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What is Industrial Engineering?

August 12, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Do you like solving problems? Does using computers to solve real-world problems interest you? Are you interested in how the parts of a system work together? Are you looking for a challenge? If your answer to any of those questions is yes, industrial engineering might be the ideal major for you. Finding a job in the modern economy can be a challenging endeavor. Luckily, you can trick the system by choosing a field of study based on the job market. As it stands, industrial engineering is a highly sought-after specialization out there today. 

Many modern companies are relying on industrial engineers to design systems and processes that improve quality and productivity. After all, they know how to do things better. Using knowledge of mathematics, management, engineering, and business administration, they focus on how products and services are made and performed. That means they make monumental contributions to employers by saving money and making the workplace better. 

To get a glimpse of what industrial engineering is, stay tuned as we look at the bigger picture and give you details of the following: 

  • The workplace of an industrial engineer
  • The reasons to pursue a career in industrial engineering
  • How to become an industrial engineer
  • The future of industrial engineering

Workplaces of an Industrial Engineer

Let’s first look at what makes industrial engineering different from other engineering types. What sets industrial engineers apart from the other disciplines is the emphasis on both technology and people. It is unique because it focuses on how people interact with the system. The concern for the human element leads to system designs that enhance the quality of life for everyone. 

As a result, industrial engineers must have top-quality leadership skills. They are also more likely to get a promotion to managerial positions, unlike in the other engineering disciplines, because of their extensive leadership training and ability to analyze systems to enhance quality, productivity, and profits. 

What is the Work Environment of an Industrial Engineer Like?

Depending on the jobs, industrial engineers can work in offices or the sites they are trying to improve. For instance, when observing problems, they can watch works assembling parts in a factory. But, when solving problems, they often work in an office at a computer where they analyze data that has already been collected. The typical work setting of industrial engineers involve:

  • Interpersonal Relationships
    They have a high to medium level of social contact, talking to their managers and workers but still spending time alone analyzing data. They also deal with conflict situations where teams disagree about the direction of a project. 
  • Physical Working Conditions
    Industrial engineers often work indoors. They wear protective attire such as hard hats and eye goggles every day. The protective attire protects them from uncomfortable noise levels, contaminants, and hazardous equipment. 
  • Work Performance
    They must be exact in their work to avoid errors that could pose threats for employees or lead to organizations losing money. As an industrial engineer, you are supposed to set tasks and goals and abide strictly by weekly deadlines.
  • Hours/Travel
    The role of an industrial engineer forces them to work full time. Working overtime is also common to meet deadlines. Generally, they set schedules to handle all their tasks. Travel is required because they need to study workplaces and diagnose problems in various locations. 

Where Do Industrial Engineers Work?

Industrial engineers are not specialized as in the other engineering disciplines. Therefore they can be employed in a wide range of industries. To win yourself a top position in these industries pursuing an industrial engineering master’s degree would be a good deal. Some of the sectors where IEs can work include: 

  • Healthcare Industry
    Here, industrial engineers work to improve the efficiency of healthcare processes. They make them more streamlined for improved patient outcomes. 
  • Manufacturing Industry
    Industrial engineers design production layouts and processes to improve productivity, reduce costs, ensure top-quality standards are maintained, and eliminate wastefulness. 
  • Transportation Industry
    In the transportation industry, industrial engineers aid in providing high levels of service at competitive prices. They serve as key members who are responsible for the creation and integration of systems that facilitate the movement of people, funds, goods, and information. 
  • Construction Management
    Industrial engineers use advanced engineering systems, processes, and construction management practices to reduce costs and eliminate waste. Also, they focus on improving the quality of construction projects. The process-oriented approach they bring to the table is invaluable. 
  • Banking
    Industrial engineers can also work in a bank or financial institution, depending on their career path. They optimize systems and processes that are complex. That is by developing and implementing integrated systems for money, people, materials, and energy equipment. 
  • Insurance Sector
    Insurance companies hire industrial engineers to make the best assessments for their clients. Assessing risks is a significant part of their work. Their research and design skills are invaluable to the industry.
  • Energy Industry 
    Industrial engineers work in the Energy sector to enable the efficient use of the existing resources. They also help to reduce costs by optimizing processes. 
  • Mining Industry 
    Industrial engineers work in the mining industry, ensuring that underground resources such as metals, minerals, oils, and gas, are extracted efficiently and safely. They do this by producing models and suitable plans for potential mining sites. They are tasked with the planning and implementation of extraction systems through the use of computer applications to maximize planning and production. 

The Responsibilities of Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers have various responsibilities. Right after you join a company, you go through training, which is comprised of some assignments based on your industrial engineering career profile and work requirements. You will be assigned a mentor who will give you information about a company’s size and culture. Some of your responsibilities as an industrial engineer will include:

  • Data Collection
    Much of an industrial engineer’s work involves gathering data from various sources, including the number of departments and employees, plant size, and space. Their research can also involve product lines, including the timing of shifts, units of products made, and understanding the system processes.
  • Project Management
    Industrial engineers typically form and direct teams to accomplish set objectives. They are required to assign responsibilities to every member of the team and establish deadlines for task completion. As the teams work, industrial engineers oversee the progress while assigning resources as required. They also determine the best solutions to solve any problems during project implementation. 
  • Process Engineering
    Industrial engineers also focus on the productivity of a plant. They establish guidelines for an effective and efficient work environment. They replace poorly performing methods with better ones and provide incentives to enhance productivity. 
  • Quality Assurance or Quality Control
    Industrial engineers collaborate with production and design teams to ensure products meet the set quality standards. They routinely perform audits within a company to ensure that the processes and methods follow established guidelines. 
  • Strategic Planning
    As strategic planners, industrial engineers consider the long-term consequences when planning projects and making investments. They evaluate each aspect of a project. That is primarily on the material and financial requirements to sustain the operations. Additionally, they also consider new technologies and competing companies when planning new processes. 

Reasons to Pursue a Career in Industrial Engineering

There are hundreds of career opportunities in the world today. That is what makes it challenging for everyone to decide on what they want to study. What are the career prospects out there? Will the career path be worth the time and effort? Will it help me get a well-paying job? These are questions most students ask. After all, nobody wants to waste their valuable years on the wrong career path. Fortunately, industrial engineering is the ideal base students can have to succeed in different ways. To start, it teaches how to do things and how to start from zero. Read on for more reasons to study industrial engineering. 

  • Industrial Engineers Can Work in Every Sector
    Yes, you heard right! Industrial engineers are in almost every sector today. Healthcare, retail, technology, hardware, and manufacturing- you name it, and there is a high chance of industrial engineering jobs available. Most companies in these sectors are continuing to adopt management philosophies of consistent productivity and quality improvement. This way, they can survive in the highly competitive market. Thus, the a growing need for industrial engineers. Why? Industrial engineers are the only professionals trained specifically to be quality and productivity improvement specialists. 
  • Combine Technical Skills with Business Intelligence
    Many universities offer business classes parallel to industrial engineering coursework in areas like supply chain management, analytics, and logistics. By pursuing these courses, you will get a grasp of the business side of companies too. It is possible to take these subjects with other majors, but industrial engineering and business complement each other perfectly. An industrial engineering bachelor’s degree is a great starting point for an MBA specializing in marketing, finance, or supply chain management. That way, they complement the technical aspects of industrial engineering. 
  • Focus on Processes
    Industrial engineering is a relatively technical discipline as compared to other engineering majors. That means that it is more focused on processes and coming up with ways to do things better. Do not get it wrong. That does not mean someone with an industrial engineering degree cannot or won’t work in systems engineering in software or coding. However, there is minimal heavy-lifting coding, and the focus is more on process improvement. Better still, you focus on tailoring ways that bring change through strategies such as reducing timings, savings, and cost reductions. 
  • Customize Industrial Engineering to Match Your Preferences
    Industrial engineering is all about choices. While other engineering fields apply skills to very specific areas, IE allows graduates to work in a wide range of businesses. That means the best aspect about the discipline is that it offers incredible flexibility. As an industrial engineer, you will have options to explore and the skills to work in different roles. If you want to sit at a computer doing deep data analysis, there are numerous industrial engineering jobs in business analysis and data analysis. Do you want to work in a production field doing manufacturing work? There are hundreds of jobs in production, manufacturing engineering, forecasting, logistics engineering, and more. Want to travel while working? You can consider engineering jobs in client-facing and consulting roles.
  • Understanding Big Data
    The field of big data is getting more important by the day. After all, companies want to make better decisions with their increasing and complex chunks of data. While working for any company, you will realize how much data science and analysis can impact a business. Luckily, a career in industrial engineering will give you the foundation to work in this domain. Extra-related courses are an added advantage. 

How Much Do Industrial Engineers Earn?

Besides the many opportunities, as an industrial engineering student, you should understand the salary you can expect in the future. Earning for engineers varies by specialty. Even so, engineers altogether earn some of the highest starting salaries among those holding bachelor’s degrees. Industrial engineering is increasingly becoming a popular career route for students. Although the salary for an industrial engineer varies by state, the national average is $92,660. This amount is just shy of $40,000 more than the average yearly salary for all occupations. Better still, even the least-paying states for industrial engineers have average wages that are nearly $20,000 more than the national average for all jobs. In the best paying states, industrial engineers earn an average salary of $50,000 more than the average salary for all occupations. 

Why is Industrial Engineering Considered Engineering? 

Is industrial engineering real engineering? Well, the short answer is yes. Without being technical, engineering involves applying science and technology to a problem to solve it or create something new that serves a function. Industrial engineering is a discipline that involves solving system problems. It engineers the delivery of materials to a construction site in a way that ensures maximum supply, minimal cost, and minimum confusion. It is engineering the design of a tracking system/data entry for healthcare facilities to ensure complete data collection. Simply, it involves systematic thinking to address and adjust for the human factors involved. 

How To Become an Industrial Engineer

The initial step to choosing a career is ensuring you are ready to commit your time and effort to pursue it. You do not want to waste resources and time doing something you do not want to do. Industrial engineering is among the best degrees for landing a job in the modern-day. Students interested in pursuing industrial engineering should take high school courses in physics, chemistry, and physics.  

Education Requirements for an Industrial Engineering Career

Industrial engineering is an engineering field that requires professionals who are highly skilled in organizational and optimization techniques. Many colleges offer industrial engineering programs needed for starting a career in the field. Let us look at the undergraduate and graduate degree options below:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
    While you can find an industrial engineering job with a two-year associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement to start your career in this field. The bachelor’s degree will allow you to learn the techniques that are in high demand, and a professional engineer with these skills is especially sought out by companies interested in boosting their manufacturing processes. 
  • Graduate Degree
    Graduate-level studies help to improve your abilities. The master’s degree allows industrial engineers to build upon existing knowledge and gain-field related skills, taking classes covering business efficiency, management control systems, the economics of production, production planning, and corporate design. 
  • Doctoral Degree
    Industrial engineers considering a role in the academic sector or want to learn more about their field can pursue a doctorate. Many subjects covered are similar to the other two levels, but the courses tend to go into greater depth. 

How Long Can It Take to Become an Industrial Engineer?

Like in other engineers, industrial engineers are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree to practice this occupation. That means it takes at least four years for one to become an industrial engineer. For positions in the research academia, you might consider getting a master’s and doctorate, which takes at least five years. 

What Skills Do Industrial Engineers Need?

Are you interested in boosting your career outlook and increasing your salary? How will you demonstrate that you are the most qualified candidate for an ideal industrial engineering job position? Undoubtedly, continuing to gain experience can be your best qualification, but there are skills you need to develop. These include:

  • Project Planning Skills
    As an industrial engineer, you need great project planning skills. These will help you to manage the use of personnel and machinery to meet project deadlines. You should know how to schedule engineers and other staff members based on expertise and availability. 
  • Quality Control
    Quality control is often a vital part of developing and producing products. An industrial engineer should have the skills to manage quality-control operations to identify and solve issues affecting a project, like managing complex systems or coping with production problems. 
  • Excellent Communication Skills
    Industrial engineers are expected to communicate between different departments. They should be able to get their needs across properly to maximize productivity. 
  • Problem Solving Skills
    The primary goal of an industrial engineer is to make companies more efficient. Therefore, they should be able to assess production processes and come up with ways to maximize productivity using the available resources. For instance, as an industrial designer focuses on developing items, an industrial engineer should be keen on improving the manufacturing process.

Future of Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineering has evolved over the decades. It has continually advanced to reflect the needs and solve the challenges of our society. The world is continuing to change with a greater emphasis on the integration of computer networks and systems. Therefore, industrial engineers must be accustomed to adapting to change accordingly. Industrial engineers will be expected to deliver interdisciplinary programs. They should also participate in shaping the design, requirements, and implementation of computer information systems.

Furthermore, the employment of industrial engineers is anticipated to grow by 8% up to 2028. This rate is faster than the average growth for all other occupations. The versatility that the career route offers gives industrial engineers the advantage of working in any industry. For instance, there will be a high demand for industrial engineers in manufacturing companies expanding their services to domestic sites. 

Additionally, the rapid growth in healthcare and the changes in its delivery will create hundreds of opportunities for industrial e

As a significant part of different companies or businesses, industrial engineering should stay on top of the latest trends. Industrial engineers are tasked with incorporating extensive knowledge to analyze existing systems and create optimized versions. These are versions that make the best use of available resources without impacting the product created or service delivered. There are various latest trends in the industrial engineering field. These include:

  • Lowering Energy Consumption
    Energy consumption is an important aspect of every business. Undoubtedly, energy costs continue to rise by the day. Industrial engineers identify ways for systems to minimize the energy wasted through operating at certain times during the day and using smarter building design. 
  • Minimizing Environmental Impact
    Reducing energy can be considered as a way of minimizing environmental impact. That is such an essential trend that deserves unique attention. Facilities are incorporating natural ventilation to keep energy use and costs as minimal as possible. 
  • Focus on Automation
    Advanced technology brings automation to almost every industrial engineering project. It helps to lower the costs without compromising on quality. 

Besides these trends, there has been a significant demand for organizational psychology experts. Psychologists are required to address any concerns or issues that might arise in a typical workplace. They are tasked with keeping an organization running smoothly through their extensive knowledge and skills. 

Why are Industrial Engineers Important for the Future Economy?

Industrial engineers wear many hats, and their importance for the future economy cannot be overlooked. They provide systematic approaches to streamline and improve efficiency and productivity. Some of the benefits that can be linked directly to the role of industrial engineers include:

  • Learn more profitable and efficient business practices that enhance customer service and quality
  • Improved efficiency: This helps to improve competitiveness, minimize resource requirements, and enhances profitability. 
  • The idea of setting time standards or labor: Production lines are often successful because of industrial engineers. 
  • Good organization and improvement of productivity: These improvements eradicate some of life’s frustrations and are vital to the long-term success of businesses. 
  • Increased ability to do more with less. 
  • Reducing the costs associated with new technologies: This allows more population to enhance their lives by affording technological advances. 
  • Providing methods through which businesses can analyze their processes and make improvements where necessary. Industrial engineers focus on optimization, which means doing more with less while reducing waste in society. 
  • Minimize cycle time and increase throughput, which helps more people get their products quicker. 
  • Making the world safer through better designed and easier-to-use products. 
  • Enabling work to be safe, easy, fast, and more rewarding. 
  • Assistance in guiding businesses and society to care more for their workforce while enhancing the bottom-line. 

In Summary

Are you trying to determine the educational route that will pave the way to a satisfying future? If you are a student and looking for an interesting and lively career with unparalleled growth opportunities, you should consider industrial engineering. Becoming an industrial engineer will place you into an incredible field of engineering focusing on productivity improvement all over the world. It is a field that deals much with human factors of work and with the modern, sophisticated tools of work. 

Why is industrial engineering different? One thing that sets industrial engineering aside from other disciplines is its wider scope. As an industrial engineer, you will deal with other people and contribute to the full picture of productivity improvement. Better still, you can work in any industry, institution, or business. From manufacturing plants and retail establishments to hospitals and government offices, your skills will be invaluable. You will use them to look at what makes society perform best. This through the right combination of natural resources, human resources, artificial structures, and equipment. Industrial engineering bridges the gap between operations and management while motivating people. 

The demand for industrial engineers has grown rapidly for the last 20 years. After all, organizations need to raise their productivity levels through thoughtful and systematic applications. Profit-making organizations strive for high productivity to compete favorably in the world and domestic marketplace. Non-profit organizations strive for higher productivity to maintain their position as useful service units. With this demand, industrial engineering becomes an attractive profession from the financial stand-point. Industrial engineers rank high on the list of highest-paid practitioners. Fast advancements of industrial engineers up the job ladder are not uncommon. Because many industrial engineers are moving to top management positions due to their extensive training, the outlook for continued growth in industrial engineering is excellent. 

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