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What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

September 25, 2020
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Industrial engineers are responsible for optimizing complex systems and eliminating waste from those systems. As a result, they play an important role in streamlining the use of time, materials, machinery, and employees to generate the most value for their companies. As businesses and governments work to cut costs and become more efficient, industrial engineers are increasingly in need. 

Being an industrial engineer is the ideal role for an engineer who thrives on taking an established idea or procedure and improving it. They enjoy figuring out how to make machinery and processes more efficient. Although the majority of industrial engineering jobs are within manufacturing, they work in virtually every sector, from retail to healthcare.

Industrial engineers need to have a working understanding of the industry they are in and must quickly become experts in that segment's manufacturing and production processes. Furthermore, they need to be in sync with the specific culture, problems, and challenges the company faces.

Industrial Engineering Education Requirements

Most industrial engineering positions require a four-year degree. Bachelor's degree programs in industrial engineering cover topics in general engineering, physics, economics, production design, and manufacturing. However, many industrial engineers have degrees in mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, industrial engineering technology, or general engineering.

In addition, industrial engineering candidates will need to pass the FE exam for industrial engineering. Once they pass the NCEES FE exam, they can obtain a position as an engineer in training (EIT) or an engineering intern. This will allow them to gain valuable experience while they prepare to become a licensed industrial engineer.

Thinking about taking the FE exam? Download the Preparing for the FE Exam eBook.

What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

The job of industrial engineer combines the roles of analyst and detective. The analyst wants to learn what the end result is currently, while the detective wants to determine if there's a case for improvement. Those observations are then shared with company executives. While some of the top brass may have given industrial engineers the marching orders to begin with, many of them are nevertheless emotionally invested in their traditional way of doing business.

Few people really enjoy and embrace change, even if they know it's necessary for the business to succeed. So, in addition to being analytical and curious, industrial engineers must also be tactful and confident. The best industrial engineers stand by their recommendations even when they are unpopular with management.

The future of industrial engineering is tied to the future of American manufacturing. As manufacturing jobs grow, so will the need for industrial engineers. They can help design facilities with an eye toward complex system integration, and they are keenly aware that every company's bottom line is tied to its operational efficiency.

Therefore, industrial engineers focus on making improvements using a number of methods, including statistical analysis, interpersonal communication, design, planning, management, and quality control.

Typically, industrial engineers are responsible for:

  • Scheduling and production. An industrial engineer reviews when production is slated, as well as the process flow. By being familiar with the manufacturing method, the industrial engineer can make informed suggestions on how to better utilize time and people assets.
  • Cost containment. An industrial engineer with a financial background can develop management control systems that will streamline financial planning and cost analysis.
  • Quality control. Production problems are costly. Not only do industrial engineers enact quality control measures, but they also design those systems to coordinate manufacturing activities and ensure products meet quality standards.
  • Standardization. Sometimes, companies make or buy 20 different widgets for 20 different products when one universal widget could easily be created. An industrial engineer with deep knowledge of the manufacturing and design process can determine how to create standard parts that provide cost savings and assembly line efficiencies.
Overall, industrial engineers streamline the many processes that comprise the production or manufacture of a service or product. This often leads to improved working conditions and increased efficiency of employees. To put it simply, the ultimate goal of industrial engineering is to lower expenses and increase productivity.

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