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There are several types of industrial engineering jobs, each with a specific set of responsibilities and goals. Whether working as a project manager, strategic planner, or process developer, industrial engineers look to improve systems and methods so that costs are reduced and safety issues are addressed. Industrial engineers typically examine the aspects of a particular problem and figure out innovative solutions. Most industrial engineering jobs are in the manufacturing or service sectors, including construction, aerospace, shipping, and entertainment. A knowledge of engineering as well as business is generally required to be successful as an industrial engineer.
Industrial engineers who work as project managers typically form and direct a team to accomplish a set of objectives. The project manager assigns responsibilities to each member of the team and establishes a deadline for completing the tasks. As the team works, the industrial engineer project manager oversees the progress and allocates resources as needed. If problems arise during the implementation of a plan, the project manager will conduct an investigation to determine the best solution.
As a strategic planner, industrial engineers consider long term consequences when planning projects and making investments. A five to ten year outlook is typically the level of foresight involved in a strategic plan. Every aspect of a particular project or business is evaluated, especially the financial and material requirements needed to sustain operations. In addition, the influences of competing companies and new technologies are taken into consideration when planning new facilities and processes.
Industrial engineering jobs that focus on the productivity of a plant and the methods used to produce a product generally involve process engineering. The title of the position varies, but generally, a process industrial engineer establishes guidelines for an efficient work environment. Poorly performing methods are replaced with better ones and incentives are offered to increase productivity. Also, process industrial engineers determine if the plant is operating at full capacity, and depending on the demand or quotas, adjusts production as needed.
Quality control or quality assurance departments also have industrial engineering jobs. Typically, industrial engineers working in quality control will collaborate with design and productions teams to ensure the products meet production standards. Audits within the company are routinely conducted to ensure that methods and processes follow established guidelines.
Industrial engineers also provide employees with training on quality control protocols and the proper use of instruments and techniques. In addition, issues related with receiving materials sent from other companies, such as storage or contamination, are handled by industrial engineers.
@MrMoody - I think it’s important to realize that engineering doesn’t always mean wires and buttons. I think that it’s a very broad term and can encompass many specialties, none of which dilute the term in any way.
For example, a sanitation engineer is responsible for cleaning up and managing waste. I believe that such an individual is more than a “garbage man” as he is called in the vernacular, because in fact there is a science to waste management.
These people must know something about science, water treatment and waste management – all things which require their own field of study.
In my opinion, engineering is simply about finding better ways to build things. These could processes, projects or a mousetrap for that matter.
@nony - Yeah, I wouldn’t be too hung up on titles. Some of the functions for the industrial engineer, like process improvement, could easily be lumped together under other professions or titles.
However, I think the article makes clear that you need to have some exposure to engineering, regardless of where and in what capacity you eventually work.
I once had a job where I worked as a process coordinator for a large company. However, I never would have dared call myself a process engineer. My degree was in English. Your degree still means something regardless of where you end up.
@Mammmood - I think that’s a fair observation, given the article’s definition of what an industrial engineer is.
I know several engineers who work in the oil industry and they have pretty much told me the same thing – the industrial engineer is more of project management role.
However, there is something that I think is worth noting. Even if you specialize in a very technical branch of engineering, that doesn’t mean that’s the kind of job you’ll land upon graduation.
For example, I used to work in telecommunications and I worked with many engineers who had degrees in electrical engineering. However, the stuff they did was more soft engineering, in my opinion.
They would crunch numbers to see where most of the traffic on the network came from, and make recommendations to take down or put up infrastructure, as needed. They were mainly analysts, in my opinion.
My first impression reading the article is that the industrial engineering jobs are not as technical as some of the other engineering professions.
I don’t mean this is as a criticism, just as an observation. You can have flavors of specialization in just about any profession, and some of those flavors will be more technical than others.
In my profession, information technology for example, we also have project managers and business analysts. They are not the hard core programmers, but are expected to have some familiarity with programming so that they can talk to developers as well as the business personnel.
I see the same thing happening in the engineering field: it’s a big umbrella with project managers, strategic planners and process improvement specialists, who focus on the big picture rather than on the nuts and bolts of engineering.
That’s my impression anyway, and something you want to consider if you decide to become an industrial engineer.
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