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Industrial Engineering
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Guide to a Career in Industrial Engineering

What is Industrial Engineering?

Industrial Engineering, in its current form, began in the early 20th century. The first industrial engineers began to apply scientific theory to factories. Factory owners labeled their new specialists 'industrial' or management engineers. Industrial engineering is commonly defined as the integration of machines, staff, production materials, money, and scientific methods. While current industrial engineers do deal in these areas of their discipline, the scope of work has become more general.

Today's industrial engineers work in many more settings than just factories. In recent years, information technology, energy sources, and computers have all relied on the skills of industrial engineers. Industrial engineers have expanded beyond factories and are now employed in:

  • hospitals and other health-care operations,
  • transportation,
  • food processing,
  • media,
  • banking,
  • utilities, and
  • local, regional and national governments.

A college degree in industrial engineering is very diverse and, as opposed to other engineering disciplines, is very people-oriented. Budding industrial engineers learn to plan, design and implement complex systems for a given industry. They do this by taking into account every conceivable variable, from budgets, to machines, to humans.

In a nutshell, industrial engineering majors learn to use engineering and scientific principles to design, manufacture, or improve systems that involve both goods and services. Industrial engineers deal with how products are created, the quality of the product, and the cost of making the product.

Industrial engineers also deal with the design and workings of the factories that make the product. They design the workstations, automation, and robotics for systems all along the supply chain. Industrial engineers are also highly involved in any managerial aspects of modern businesses. These duties range from floor manager in the plant upward to CEO.

In addition, industrial engineers are concerned with worker safety and workplace environments. They balance the implementation of responsible processes with the other requirements of making a product or providing a service of high quality.

Industrial engineers also work in distribution systems, such as:

  • trucking,
  • airline,
  • postal,
  • maritime,
  • rail, and
  • overnight delivery.

Regardless of the mode of transportation, industrial engineers work directly with routing, scheduling, and vehicle conditions. For example, an industrial engineer would be concerned with the problems inherent in getting a package delivered from Arizona to Milan, Italy.

In today's global marketplace, industrial engineering is fast becoming international engineering. Global boundaries are diminishing, thus requiring industrial engineers to be fluent in foreign languages and customs. International travel could very well be the norm for engineers, as companies expand and conduct more and more business with foreign governments.


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