Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 4


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4.5 The IEís role in an organization.

Recall the four groups of people found in any organization:

  1. Directors,
  2. Managers,
  3. Workers, and
  4. Support.

Where does the IE fit in?

Consider these examples:

  1. According to IIE, Jun-Sheng Li is the CEO of Transplace Inc., a logistics management company in Plano, Texas. From the IIE biography of Li:

    Li began his college education in China's An Hui Province where he majored in English literature at Hefei Polytechnic University. He went on to earn his M.B.A. while a student at Hefei Polytechnic. After earning a scholarship in 1985, Li travelled to the U.S. where he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, earning both masters and doctoral degrees in industrial and systems engineering. Prior to his position with Transplace Inc., Li was president of J.B. Hunt.

  2. [Velazquez at Krage]
  3. [Charles Aguilar or an employee at St. Onge]
  4. [example of support staff]

Those four examples show that an IE can be in any of the four groups. However, most IEs are not in group 3, the workers. The only way an IE can be a worker, that is, the person who does the work described in the mission of the organization, is if the mission of the organization is to do industrial engineering. Consulting companies. such as Accenture, St. Onge, etc., hire a lot of IEs, but many more jobs are available as CEO, manager, or staff. Also an IE in group 1 probably isnít doing much industrial engineering, although IE skills will help that person be a good CEO. So most IEs are managers or support staff. Iíll talk more about what types of jobs IEs can have in different types of organizations when we get to Chapter 8 IE Careers.

IEs are, first, engineers. All engineers, including IEs, design, but most engineers design physical products or physical structures, objects that you can see, while IEs design systems and you canít really see a system.

All engineers, even those designing an object (for example, a computer chip, a car, or a bridge), have to think about the system in which that object will function and have to think about the system that will make that object. Every engineer should think about DfX, which is short hand for

Thus, all engineers are concerned with systems, but IEs always think about systems.

But what exactly does an IE do? Recall the definition of industrial engineering that I gave in Chapter 1:

The design or improvement of a system of people, machines, information, and money to achieve some goal with efficiency, quality, and safety.

An IE designs and works continually to improve a production system, that is, a system that produces a product or service. Although we often talk about the fact that engineers solve problems, when an IE solves a problem, the IE also makes a change to the system so that problem never occurs again. If an IE is solving problems all the time (for example, the order for a particular client is late and the IE expedites the order), something is wrong. The IE should be working on the system, not putting out fires.

The next chapter will give you much more specific information on how an IE designs and improves a production system.