Introduction to Industrial Engineering
By Jane M. Fraser
What is Industrial Engineering?
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The following examples illustrate what industrial engineers do.
A manufacturer of corporate jets opened a new facility to manufacture
tail sections. An industrial engineer (IE) laid out the new facility,
by deciding where material would be delivered,
where each machine used in the manufacturing process would be located,
how work would flow through the facility,
and where finished sections would be shipped from the facility.
A large air chiller has a compressor that is housed in a steel cylinder.
The cylinder was being made by bending and welding two pieces of steel.
An IE redesigned the cylinder and the manufacturing process
so that the cylinder is now made by bending and welding one piece of steel.
The manufacturing process takes less time and the cylinder is stronger.
An IE at a hospital worked with a team to redesign
the process for cleaning an operating room and preparing it for the next operation.
The time between scheduled operations was reduced from 45 to 20 minutes.
More operations can be scheduled in each operating room each day.
A plant that assembles lawnmowers found that bolt holes on parts were not always
lining up properly. An IE gathered and analyzed data to determine
the source of the problem. The IE found that parts from a particular supplier
were not meeting the tolerances that had been specified.
The IE worked with the supplier to improve their production process
so that the tolerances were met in the future.
An IE found that the number of back injuries in
an automobile assembly plant was increasing.
The IE analyzed the safety reports on such injuries from the last year
and found that the increase was occurring in the engine assembly area;
further investigation showed that a redesign of the engine had made
the engine assembly awkward. The IE worked with the assembly workers
to redesign the assembly task, including the purchase of a new hoist.
The IE monitored the safety reports over the next 3 months
and found that the rate of back injuries had declined.
These examples illustrate different features of this definition of industrial
The design or improvement of a system of
money to achieve some goal with efficiency,
quality, and safety.
Certain words are show in bold face in the definition:
Design - Some industrial engineering
tasks involve the creation of a new facility, process, or system.
Improvement - Most industrial engineering tasks involve
the improvement of an existing facility,
process, or system.
System - Most engineers design physical objects, but most IEs design systems.
Systems include physical components, but also include processes, rules, and people.
Components of a system have to work together.
Material and information flow between the components of a system.
A change to one part of system may affect other parts of the system.
People - Among all types of engineers, IEs think the most about people.
Machines - An IE must select the appropriate machines - including computers.
Information - Data can be used for immediate decision making and can be
analyzed to make improvements to the system.
Money - An IE must weigh costs and savings now against costs and savings in the future.
Goal - Every designed system exists for some purpose.
The IE must think about different ways to accomplish
that goal and select the best way.
Efficiency - Whatever the goal of the system, the IE usually seeks to
have the system achieve that goal quickly and with the least use of resources.
Quality - The IEís organization always has a customer and
the organization must deliver goods and services to the customer
with the quality that the customer wants.
Safety - IEs have to make sure that the system is designed
so that people can and will work safely.
IEs are sometimes called efficiency engineers, but some think that
effectiveness engineer is more accurate.
What is the difference between being efficient and being effective?
An efficient process doesn't waste any time or resources.
- An effective process produces a desired effect or contributes to a desired goal.
Two words in our definition of industrial engineering (efficiency and goal)
relate to these two aspects of an IEís job.
A process can be effective but not efficient
if the process could be done as effectively but in less time or with fewer resources;
for example, the time to produce a product might be reduced without any loss of
customer satisfaction with the product.
A process can be efficient but not effective;
for example, a department that efficiently produces
reports no one uses is not effective.
The words in bold face in the definition also indicate areas that an IE must learn about.
An IE must know how to answer questions like these:
- Design and improvement - Where should a facility be located?
How should all the components be laid out physically?
What operating procedures should be used?
- System - How should the tasks be allocated among
different parts of the system? How should material and information flow
among the different components of a system?
- People - What are people good at?
What types of tasks should not be assigned to people?
How can jobs be designed so that people can do their jobs quickly, safely, and well?
- Machines - What types of machines are available to do different tasks,
including the movement and storage of material and information?
- Information - How can data be used to determine how well the system is functioning?
- Money - How can we trade off costs and savings that occur at different times,
maybe over a number of years?
- Goal - What is the goal of this system?
What are the different ways a system could achieve that goal?
- Efficiency - How can we produce products and services
with the least amount of time and resources?
- Quality - How can we make sure that the system is
consistently producing goods and services that meet customer needs?
- Safety - How can we keep people from making mistakes?
How can we protect people from hazards in the work place?
After you have read this book and have
done the activities suggested in this book, you should have:
- An understanding of the types of work IEs do
in different types of organizations.
- The ability to explain to others what IEs do,
- The ability to market yourself as an IE,
- An overview of the topics in a BSIE curriculum,
- An understanding of the context in which IEs work,
including global and societal issues,
- A commitment to professional and ethical behavior now and in the future, and
- Improved professional skills, especially oral and
written communication skills and teamwork skills.
This course will not turn you into an IE
since you canít learn all the knowledge and skills an IE
needs in just one semester, but it will start you on your way to becoming an IE.
You will have the Big Picture of industrial engineering,
so that the ideas you learn in later courses fit together.
This book has three major sections:
This chapter, Chapter 1, begins to get you thinking about what IEs do.
Chapter 2 introduces you to the big ideas you will hear throughout the book.
In Chapter 3, we will spend a little time thinking about teaching and learning
so that you and I have some idea about how each of us learns best.
- IE Tasks.
Chapter 4 discusses organizations,
the roles of the people who work in organizations, and the role of an IE in organizations.
Chapter 5 describes some frameworks and processes that IEs use
(1) to design or improve a physical production system and (2) to design or
to improve the procedures used in the operation of that production system.
Chapter 6 gives more specifics about the IE tasks in designing or
improving the production system and Chapter 7 gives more specifics
about the IE task in the operation of the production system.
By the end of Chapter 7 you will know a lot about what IEs do.
In Chapter 8, youíll think about your career as an IE and learn
about career issues such as life long learning and engineering ethics.
- IE Tools.
IEs use certain tools and a body of knowledge about people (Chapter 9),
mathematical methods (Chapter 10), and business (Chapter 11).
Finally the book has a chapter about the history and future of industrial
engineering (Chapter 12), a reference list (Chapter 13), and a Glossary (Chapter 14).
I am only pretending that industrial engineering can be broken into topics and chapters.
Every topic in this book relates to every other topic,
but it would be too confusing if we tried to discuss everything at once.
I have divided the material into chapters in a way that I think will help you learn about
However, themes and threads tie all the chapters together.
The next chapter describes those threads.
Working in teams
All engineering work is done in teams because every project needs input and help from other people.
You may be in charge of some projects and, at the same time, you may be supporting projects headed by others.
You must learn to be a good leader and a good follower.
Team Charter and Team Guidelines
A Team Charter usually includes:
- Team name.
- A statement of the teamís mission,
- A statement of the work the team will do,
- A list of members and contact information,
- The name of the team sponsor -
who is the person in authority to whom the team will report? and
- The resources the team will use.
- The period during which the team will exist.
Team Guidelines list the rules for the operation of the team.
Such rules might include:
- Listen. Seek clarification.
- No put-downs.
- Disagree with respect.
- Be on time.
- Be prepared.
The Team Charter and Team Guidelines should be short.
Read each of these pages; each has guidance on team charters and team guidelines:
Companies who hire engineers expect the people to hire to have the technical skills the company needs,
but companies also want engineers who can work well with others.
To function well on a team, you should be able to:
- Do your the assigned work before the team meeting.
- Be physically and mentally present for team meetings.
- Stay on task; donít digress.
- Participate. Volunteer your knowledge and ideas.
- Give valid input on the topic or task.
- Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses; use your strengths,
compensate for and try to reduce your weaknesses.
- Recognize and build on the strengths of your teammates.
- Identify shortcomings and help your team members strengthen their weak points.
- Recognize and adapt to cultural differences among team members and among teams.
- Accept and provide positive feedback.
- Accept and provide negative feedback in a constructive way.
- Communicate well, including listening well.
- Listen and check that you understand. Seek clarification.
- Donít dominate the discussion.
- Be quiet when appropriate, and speak when appropriate.
- Help team members become a team.
- Help your team develop team norms.
- Deal with problems in your team.
- Resolve conflicts within your team and between your team and others.
- Mediate a dispute.
- Avoid group think.
- Change your mind when appropriate and hold firm when appropriate.
- Follow the rules set forth in the team charter.
- Be respectful and professional to members of your team and to others.
Robitaille (page 31) says:
"The four most important elements of productive team building are:
She stresses the importance of language for establishing each of these"
How we say things is often as important as what we are saying.
"Groupthink" (a term coined by Irving Janis in 1971) refers to
the behavior of a group when individuals in the group
overemphasize group cohesion and avoid raising information or opinions
that differ from the group's.
brief description, including Solutions.
Being in a group is never an excuse for not doing your individual work.
In your employment as an engineer, you will do a lot of work in groups,
but you will also do a lot of work at your desk, thinking and working hard.
Welcome to industrial engineering
Being an IE is very satisfying because you can create an efficient and safe
workplace where people are proud of the high quality products and services they produce.
IEs improve efficiency, which means that we help bring prosperity.
IEs improve quality, which means that we help provide good products and services.
And IEs improve safety, which means that we help protect people.
You should be very proud that you plan to become an IE.
According to the bumper sticker version of industrial engineering, IEs make things better.