Introduction to Industrial Engineering
By Jane M. Fraser
The IE Approach
Return to the Table of Contents.
Every production system has two parts:
Here are some examples.
A steel plant has:
A hospital has:
A fast food restaurant has
One way to understand the distinction between the two parts is to imagine that you visit an organization when no one is working. You can observe the first part, the physical assets, but you cannot observe the second part, the procedures for how the work is done. Analogously, in a computer system, the first part is the hardware and the second part is the software.
The distinction between these two parts of the production system is not perfect, but it is useful and it is a traditional way to describe the tasks of an industrial engineer.
Changing the first part of a production system, the physical assets, usually takes a lot of time. When we build a building, we generally intend to use the building for a long time. We can remodel the inside of the building at some cost, but altering the size or shape of a building is a major project.
Changes to the second part of a production system, the procedures, can usually be done more quickly. Changing job responsibilities of workers or making a change to training procedures requires thought, work, and time, but can be done much more quickly than changing a building.
Industrial engineering education is often broken into courses that study these two parts of the production system. Most programs include a course focused on facility location and layout and a course focused on operations planning and control. I have followed that approach. The next two chapters describe the tasks industrial engineers do regarding these two parts of the production system. Chapter 5 focuses on the physical assets of an organization and Chapter 6 focuses on the procedures for using those assets.