Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 1

What is Industrial Engineering?


Return to the Table of Contents.

The following examples illustrate what industrial engineers do.

These examples illustrate different features of this definition of industrial engineering:

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

Certain words are show in bold face in the definition:

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?

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:

After you have read this book and have done the activities suggested in this book, you should have:

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:

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 industrial engineering. 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 Guidelines list the rules for the operation of the team. Such rules might include:

The Team Charter and Team Guidelines should be short.

Read each of these pages; each has guidance on team charters and team guidelines:

Teamwork skills

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:

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.

Avoid groupthink

"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. Read this 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.