.
Listening skills: Professionals in Industrial Engineering are likely to operate as a part of a team, for this reason, they are required to have impressive listening skills, paying attention to feedback from customers, vendors and production staff to better understand ideas and areas of improvement.
Writing and speaking skills: In addition to having impressive listening skills, Industrial Engineers need to be skilled in writing and speaking for effective communication. They should be able to explain concepts clearly to production staff or technicians to reduce waste of any resources. Their skills in writing would be applied when preparing documentation that is clear and coherent for other engineers or staff to understand the information stated.
Systems analysis and evaluation: Through the use of principles of physics, math, design and engineering, Industrial Engineers determine how a system should work given various changes and its effect on production efficiency. These skills are useful to identify indicators of system performance that will optimize the production system.
Studying Industrial Engineering
Starting a career in Industrial Engineering requires at least a Bachelor’s degree, typically in Industrial engineering. Some professionals who practice Industrial Engineering, however, have degrees in Mechanical, Electrical, Manufacturing or General Engineering.
Many employers also require certification as a Professional Engineer in addition to a university degree. The growing demand for these professionals attracts a large number of students to study either for an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree.
Industrial Engineering focuses on solving problems using scientific and management techniques. This combination of two systems creates different approaches to how the course is taught across the world. Some countries offer programmes in Industrial Engineering that focus more on the management aspect, other countries offer courses in Industrial Engineering that give priority to the technical aspect.
In the United States, for instance, the curriculum has a solid math and science foundation and adopts a case study approach to its teaching, maintaining a balance between technical and management aspects.
Countries like the United Kingdom, Denmark and Finland, offer a curriculum that focuses more on management, making the programme less technical. Turkey, on the other hand, places more emphasis on the technical aspect of Industrial Engineering, concentrating on topics in Physics and other Engineering Sciences.
Since there is no consensus on the approach to teaching Industrial Engineering, proper research must be done to decide what approach is most preferred when deciding a study destination.
Universities Offering Programmes in Industrial Engineering
Most countries around the world offer BSc or BEng programmes in Industrial Engineering, which typically lasts about 4-5 years, where students are taught topics in Math, Physics, Supply chain management, Operation system, and Project management, depending on the approach of their curriculum. Several colleges offering Industrial Engineering programmes for 5 years award both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to students upon completion.
In the UK, however, what is most common are postgraduate programmes in Industrial Engineering, as only a few universities in the UK offer Bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Engineering. Studying for a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering could take one or two years to complete and a PhD programme in Industrial Engineering or any related course could take up to five years to complete.
Students who want to pursue a career in Industrial Engineering can explore any of these universities:
University of Central Florida
University of Central Florida’s Department of Industrial Engineering & Management System provides its students with a solid foundation in pure sciences, engineering, social sciences and communication. The University of Central Florida offers a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering programme along with other options for postgraduate study in the same field.
University of Illinois at Chicago
The university’s College of Engineering adopts a curriculum that gives engineering students a well-rounded knowledge of the industry. The University of Illinois at Chicago offers a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering that runs for four years.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering adopts a curriculum for Industrial Engineering students that trains its students on fundamental concepts in Industrial Engineering. They offer a 2-year masters and a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering.
California State University, East Bay
California State University, East Bay, trains its students to be prepared for a highly rewarding career in designing, building manufacturing and service systems. The School of Engineering offers a 4-year Bachelor of Sciences in Industrial Engineering.
University of Windsor, Ontario
The Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Windsor prides itself in its learning process that emphasizes the key to efficiency and cost-effectiveness in producing systems and designing flexible manufacturing approaches. The department offers a 4-year Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree that runs for 1-2 years.
University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
The University of Nottingham adopts a management approach to Industrial Engineering. The department’s study modules are used by students to develop essential management techniques including Supply chain planning, Decision making, Operations management and Quality control. The university offers a 12-month MSc programme in Industrial Engineering and Operations Management.
Career Prospects for Industrial Engineering
Studying Industrial Engineering allows for a flexible career path that provides the option of specializing in either technical or managerial roles. The versatility of the industry allows one the option to explore and work different job roles from manufacturing, big data, supply chain management, healthcare and even service industries.
As technology evolves, many firms in a variety of industries will be seeking new ways to automate production processes that will contain costs and improve efficiency. This growing demand for industrial engineers because of their skills is well reflected in their earnings.
The average annual salary for an entry-level Industrial Engineer is about $59,468, while experienced Industrial Engineers earn an annual estimate of $86,809- $92,660.
Other roles a graduate of Industrial Engineering can work in include:
Health and Safety Engineers: They would be responsible for designing systems or processes to ensure machinery, chemicals or other products do not cause harm to people’s health or safety.
Management Consultants: This role requires developing new ways to improve the organization’s efficiency through cost reduction and increase in revenue.
Quality Control Officers: These professionals are responsible for inspecting products, materials and other resources for defects from required standards.
Logisticians: This role involves analyzing and coordinating the supply chain. Professionals in this role are responsible for managing the product cycle from when it is acquired to when it is delivered to customers.
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